The quality depth within the Somerset wrestling lineup led to some impressive results for the Spartans at the 2017 Northern Badger Invitational, wrestled last Thursday and Friday at River Falls High School.
The Spartans were able to place eight of their wrestlers within the top 12 finishers in their weight classes. That led to the Spartans finishing tenth in the overall team results of the tournament.
The only downer to the tournament for the Spartans was the quarterfinals. Somerset had six wrestlers reach the quarterfinals in their weight class, but all six were defeated, meaning the highest any of them could finish was in fifth place.
Senior Preston Anez was Somerset's top finisher, going 5-1 in the tournament to take fifth place at 152 pounds. Anez now stands at 18-2 for the season. His only loss of the tournament came in the quarterfinals against Rhinelander's Jacob DeMeyer, who has a 19-1 record. Anez has an impressive track record at the Northern Badger, being a third place finisher last year. DeMeyer is ranked second in the state in Division 1 at 152 pounds.
"That Rhinelander kid (DeMeyer) is a beast. He's the real deal," said Somerset coach Ali Peterson.
The Spartans performed well in the lower weights, starting with Tyler Hantsbarger at 120 pounds, where he was the seventh place finisher. Hantsbarger is now 16-4 for the season after going 4-2 in the tournament.
Nick Kearns wrestled at 126 pounds, where he was the eighth place finisher. Kearns is 15-5 after going 3-3 in the tournament. Coach Peterson said Kearns has grown considerably as a wrestler since last season.
"He's a very solid wrestler and he's become a very consistent wrestler," Peterson said.
The success continued at 132 pounds, where Jared Grahovac was a 10th place finisher. Grahovac went 3-3 for the tournament, leaving him at 16-4 for the season.
Spartan senior Steven Moncada is a returning state qualifier, but the talent was so deep at 138 pounds, that he was only able to earn the eighth seed in the bracket. And in eighth place is where Moncada ended up placing.
"138 was the class (weight class) of the tournament," Peterson said. "There were 10 wrestlers who were at state tournaments."
Moncada missed the first month of the season and the difference in conditioning levels may have figured in his final results, Peterson said. Moncada went 3-3 in the tournament and is now 4-3 for the season.
The success continued at 145 pounds, where junior Roy Hale placed ninth. Hale hasn't wrestled since fifth grade before joining the team this season. While he's still brushing up on the basics, he shows a natural explosiveness that makes him a threat in every match. The tournament was perfect for him, because he got to wrestle seven times, finishing 5-2 to raise his season record to 15-6.
In the upper weights, the Spartans got place-winning efforts from seniors Garret Hecht and Zeb Rivard. Hecht was the 11th place finisher at 170 pounds. He won his first two matches, before running into Boyceville's Justin Malean, the top ranked wrestler in Division 3. Hecht put up an excellent battle, but lost 11-7. Hecht ran into some problems on Friday, losing his first two matches, before bouncing back to defeat Cumberland's Adam Nyhus in the 11th place match.
Rivard drew attention in two ways at the tournament. He placed 12th in the 285-pound class. He also sang the National Anthem before the start of action on Friday morning. He performed so well that he was asked to sing it again before the championship round on Friday night.
Rivard went 3-4 in the deeply talented heavyweight class, giving him a season record of 14-7.
The Spartans face a busy week. They get back into Middle Border Conference action by hosting New Richmond on Thursday, Jan. 4. They'll see the Tigers again on Saturday, when Somerset competes at the New Richmond Invitational.