Merrill pummels pumas to set West stage

The Bluejay grapplers took care of last Thursday’s business to ensure that this Thursday’s match-up of the season carried full impact.
The Jays handled SPASH by a nearly identical score to Point’s Jan. 17 meeting with Wausau West.
Merrill prevailed 44-21 over the Panthers despite forfeiting at 285 due to an injury to Gabe Nelles, while the Warriors had taken a 47-22 match.
This means this Thursday’s match in the MHS Fieldhouse is for all the Valley Dual marbles, pitting a pair of 5-0 squads that reside near the top of the state rankings. In the wisconsinwrestlingonline poll, Merrill is #2 and West is #3. In the Crossface Magazine poll, West is #2 and Merrill is #3. Kaukauna leads both polls.
“You want to approach it as just another dual meet in the Valley, so obviously it’s going to be a tough one,” MHS coach Scott Arneson said. “We put our focus on getting better every week.
“It’s going to be a great match for our fans and the sport of wrestling, but the outcome is not as important as two weeks after that.
“It’s a black-out, so if everybody wants to wear black, that would be awesome.”
Arneson is referring to regional as the more important event, since the winner qualifies for team sectional, the first step in the WIAA state dual meet series.
Thursday’s SPASH match drew a favorable review from Arneson.
“I was really impressed with the way we got after it at somebody else’s place,” he said. “Point has got a good young team like we do.
“I was a little nervous after coming off all of our illnesses, but the kids have been improving each week since Christmas.
“We had almost our whole line-up. When we do we’re pretty tough to beat. Gabe cut his hand, but we hope to get him back soon.”
The Point match kicked off at 170 pounds, one class into the meat of Merrill’s line-up.
David Pophal worked a 16-1 tech fall, before Ben Hintze (182) was edged 3-1 in overtime. But Alex Klug (195) and Tyler Schmidt (220) pushed MHS ahead 17-3 with first-period falls in 1:02 and 1:44.
After the 285-pound forfeit, Aiden Ball (106) won 7-5 and Nathan Beyer (113) made it 26-9 with a pin in 1:12.
The Panthers closed to within 26-18 with a Kolten Pope 10-2 major over Hunter Welch (120) and a Fritz Schierl 16-1 tech fall of Tanner Pettit (126).
But Scott T. Arneson (132) won 7-0, Garrett Schmelling (138) pulled a pin in 3:10 and Eric Ball (145) won 16-9.
Dylan Schielke (152) was edged 4-2 before Mason Rein­hardt closed out the match with a pin in 1:02.
Arneson’s only complaint centered on referee’s rulings.
“We got called for stalling quite a bit,” he said. “I was surprised. I don’t think we’re that kind of team. Maybe it’s a wake-up call for some guys to pick it up even more.”
The Jays will also compete in Saturday’s Valley Tournament at Wis. Rapids.
The Raiders are having an off-year-ranking behind SPASH at this point of the season-although they did just defeat D.C. Everest 50-10 last week.

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