Tigers in second year of rebuild
Rebuilding a program doesn't get done in one year.
The New Richmond wrestling team is in its second year of the rebuilding process. The Tigers went through an opening week that was quite challenging, facing Baldwin-Woodville in their opening dual on Thursday, Nov. 30 before wrestling in a tournament at Lakeville (Minn.) on Saturday, Dec. 2.
The Tigers opened the season against a well-schooled Baldwin-Woodville team. The Tigers were able to win seven of the 14 matches. But all of B-W's wins came via pins or majors, giving the Blackhawks the points to post a 40-31 win. Posting wins for the Tigers were Tyler Dennis, Dylan Wachter, Nathan Fehlen, Jake LaVenture, Travis Messer, Anders LeMire and Caeden Henning.
New Richmond coach Jeff Swanson said he knew the Tigers would have their hands full in this dual match.
"They are the second best team in the conference (behind Ellsworth), I think," Swanson said of the B-W squad. "Their experienced kids put away our inexperienced kids."
Swanson said there were several highlights to the match for the Tigers. Dennis won his first varsity match against an opponent who was a third place finisher at the Middle Border Conference meet last year. LeMire was also a winner in his first varsity match as the Tigers' new heavyweight wrestler.
The Tigers do have some experience coming back, based mainly in the middle weights. That starts with Fehlen and Wachter. Dylan Minke will also be in that group once he's recovered from a high ankle sprain. And Travis Messer returned to the team this season to give the team a strong veteran in the 195-pound slot.
There are 32 wrestlers out for the team this season, 17 who return from last season. Just like last season, Swanson has the team taking the long-range view of the season.
"Our goal is to get a little better every day. We're concerned with what happens at the end of the season," Swanson said.
On Saturday the Tigers went to Lakeville, facing a field of opponents that was highly talented. Fehlen and Brandon Dennis were both able to reach the finals. Dennis lost by a 4-0 score in the 132-pound finals. Fehlen was defeated 9-1 by a returning Minnesota state placewinner.
Messer, Adam Stener and Jake LaVenture gave the Tigers reason to believe they can be competitive in the upper weights with their performances on Saturday. Messer scored three wins to take third place at 195 pounds. Stener, a first-year wrestler, pinned two opponents in placing fourth at 220 pounds. LaVenture also won with two pins to take fourth at 182 pounds.
The Tigers face another challenging week this week. They will wrestle a conference dual meet at St. Croix Central on Thursday. They will compete in the Eau Claire North Invitational, which is packed with opponents like Ellsworth, Durand, Prescott and Baldwin-Woodville from Wisconsin and Eagan and Plainview from Minnesota.