The best hope for a Middle Border Conference individual champion at Saturday's 2018 MBC wrestling meet was junior Ryan Larson.
Prescott's Ty Sanford, the top-ranked 195-pound Division 2 wrestler in the state, stood in Larson's way. They waged an intense, physical match. Larson needed a takedown in the final 30 seconds, but Sanford blocked every attempt, giving Prescott the 4-3 victory.
Larson was the only Panther to reach the finals on Saturday. Central only had eight wrestlers competing and they finished eighth in the team competition.
Larson has dealt with a back injury much of the season, but he looked the sharpest he has since his return during Saturday's match. In the opening round, he pinned Amery's Oscar Brickel in 34 seconds. He needed 70 seconds to pin Baldwin-Woodville's Jake Heimer in the semifinals.
Larson and Sanford have been to the WIAA state meet in the past, so this was the type of preparatory meet for this year's drive to the state meet. The first period ended scoreless. Sanford took a 3-1 lead in the third period. Larson started the final period with an escape. He was soon called for a penalty point that the Panther coaches didn't agree with. Sanford stayed on the defensive the rest of the match. Sanford gave up one stalling point, but successfully blocked Larson from getting a takedown the rest of the match.
"I think Ryan is right there with him," said Central coach Brad Holzer.
Senior Frank Holter was the only other Panther to finish in the top four in his bracket. Holter went 2-2 for the day to place fourth at 138 pounds. George Vondriska and Nathan Berends were fifth place finishers for the Panthers.
Central will get to wrestle at home this Saturday, when the Panthers host a Division 2 regional meet. Action is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. Joining the Panthers in the tournament will be Amery, Chetek-Weyerhaeuser-Prairie Farm, Luck-Frederic-Grantsburg-Siren, Osceola and Somerset. Coach Holzer said he hopes to have 13 wrestlers competing in the regional meet, which would be the most the Panthers have put on the mat for any meet this season.