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Tiger wrestlers win New Richmond Invitational; Blackman is Outstanding Wrestler

New Richmond senior Shane Blackman (top) earned Outstanding Wrestler honors at the 2014 New Richmond Invitational on Saturday. Blackman earned his third career NRI title by winning the 132-pound class. 1 / 2
New Richmond senior Dominic Ficociello dominated his weight class on Saturday, pinning all five of his opponents. Here he is in the process of throwing a St. Croix Central wrestler to the mat.2 / 2

New Richmond senior Shane Blackman earned Outstanding Wrestler honors, as he was one of five Tigers who earned weight class championships in the 2014 New Richmond Invitational on Saturday.

The Tigers also had three wrestlers take second place. New Richmond used a strong championship round to pull away from Spooner to win the NRI team championship. New Richmond finished with 250 team points, followed by Spooner with 218.

Joining Blackman as bracket champions for the Tigers were Bryce Younger, Seth Leavens, Derek Dowd and Dominic Ficociello. Second place finishes were produced by Garret Hildebrandt, John Keifer and Jake Rose.

Blackman (14-1) rolled through the 132-pound bracket to win his third career NRI title. Spooner’s Brett Jepson was the opponent in the 132-pound finals. Jepson brought a 19-2 record into the match, but Blackman dispatched him quickly, scoring a pin 50 seconds into the match.

Younger (20-6) may have produced the Tigers’ biggest win in the 120-pound finals. He defeated Osceola’s Mitch Hustad, a state-ranked opponent who brought a 23-1 record into the match. Younger got an early lead and maintained control of the action to score a 6-3 victory.

Leavens (14-8) tore through the opposition in the 126-pound class. Four of his wins came on pins and his other win came on a 12-3 decision.

Dowd (21-4) faced strong opposition in the final two matches of the 145-pound bracket. He defeated St. Croix Central’s Ryan Gulich 6-4 in the semifinals. In the finals Dowd faced Clear Lake’s Mitch Paulson. Dowd again showed controlled aggressiveness, winning 3-0.

Ficociello (19-5) was in a groove Saturday, using his strength to completely overpower his opponents. Ficociello pinned all five wrestlers he faced, with his longest match lasting 2:59.

Tiger coach Mark Neumann said the individual champions got the glory, but the team championship was the result of a heartfelt effort from every Tiger who took the mat on Saturday. He said several of the best efforts from the team didn’t result in championships.

One of those was from Jake Rose in the heavyweight championship against Osceola’s Thor Reimer. Reimer towers over Rose at 6-6 and 287 pounds. Rose used quickness and strategy and nearly knocked off Reimer. Rose got an escape early in the third period to tie the match at 2-2. Rose scored a takedown with four seconds left, but Reimer was awarded a reversal as the buzzer sounded. With 10 seconds left in the overtime Rose tried for a double-leg takedown. Reimer used his raw power to stuff the attempt and work behind Rose for the takedown.

Coach Neumann said one of his favorite matches of the day was the fifth place match at 220 pounds, where freshman Bret Jensen scored a pin for his first varsity victory. He said seeing Jensen use some of the moves he’d been taught in practice to get the win was an example of how the young wrestlers are willing learners.

“He’s 182 pounds wrestling at 220 to get us some team points,” Neumann said.

The NRI came two days after the Tigers suffered a discouraging 45-19 loss to Amery in a Middle Border Conference dual match. The coaches had given the Tigers four days off after the Bi-State Classic because the wrestlers had little time to celebrate the holidays. The polar vortex that swept through the region forced the Tigers to take another four days off practice. Neumann said that much time off left the Tigers rusty when they faced Amery.

The only Tigers to earn wins against Osceola were Blackman, Dowd Keifer and Younger.

The Tigers resume their MBC schedule this Thursday when they wrestle at Osceola. The Tigers will be in another tournament this Saturday, competing at Eden Prairie, Minn.