Advancing nine wrestlers through to this Saturday's sectional tournament was just about the ideal outcome for the New Richmond wrestling team from last Saturday's WIAA Division 1 regional tournament, hosted by the Tigers.
Getting nine wrestlers through to sectionals is an accomplishment, but it guarantees nothing for the Tigers in the highly talented Division 1 sectional tournament they'll be competing in Saturday. Feb. 17 at Wausau West High School.
Sophomore Brandon Dennis was the Tigers' lone regional champion, winning the title at 126 pounds. Second place finishers included Matt Harle and Nathan Fehlen. Advancing with third place outcomes were Tyler Dennis, Dylan Wachter and Travis Messer. Fourth place finishers who advanced were Tyler Harris, Caeden Henning and Ryan Muller.
The northern tier of the state is loaded with exceptional Division 1 wrestlers, meaning any Tiger who hopes to get to state will have to do their best wrestling of the season at the sectional meet. Only the top two wrestlers in each weight class in the Division 1 sectionals advance to state.
Brandon Dennis (25-10) likely has the Tigers' best shot. He opens the sectional meet against Wisconsin Rapids freshman Ryan Sering (27-14). At the regional, Dennis scored a first period pin in the semifinals. In the finals, he faced Eau Claire Memorial's Liam Huset (27-8). This was no contest. Dennis controlled the action from start to finish to win 15-5.
Fehlen opened the regional with a pair of wins. His semifinal win over Menomonie's Jake Boyette was intense, with Fehlen using a late reversal to win 4-3. Fehlen ran into a whirlwind in the 160-pound finals against Hudson's Jacob Anderson, losing by a technical fall.
Fehlen (26-8) opens the sectional meet against Stevens Point freshman Brett Johnston (12-11).
Harle (12-24) was one of the surprises of the regional with his second place finish. Showing confidence in his skills, all three of his wins Saturday came on pins. Harle's opening draw in the 106-pound bracket at sectionals is Rhinelander freshman Tim Fox (28-17).
The deepest and most talented weight class at the regional was at 152 pounds, where there were six wrestlers with more than 20 wins. Wachter (23-6) placed third behind two standouts in Nathan Fuller of River Falls and Sam Skillings of Menomonie.
"That was a weight class for men only," New Richmond coach Jeff Swanson said of the 152-pound depth.
Wachter draws Marshfield senior Payton Young (26-13) in the opening round at sectionals. The winner of that match will likely draw Fuller (38-4).
Messer (25-16) finished third at the regional after being seeded fourth. All his regional matches ended in pins, with two wins and two losses. Messer draws Marshfield senior Issac Slark (17-10) in the opener at the 195-pound sectional class. The winner of that match will likely face regional champion Chance Kamrowski of River Falls (37-5).
Tyler Dennis (25-13) is one of the few freshmen to make the sectional meet. He was the clear winner in both of his wins at the regional. His only loss was an 8-5 decision against Eau Claire North's Carter Duerkop in the 132-pound semifinals. If Dennis can get through his first match at sectionals, he has an intriguing chance to advance. His opening draw is Wisconsin Rapids sophomore Zac Hamel (32-9).
The Tigers who were fourth place finishers at the regional are long-shots to advance, but the sectional should be excellent experience for all three of the young wrestlers. The Tigers had an outstanding first round at the regional meet, with several of the young Tigers winning close openers to put them in position to advance. Harris was one of those. Harris is 4-16, but he beat Superior's Tucker Johnson (11-19) by a 6-2 score in the opener. Harris has a tough draw at the sectional, getting Rhinelander senior Rueben Guzik (32-9).
Henning (15-12) was the fifth seed at 120 pounds and had a tough opening draw. He wrestled increasingly better as the regional went on. In the fourth place match, Henning pinned Menomonie's Dalton Kadlec (18-13). Henning also draws a Rhinelander senior, Tyler Olson, who has a 37-6 record.
Muller reached the 20-win mark with two convincing wins in the 220-pound bracket at regionals. The Tiger sophomore has a tough draw at sectionals in Rhinelander senior Colton Krueger (35-6).