Dual wins have been scarce for the Somerset wrestling program the past few years, so the four wins earned by the Spartans in the opening week of the 2017-18 season were something to celebrate.
The Spartans opened the season by winning 45-24 in their Middle Border Conference dual meet opener at Osceola Thursday, Nov. 30. The Spartans then competed in the annual John Timm Duals tournament at Glenwood City, going 3-2 for the day on Saturday, Dec. 2.
The win over Osceola showed how the Spartans are forming into a team, both as a lineup and as a close-knit group.
With Nick Bushinger and Preston Anez earning decisions in the first two matches of the night (152 and 160 pounds), the Spartans took the lead and kept it the rest of the way. Somerset received forfeits in the next two matches. Each time Osceola started a comeback, the Spartans got a win to maintain the lead.
Somerset got a pin from Zeb Rivard in the heavyweight match to get six key points. Osceola then got wins in the lower weights to cut the lead to 24-21. Somerset is strong in the middle weights. That started Thursday with wins at 120, 126 and 132, with those wins sealing the team victory for Somerset. Tyler Hantsbarger and Nick Kearns picked up the first two of those wins with pins, with Jared Grahovac drawing a forfeit at 132. Somerset's final win was in the final match of the night, where Roy Hale earned a 10-5 win in the 145-pound bout.
Somerset has been one of the younger teams in the Middle Border Conference the past several years, but that's not the case this season. Twelve of the team's 18 wrestlers are returnees. The team has five seniors and seven juniors, so there's an experience and maturity level that hasn't been seen in the team in some time.
Somerset coach Ali Peterson said he's looking on his veterans, including Anez, Steven Moncada and Garret Hecht from the senior class and Grahovac from the junior class, to stabilize the team on and off the mat.
Peterson said one of the most impressive wins against Osceola came from Hantsbarger, who beat an opponent who placed second at the conference tournament last year.
"Tyler looks tough. He's starting to develop additional skills and moves," Peterson said.
That led into Saturday's tournament at Glenwood City. With the four dual match wins, the Spartans have already topped their total for dual wins from last season. The Spartans lost to Neillsville 37-29 and Spooner 33-32 to start the tournament. They came back by beating Bloomer 45-12, Glenwood City 55-12 and Triton (Minn.) 54-28.
The strong start is also reflected in individual success. Kearns and Grahovac are already 6-0. The group of Spartans at 5-1 includes Hantsbarger, Anez, Hecht and Rivard. Currently 4-2 are Hale and Bushinger.
The Spartans will hold their first home match of the season this Thursday when they host Prescott. The Spartans have a new tournament on their schedule this Saturday, competing in a meet at Spooner.