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Blackman is two-time MBC champ

New Richmond’s Derek Dowd uses an arm bar to turn this opponent for back points during the Middle Border Conference tournament on Saturday. (Photo by Dave Newman)

With Ellsworth and Amery creating one of the all-time strongest logjams at the top of the results, the New Richmond wrestling team was left to settle for third place in the 2014 Middle Border Conference Wrestling Championships on Saturday at Osceola.

The Tigers did manage to get wrestlers to the finals. They came away with one champion, senior Shane Blackman, who took the 132-pound title for his second MBC title.

Tiger coach Mark Neumann said he felt the team wrestled well in most cases, but was resigned to the fact that nobody was going to knock off some of the standouts that Ellsworth and Amery put on the mat.

“Ellsworth is talking about this being their all-time best team,” Neumann said. “They’ve got two guys ranked in the top 20 in the nation.”

When people talk about the standouts of the conference, Blackman’s name gets included. Blackman put an exclamation mark to the end of his MBC career, pinning Ellsworth’s Brad Cain in the second period of the championship match.

“Pinning Cain was a nice surprise,” Neumann said. “He hit the perfect counter to what Cain was doing.”

Freshman Bryce Younger made a bold impression on the MBC fans by controlling the action in a 5-0 win over Ellsworth’s Anders Lantz in the semifinals. Waiting for Younger in the 120-pound finals was defending state champion Hunter Marko of Amery. Younger put up a hearty battle, losing 11-2 to the nationally-ranked Marko.

Derek Dowd’s 145-pound championship match ended in controversy, with Dowd losing to Ellsworth’s Jacob Fuchs 4-3. Neumann said Dowd clearly had gotten an escape in the closing seconds of the match, but said the official failed to credit Dowd with the point.

“It should have been in overtime,” Neumann said.

Dowd knocked off the top seed in the bracket, Baldwin-Woodville’s Tom Langer, 9-1 in the semifinals.

In the 160-pound semifinals, New Richmond’s Caleb Neumann wrestled a smart, controlled match to beat Amery’s Alex Warman 2-0. Neumann’s reward for the win was drawing Ellsworth state champion Gable Frandsen in the finals. Neumann was trailing 9-2 before getting thrown and pinned in the final 30 seconds of the match.

One of the intriguing matchups of the finals was at 170-pounds where New Richmond senior Dominic Ficociello faced Ellsworth’s Logan Kemmerer. Both wrestlers have incredible strength. Ficociello said he planned to use his quickness to get an advantage. It almost worked, with Kemmerer pulling out a 6-5 decision.

Third place finishers for the Tigers were Seth Leavens and Jake Rose. Leavens put together one of his finest matches of the season in the 126-pound third place match. Amery’s Joe Gates has wrestled up a weight all season and was a powerful 126-pounder. Leavens fell behind early, but persistence earned him a 10-7 win.

For Rose, it was pin or be pinned in the 285-pound class. All three of his wins came via pins, but so did his loss. In the dual match against Ellsworth earlier this season, Rose was able to avoid getting steamrolled by Brody Kemmerer. Rose couldn’t get away this time, getting pinned in 59 seconds in the semifinals.

John Keifer at 152 pounds and Kevin Kern at 195 pounds were fourth place finishers for the Tigers.

The challenges get tougher for the Tigers as they step up to Division 1 for the WIAA tournament series. The Tigers will wrestle at the Chippewa Falls regional on Saturday along with Hudson, Menomonie, Eau Claire Memorial, Eau Claire North, River Falls and Superior. Wrestling is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.

“Menomonie is one of the best teams in the state, They could literally go toe-to-toe with Ellsworth and Hudson is right there too,” Neumann said.

He said every other team in the regional brings several kids with state aspirations.

“If we could get six or seven through (to sectionals), I’d be pleased. We’ll have to do better,” Neumann said.