St. Croix Central wrestlers advancing four two Saturday's sectional meet
A strong finish by the wrestlers in the upper weights saved what began as an agonizing day for the St. Croix Central wrestling team at the WIAA Division 2 regional meet the Panthers hosted on Saturday.
The Panthers were able to advance four wrestlers from the upper weights from the regional to this Saturday’s Amery Division 2 sectional meet. Three of the Panthers advance as regional champions, along with one second place finisher.
Senior Connor Burton, junior Hunter Schmidt and sophomore Ryan Larson advance as regional champions for the Panthers, with senior Jordan Winegar as the second place finisher.
Burton advances as the regional champion at 160 pounds. Burton (12-8) has dealt with injuries during the season and now is peaking.
“Burton put together some good things, to wrestle well at conference and take first at regionals,” said Central coach Brad Holzer.
Burton defeated Chetek’s Justis Knutson 7-4 in the 160-pound regional final. Burton’s opening draw at the sectional meet is Spooner junior Josh Melton, who enters with a 26-12 record.
Schmidt only had to wrestle one match at the regional tournament, as the top seed in a heavyweight bracket with three wrestlers. He got into a bit of early trouble against Luck’s Matthew Louis, but came back to score a second period pin in the championship match. Schmidt (23-9) draws a familiar opponent in the opening sectional round. He will face Baldwin-Woodville senior Muatxje Lee, who is 13-21 for the season.
Larson was clearly the best wrestler in the 195-pound bracket at the regional. He pinned Somerset’s Peter Lepper in the semis and Osceola’s Aiden Hansen in the finals. Larson (21-9) draws Ashland junior Mason Schelvan (19-11) in the opening sectional round.
Winegar won his semifinal match by pinning Somerset’s Dylan Anez on Saturday. He faced Osceola standout Tanner Johnson in the 220-pound finals, with Johnson scoring a first round pin. Winegar (15-5) has a tough opening draw at the sectional meet, facing Melrose-Mindoro senior Dakotah Daffinson, who is 34-6.
Holzer was hopeful that all four of the Panthers have legitimate shots of reaching the state tournament. In Division 2, the top three wrestlers advance from the sectional to the state meet. Holzer estimated that all four of the Panthers are among the best four or five wrestlers in their bracket.
The Panthers have been besieged by injuries all season and they had another Saturday. Frank Holter was leading in his 138-pound semifinal match when he suffered a dislocated elbow.
Central’s coaches were hoping the Panthers would be able to win the regional team title. The loss of Holter, plus losses in several early close matches, eliminated those chances. The Panthers ended in fourth place, 28 points away from regional champion Osceola.