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Tigers advance 10 wrestlers

Even with 10 wrestlers advancing to the WIAA Division 1 sectional tournament, New Richmond wrestling coach Mark Neumann said it will take some of the Tigers' best wrestling of the season to get anyone through to the 2008 WIAA State Wrestling Championships.

That there will be 40 state-ranked wrestlers competing in Saturday's Division 1 D.C. Everest Sectional Tournament quickly tempers the enthusiasm over the Tigers' strong performance at Saturday's WIAA River Falls Division 1 Regional Tournament.

The Tigers went into Saturday's regional and put together a stellar effort, to finish second in the team competition. Big Rivers Conference champion Hudson was the only team that finished ahead of the Tigers in Saturday's team competition.

Leading the Tigers' performances at the regional meet were juniors Jon Keller and Tommy Volkert, who both brought home regional championships. Keller took care of the competition in the 103-pound class to win his second regional title. Volkert needed a wild flurry at the end of the championship meet to win his first regional title, in the 215-pound class.

Volkert reached the finals by throwing River Falls' Trevor Ross and pinning him in the second period of the semifinals. In the finals Volkert faced Travis Truhler of Hudson. Truhler got an early takedown, but Volkert came back to tie the score on two escapes. Truhler then got an escape early in the third period to lead 3-2.

The wrestlers tumbled out of bounds with 12 seconds left, giving Volkert one more chance to get the winning points. He shot in on a double-leg move and drove Truhler backwards. Volkert was awarded the takedown, the winning points, with two seconds left on the clock, setting off a wild celebration among the Tiger fans.

Keller was poised and steady in winning his title. He pinned Nicole Yarrington of Chippewa Falls in the semifinals. In the title match, he got ahead of Hudson's Gordon Johnson and rode him out for the 2-1 win.

"Jon was in control of all his matches. He was never in danger, never in trouble," Neumann said.

Taking second place for the Tigers at the regional were juniors Brad Gartner, Justin Gillis and Blake Jacobson.

Gartner went 3-1 on the day. He lost in the finals to Martino Balsiger of Chippewa Falls, the fourth-ranked 119-pounder in Division 1. Gartner was one of several Tigers who was under the weather on Saturday, as the team has been swept by a respiratory bug.

"Balsiger is really quick and strong and way, way explosive," Coach Neumann said.

Gillis did some of the best wrestling of his career in the regional meet. He lost to Stuart Schindler of Chippewa Falls, the eventual champion, in the semifinals. Gillis then came back to score pins in the third place match, and then the second place match.

"That was one of the best performances of the whole day for our team," Neumann said of Gillis' second place effort.

Jacobson was another of the Tigers who came on strongly in the regionals. He pinned his way to the 189-pound finals, before losing to an excellent opponent, Menomonie's Corey Anderson, by a 10-2 score in the finals.

Jacobson is able to do very little practicing during the week because of an injury and spends most practices running to keep in shape.

"His shoulder is pretty torn up," Coach Neumann said.

Junior Jared Kerr at 130 pounds was the only Tiger to take third place at the regional. Kerr opened with a win, then lost to Austin Johnson of River Falls in overtime in the semifinals. Kerr came back to beat Hudson's Nick Dahm in the third place match.

Advancing to sectionals on fourth place finishes for the Tigers were Charlie Gartner at 125 pounds, Cole Johnston at 160, Quinn Brophy at 171 and Joel Neumann at 285.

Johnston moved from 171 to 160 for the regionals. He pinned his first opponent, then struggled in a pair of losses.

Gartner and Neumann are freshmen who should benefit from getting the experience of wrestling at sectionals. Brophy was another of the big surprises of the day for the Tigers.

Brophy moved into the varsity lineup when Johnston moved down to 160. Brophy had one varsity win to his career record before Saturday's regional. The junior then scored three wins, including getting a pin against Superior in the fourth place match to earn his spot in the sectional.

"It's a testament to how hard he's worked," Coach Neumann said of Brophy's success at regionals. "He's a great kid who works hard and really wants to win."

In looking ahead to this Saturday's brackets, Neumann said he thought Volkert, Keller and Gartner had the best chances of any Tigers to advance to the state meet. Only the top two wrestlers from the Division 1 sectionals get to move on to the state meet.

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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