St. Croix Central wrestlers win championship at Osceola InvitationalTeam success is the top priority of the St. Croix Central wrestling team this season.
Team success is the top priority of the St. Croix Central wrestling team this season.
The Panthers put that philosophy into overdrive on Saturday, winning the championship in the 2012 Osceola Invitational.
In the opening three rounds of the tournament the Panthers crushed Luck-Frederic-Grantsburg, Cumberland and Osceola, winning by 40 or more points in all three duals.
In the semifinals the Panthers faced a potent Clear Lake team. The Panthers earned five pins and two forfeits, with those six-point wins carrying them to a 39-33 decision over the Warriors.
That put Central into the championship match against Dunn-St. Croix Conference foe Boyceville. Central and Boyceville have locked into some memorable dual matches in recent years. This time the Panthers built up an insurmountable lead to defeat the Bulldogs 43-30 to earn the Osceola title.
Central coach Brad Holzer said the Panthers treasured the win over Boyceville.
“Anytime you beat Boyceville it’s nice. When a team has the tradition they do, it makes you feel like you’ve arrived. Clear Lake is that way too. They’ve been to team state in the last couple years,” Holzer said.
The Panthers roared through the tournament with the upper weights supplying an incredible amount of success. The Panthers went 5-0 in the top four weight classes.
The championship match versus Boyceville started at 160 pounds, which played right into the Panthers’ plans. The match opened with Central’s Brian Gibb getting a pin at 160.
The 170-pound class was a highly anticipated clash between two long-time standouts. Boyceville’s Josh Cormican was able to get a reversal and that stood as the winning margin in a 2-1 decision over Central’s Carl Moll.
Cody Nyhagen, Kyle Aaby, Delfino Carrasco and Austin Edison then linked together four pins to put Central in front, 30-3.
The Panthers would also get wins from Ryan Pfeifer, Lukas Smith and Ryan Gulich to make sure Boyceville wouldn’t be able to come back.
One of the big differences for the Panthers this season has been the improvement of Carrasco and Edison. Being able to rely on them behind Moll, Nyhagen and Aaby has further expanded the strongest portion of the Panthers’ lineup.
Holzer said he expects the wrestlers in the upper half of his lineup to shift down a weight class within the next few weeks. That will open up the heavyweight class, but Decker Grass appears ready to fill that slot. Shell Lake’s team pulled out of the Osceola tournament, so Central’s junior varsity team competed in that spot. The JV Panthers performed well, led by Grass, who went 4-1.
Holzer said the wrestlers plan to shift down a class in unison, so it maintains the integrity of the lineup.
“They’re concerned about winning as a team. Their number one goal is to go undefeated as a dual team,” Holzer said.
The match against Clear Lake also started in the middle weights, allowing Central to roll up a substantial lead. After dropping the 152-pound bout, the Panthers captured the next six to lead 33-6.
One of the big wins against Clear Lake was supplied by Nyhagen, who looked strong in defeating state-ranked Garrett Paulson 9-6 in the 182-pound class.
Last Tuesday the Panthers scored another significant win, rolling over River Falls 53-19. Holzer said one of the best parts of the night was the need to pull out the bleachers on both sides of the Central gym because there was such a large crowd for the dual match.
River Falls forfeited three classes in the lower weights, but the Panthers supplied most of their own points. They received pins from Trent Smith, Gibb, Aaby and Edison and major decisions from Moll and Carrasco.
Both teams have more than 30 wrestlers on their rosters, so this offered a rare opportunity for the JV wrestlers to see plenty of mat time. There were 18 matches wrestled before the varsity wrestlers took center stage.
The Panthers now have nearly two full weeks to prepare for their next assignment, the annual Northern Badger Invitational, which will be wrestled on Dec. 27-28 at River Falls High School.