Bluejay grapplers toppled twice by West

The Bluejays grapplers experienced two set-backs in a span of three days last week in a season seldom beset by difficulties.
Wausau West took advantage of a couple of missing Merrill men and a swing match or two to seal up the Valley dual-meet crown with Thursday’s 36-25 in a jam-packed MHS Fieldhouse.
West slipped past Kaukauna for the top ranking in the state, while Merrill is third.
Then the Warriors locked down the outright conference crown with a 12.5 point edge in Saturday’s WVC Tournament at Wis. Rapids.
“Up and down the line-up, we wrestled aggressively,” MHS coach Scott Arneson said. “We wrestled aggressively. We wrestled to win, not to hold on or to not lose.
“Every kid wants to be a conference champion and we were able to come up with six of them on a very balanced team.”
Merrill finished with six champions to West’s four, good enough for the title of most tourneys as long as there wasn’t a huge discrepancy in other wrestlers.
There wasn’t. The Warriors held a slight edge in top-three place-winners, 11 to 10.
“With more champs we should be able to win that tourney,” Arneson said. “But they made it into a round robin and on one side you get three matches and on the other you get two. They scored 48 points with pins and we scored 12. I’m not sure I’m fond of the way the round robin works, but it’s the same for everybody and they scored more points than we did. Good for them.
“We were right in the hunt.”
The Jays received 13 byes on the day.
Merrill champions included Nathan Beyer (113), Mason Reinhardt (160), David Pophal (170), Ben Hintze (182), Alex Klug (195) and Tyler Schmidt (220). Eric Ball (145) made the finals and placed second.
“It was nice to see Nathan go down a weight class and win,” Arneson said. “The other five guys have been pretty steady this year. David Pophal avenged a loss from Thursday and Benji beat a boy from Point that beat him before.”
Pophal handled West’s Cody Gruenwald 6-2 and Hintze bumped Mitch Mallek in sudden victory.
Ranking third were: Hunter Welch (120) and Garrett Schmelling (132). Justin Bonnell (285) was 4th, and Aiden Ball (106) and Cody Nicholson (152) ranked 5th. Kevin Schmidt (138) was 6th and Tanner Pettit (126) was 7th.
Team standings- Wausau West 219, Merrill 206.5, Stevens Point 164, Wisconsin Rapids 161.5, Marshfield 116, D.C. Everest 103, Wausau East 62.5.
Dueling bang-go’s
Thursday’s dual meet featured the only remaining undefeated teams in the Valley in a match bumped back from the Dec. 20 snowstorm, and the house was rocking with possibly 1,500 fans.
“It was amazing the number of people here,” Arneson said. “In the last 20 years, I haven’t seen that many adults in the stands for an athletic event. There had to be 200 students. It’s nice the community supports us.
“That was a tough loss. We were aggressive and not holding back.”
Merrill jumped out 8-0 with major decisions from Beyer (14-6) and Welch (14-3). West rebounded with a 6-0 win over Hunter Kuehl (120), Colin Baine’s (ranked #1) 19-4 tech fall over Scott T. Arneson (#11), and Joe Umlauf’s (#1) 10-0 major over Schmelling (#9). E. Ball cut it to 12-11 with a 4-1 win, but Dalton Clayton (152) was pinned (:41) by Travis Hettinga (#1).
Reinhardt (#1) won 3-1 in overtime, but in a swing match, Pophal (#4) and Gruenwald (#5) teetered on the edge of a move until Pophal ended up on his back and pinned in 3:22.
Hintze (#13) and Klug (#6) turned in 10-1 and 9-0 majors to pull the Jays within 24-22. But MHS moved Schmidt (#2 at 220) up to 285 due to a hand injury to Gabe Nelles and Riley Kurtz was pinned in 1:44 by West’s River Judd. Schmidt prevailed 1-0 despite being out-weighed by 60 pounds by Ryan Fay (#8). A. Ball was pinned in 5:28 by Bee Lor (#1) to end the match.
Saturday’s regional meet-with the berth in the state dual tournament at stake-will be held in Merrill, starting at 10:00 a.m.
“We’re going to have all our guns for the first time all year, unless someone gets hurt in practice this week,” Arneson said. “I just hope we have the right ammunition.
“It’s at home, so that’s a comfort. Home-mat advantage should be good for a few points, maybe enough to put us on the top rung of the ladder.
“We’re the underdogs and I like it. If we win that meet we get another opportunity to wrestle another dual.”
The winner goes to Wausau West for Tuesday’s WIAA Team Sectional, with one win needed to qualify for state.

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