None of the seven New Richmond wrestlers who qualified for the WIAA Division 1 sectional tournament at Wisconsin Rapids on Saturday was able to advance to the WIAA state championships.
Only the top two wrestlers in each weight class from the Division 1 sectional tournament advance to state. The Tigers had three fourth place finishers at the sectional tournament. That included seniors Brandon Dennis and Ryan Muller and freshman Bode Gabriel.
Dennis was hoping to reach state at 138 pounds after near misses each of the past two seasons. Dennis got tested right away. Dennis, who finished the season 35-10, needed overtime to defeat Stevens Point junior Joe Pecore 5-3 in the opening round. In the semifinals Dennis drew Marshfield junior Gabe Pugh, who was a state qualifier each of the past two seasons. Pugh won 5-2, then went on to win the sectional title.
“Pugh, from his feet, is defensively phenomenal,” said New Richmond coach Jeff Swanson. “Four of his points were from countering really good shots of ours.”
Dennis moved to the third place match where he faced Vito Massa of River Falls. Massa wrestles a style that is a difficult matchup for Dennis. Dennis was able to get the opening takedown, but Massa countered with a four-point reversal. Massa won the match 6-2.
Gabriel, who finished his season at 32-12, opened the sectional against D.C. Everest sophomore Easton Block, an opponent Gabriel pinned at the Bi-State Classic. Gabriel was a bit nervous, but earned a 5-2 win. In the semifinals, Gabriel drew Marshfield sophomore Keagen Cliver, who would win the sectional title. Cliver controlled the action for a 7-2 win. In the third place match, Gabriel lost in overtime to Wisconsin Rapids junior Lukas Erickson, 6-4.
“The sectional tournament was a really good learning experience. He learned what the next level really is,” Swanson said.
Muller pulled off one of the swiftest wins in the first round of the sectional. He quickly took down Merrill senior Walker Bathke, then locked him into a cradle hold. Muller was awarded the pin in 31 seconds.
“It was the fastest he’s ever moved,” Swanson said. “Muller just took it to him.”
Muller ran up against Wisconsin Rapids senior Andrew Schutz in the semifinals and was pinned 52 seconds into the third period. Muller, who ends the season at 19-20, lost a 10-1 decision to Tyler Knapp of Rhinelander in the third place bout.
Senior Cayden Henning and juniors Tyler Dennis and Sam LaPean and sophomore Luke Fox were all defeated in the first round of sectionals. Swanson said that with four wrestlers returning next season with experience from this sectional tournament, the team should be ready to start in a good place in the 2020-21 season.