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New Richmond's Bryce Younger, Nathan Fehlen to wrestle at state tournament Thursday afternoon

New Richmond senior Bryce Younger (right), shown in action at the River Falls sectional meet, has a goal of winning a state championship this weekend.1 / 4
New Richmond junior Nathan Fehlen (top) is shown in action during his second place performance at the River Falls Division 1 sectional meet on Saturday.2 / 4
New Richmond freshman Brandon Dennis (right) lost to defending state champion Brady Koontz of Stevens Point at the River Falls sectional meet last Thursday.3 / 4
New Richmond junior Dylan Wachter (left) was one of two Tigers who took fourth place at the sectional tournament.4 / 4

Senior Bryce Younger hopes to improve on his fourth place finish at the 2016 WIAA State Wrestling Championships when he represents the New Richmond wrestling team at the 2017 state tournament this Thursday through Saturday at the Kohl Center in Madison.

While Younger is making a return trip to the state tournament, Tiger junior Nathan Fehlen has qualified for the first time for the WIAA state championships. They were among the five Tigers who competed at the WIAA Division 1 wrestling sectional tournament at River Falls High School on Saturday.

Younger was one of the outstanding wrestlers in the sectional tournament on Saturday, winning the championship in a 138-pound bracket that was stacked with talented wrestlers. Fehlen didn’t go into the sectional as one of the favorites to advance, but his rapid late season progress earned him a second place finish in the 160-pound sectional bracket.

New Richmond’s Dylan Wachter and Brandon Dennis were also winners in the opening round of the sectional tournament, ending up in fourth place in their respective classes. Jake LaVenture was defeated in the opening round of sectional action.

Younger (34-4) lost twice at the regional tournament, but he came back with a ferocity at the sectional tournament. He opened against Stevens Point’s Dylan Trigg in the quarterfinals, winning 13-3. The match Younger wanted was in the semifinals, a rematch of the regional finals against Menomonie’s Sam Skillings. Younger used his best weapon, his ability to wrestle from his feet, to defeat Skilllings 9-5. Younger took Skillings down three times, then iced the match with a reversal in the final seconds.

“Bryce was really solid from his feet,” said New Richmond coach Jeff Swanson. “He’s pretty solid all-around, but where he’s best is on his feet.”

That put Younger into the 138-pound finals against Anthony Kanable of Marshfield. Again, it was Younger’s ability from his feet that decided the match. Younger was able to take Kanable down twice to win the sectional title, 4-2.

Younger will open state tournament action against Muskego junior Evan Sinda, who has a 26-9 record. There are a number of wrestlers with records similar to Younger in the state bracket, so the Tigers aren’t looking ahead, though the goals are large.

“Bryce’s goal is to be state champion,” Swanson said. “He knows every match is a finals match for him. That’s how we’re approaching the state tournament.”

Younger got substantial state experience last year. He won four of his six matches to place fourth in the Division 1 132-pound bracket last season.

Fehlen will be competing at the WIAA state meet for the first time. He received a break when his original sectional opponent, the second place finisher from the Merrill regional, withdrew from the tournament. So the opening draw for Fehlen at the sectional was the third place finisher from Merrill, Wausau West’s Michael Olson. Fehlen controlled the match from the start, pinning Olson in 5:40.

That put Fehlen into the semifinals against Eau Claire Memorial’s Levi Smith, who was the regional champion at River Falls. The pivotal point of this match was the final moments of the second period. The score was 2-2 when Fehlen was able to reverse Smith to his back to get a 7-2 lead. Fehlen used that advantage to his advantage in the third period to finish with an 11-5 win.

In the finals, Fehlen faced one of the favorites to win the state 160-title, Rhinelander’s Alec Bess. Bess took care of matters quickly, pinning Fehlen in 29 seconds.

Fehlen (28-12) opens the state tournament against Hortonville senior Elliott Luker, who has a 38-2 record.

Dennis and Wachter both performed well in their first time competing at sectionals. Dennis opened the 113-pound bracket with a 7-3 win over Wausau East’s Ben Diny.

“That was probably the best match Brandon wrestled all year. He was just solid on his feet and he was really tough on top,” Swanson said.

In the semifinals, Dennis faced defending Division 1 106-pound state champion Brady Koontz of Stevens Point, who is undefeated. Dennis put up a game battle before being pinned midway through the third period.

In the wrestleback, Dennis lost to Eau Claire North’s Carter Duerkop, 8-1. Dennis finishes his freshman season with a 19-12 record.

Wachter opened the sectional action with an 11-6 win over Wausau West’s Alex Hein. He lost in the final seconds of a wild semifinal match against Eau Claire North’s Dawson Eilts, 10-8. Wachter got a takedown with 30 seconds left to lead 8-6. Eilts hit a four-point reversal with 15 seconds left to take the lead. Wachter nearly had another reversal before time ran out on him.

In the wrestleback, Wachter lost to Menomonie’s Jake Boyette, 7-2. Wachter finished the season with a 23-16 record.

LaVenture drew Rhinelander standout Alex Kurtz in the opening round of the 182-pound bracket. Kurtz won on a first period pin. LaVenture finishes the season with an 18-14 record.

Dave Newman

Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.

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