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St. Croix Central's Brian Gibb (top) works toward a pin in action during the first day of the Northern Badger Classic in River Falls last Friday. Officiating the match is veteran wrestling official Dick Forrest of New Richmond.
St. Croix Central's Brian Gibb (top) works toward a pin in action during the first day of the Northern Badger Classic in River Falls last Friday. Officiating the match is veteran wrestling official Dick Forrest of New Richmond.

Cody Nyhagen wins Northern Badger title; St. Croix Central has its best team finish

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Putting five wrestlers into the semifinals and three into the finals resulted in St. Croix Central producing its best team finish ever at the Northern Badger Wrestling Classic at River Falls High School on Saturday.

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It was an extraordinary tournament for the Panthers. Senior Cody Nyhagen won the 170-pound tournament championship. His classmates, Carl Moll and Kyle Aaby, were second place finishers. Austin Edison and Brian Gibb took fourth in their classes. The Panthers were able to amass 222.5 points in the tournament, which ranked second to Clear Lake in the overall ranking. Central was the top Division 2 team in the tournament.

Central coach Brad Holzer said the second place finish "was a great accomplishment," but he was also conflicted, because the Panthers had beaten Clear Lake in a dual match two weeks ago. "We're much more built as a dual team."

Nyhagen roared through the 170-pound class without a major challenge. His closest bout came in the semifinals, when he defeated Somerset's Max Praschak 10-5. In the finals Nyhagen dominated Clear Lake's Garrett Paulson, getting a 9-1 major decision. Nyhagen is now 11-0 for the season. Nyhagen had finished in second place twice in previous Northern Badger meets and it was clear he wasn't going to settle for anything less than a title.

Moll ended up in an all Dunn-St. Croix Conference finals at 160 pounds, facing Boyceville's Josh Cormican. The coaches set a strategy they hoped would work against Cormican, who is deadly from the top position. The match stood at 1-0 with Moll attacking, trying to get the winning takedown in the third period. Cormican was able to fight off those attempts for a 1-0 win.

"That's the best Carl's wrestled all year," Holzer said, saying Moll had better footwork and was aggressive with his double-leg takedown moves.

Aaby was part of a 195-pound bracket where all four wrestlers who reached the semifinals were undefeated. Aaby was able to beat Rice Lake freshman Jake Roberts in the semifinals. He wasn't as fortunate in the finals, falling to Rhinelander's Connor Johnson 9-3.

Gibb was one of the bright lights for the Panthers, taking fourth place in a talented 152-pound class. Gibb beat two good wrestlers in Melrose-Mindoro's Jake Dobbs and River Falls' Zack Dartsch to reach the semifinals. Gibb lost to Somerset's Gabe Flandrick, who placed second at state last year, 9-3 in the semifinals. He just missed pulling out a win in the third place match, losing 4-3 to state-ranked Tyler Henke of Osseo-Fairchild.

"He's taking that next step to be an elite level kid," Holzer said of Gibb.

Edison was one of the smallest wrestlers in the 285-pound bracket. The plan was for him to compete at 220 pounds until Decker Grass broke his wrist in a JV tournament the previous week. Edison was undefeated until the semifinals, when he lost to eventual tournament champion Tanner Grant of Cumberland 2-1. In the third place match Edison dropped another close match, losing 4-2 to Bryce Bilogan of Rhinelander.

Also advancing to the second day of the tournament for the Panthers were Delfino Carrasco and Ryan Gulich. Carrasco was scheduled to move down to 195 pounds until the injury to Grass. He still managed to take sixth place in the 220-pound bracket. Holzer said Carrasco was a junior varsity wrestler last year, but worked hard over the summer and has made substantial progress to become a Northern Badger placewinner.

Gulich had the misfortune of drawing the number three seed as an opening opponent in the 132-pound bracket. After losing that match 6-2, he put on a charge in the back side of the bracket, winning four matches to finish in 11th place.

A busy January lies ahead for the Panthers. The month begins with a dual match at Mondovi on Thursday. The Panthers will also be competing on Saturday as part of a talented field in the New Richmond Invitational.

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