The coaches in the New Richmond wrestling program insist this is a rebuilding season, but it didn't look that way when when the Tigers wrestled at St. Croix Central Thursday, Dec. 7.
The Tigers won 11 of the 14 weight classes in flattening the Panthers, 63-9. The win raises the Tigers' record in the Middle Border Conference to 1-1. The Tigers will be back on their home mat for another MBC match this Thursday, Dec. 14 when they host Prescott. On Saturday, the Tigers will be competing in the River Ridge (Minn.) Invitational.
The St. Croix Central team is certainly one of the youngest in the area, but that shouldn't diminish how strongly the Tigers marched through the night in recording their wins. If there was any question whether the Panthers were going to be able to compete, the Tigers answered with a resounding "no" by earning pins in the opening three classes. Cayden Henning, Trevor Hildebrandt and Brandon Dennis opened the night with pins. Tyler Dennis followed with a 6-5 decision over St. Croix Central's most experienced wrestler in the 138-pound class.
The next five Tiger wins all came on pins, with Dylan Minke, Dylan Wachter, Nathan Fehlen, Ryan Musser and Travis Messer putting their opponents firmly to the mat.
New Richmond coach Jeff Swanson said timing worked in the Tigers' favor Thursday. Because Central went to the state football title game, the Panthers started practice two weeks late.
"Two weeks at this time of the season is a major difference," Swanson said. "It'd be a much more competitive match later in the year."
The Tigers got their fill of competitive matches on Saturday when they competed in the Husky Invitational at Eau Claire North. There were 21 teams competing and they wrestled each weight class out to 15th place, so this was a wrestling marathon. Most competitors got four or more matches during the full day of wrestling.
The top finish for the Tigers came at 170 pounds where Fehlen went 3-1 to finish in third place. His only loss came against undefeated Keller Wolfe of Auburndale, who won the tournament. Fehlen led 4-0 in the third period when he was turned and pinned. Swanson said the pin showed the one weakness in Fehlen's skillset, so the coaches are going to work with him to make sure that is no longer a problem.
Jake LaVenture was a fifth place finisher at 182 pounds. His only loss came against the top seed and eventual champion, but LaVenture followed with three wins in the wrestlebacks to nab fifth place.
Wachter had the misfortune of facing the second seed in the opening round at 152 pounds, losing on a first period pin. He bounced back with three straight wins to get ninth place, the best anyone beaten in the opening round could do.
One of the most important individual wins of the day came from Brandon Dennis. In the previous dual match against Baldwin-Woodville he was soundly beaten by Jordan Bonte. This time, Dennis controlled the action and defeated Bonte, 3-1. Dennis was the sixth place finisher at 132 pounds.
Swanson said it is important to get into these large tournaments early in the season to build the team's base of wrestling knowledge.
"We learned lessons. It's good when you face quality competition to see fixable things," he said.