Larson to represent St. Croix Central at 2017 WIAA state wrestling tournament
Ryan Larson could have wrestled at three different weight classes in the WIAA tournament series.
The decision to move up to 195 pounds paid off. Larson advanced to this week’s WIAA Division 2 state championships by placing third in the 195-pound bracket at the Amery Division 2 sectional meet on Saturday.
Larson will wrestle his first match at the state tournament in the Thursday evening round. Larson (24-9) will face Waupaca senior Derrick Rotta (30-8) in the opening round at the state meet at the Kohl Center in Madison.
Larson was one of four Panthers who wrestled at the sectional meet, along with seniors Connor Burton and Jordan Winegar and junior Hunter Schmidt. All four Panthers were winners in the opening round of the tournament, but all four lost in the semifinals. Larson was the only one of the four who made it all the way back through the wrestlebacks to capture third place and a berth in the state tournament.
Larson opened the sectional meet by pinning Ashland’s Mason Schelvan in 34 seconds. Larson and Prescott’s Ty Sanford waged a thriller in the semifinals. Sanford built an early lead, but Larson came storming back, throwing Sanford to his back. Larson nearly had the pin on a head-and-arm throw. As he changed his grip, Larson lost control of the arm and action was stopped with Larson getting called for a headlock. Sanford was able to get a pin in the final seconds as Larson scrambled to attempt a comeback.
In his opening match, Larson strained an oblique muscle. He wrestled through the pain the rest of the day. Central coach Brad Holzer marveled that Larson was able to continue wrestling through the pain.
In the first wrestleback, Larson defeated Melrose-Mindoro’s Sam Jansen 13-6. That put Larson in the third place match against Ellsworth’s Cole Toenjes, who Larson beat in overtime at the Middle Border Conference tournament. Larson controlled the action, winning 5-2 to lock up his place in the state tournament field.
Holzer said this validates the decision to have Larson compete at 195 pounds.
“Ryan’s style of wrestling is so much more of a fit at 195 because of how strong he is,” Holzer said.
Burton (13-10) probably did the best wrestling of his career over the past month of his injury-plagued career. That continued in the opening round of the sectional against Spooner’s Josh Melton. Melton built up a 7-2 lead, but Burton was able to take down Melton and lock him in a cradle, getting the pin at 4:35.
Burton ran into two extremely tough opponents in the next two rounds. He was pinned by Ellsworth’s Anders Lantz in the semifinals and by Stanley-Boyd’s Ethan Hoffstadter in the wrestleback.
Winegar (16-9) wrestled well early in his opening match, then held on for an 11-10 win over Neillsville’s Sam Baumgartner. Winegar was pinned by Spooner’s Joshua Carroll in the semifinals and by Prescott’s Dillon Kimmen in the wrestlebacks.
“There’s a lot of heart in that kid,” Holzer said of Winegar. “He’s one of the kids who’s done the most with the talent he has. He’s just a fighter.”
Schmidt (25-11) got to the semifinals by pinning Baldwin-Woodville’s Muatxju Lee in 59 seconds. In the semifinals, Schmidt was pinned by Spencer’s Logan Zschernitz. Schmidt stayed alive by pinning Barron’s Josh Viebrock in the wrestlebacks. Schmidt faced Ellsworth’s Mike Freund in the third place match. Schmidt went for the early throw, but stumbled on his way through, and Freund was able to end up on top, getting the pin in 1:43.
“This is Hunter’s second year (of wrestling) and he was on JV last year. He’s come a long way,” Holzer said.