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Panthers go without placing at Northern Badger

St. Croix Central senior Frank Holter (left) gets set to pin his opponent in the opening round of the Northern Badger Invitational last Thursday. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia

The growing pains for the St. Croix Central wrestling team don't get any easier.

For the first time in the tenure of Panther coach Brad Holzer, the Panthers were unable to advance any wrestlers to the second day of the Northern Badger Wrestling Invitational, held last Thursday and Friday (Dec. 28-29) at River Falls High School.

Only three Central wrestlers were able to win matches in this year's Northern Badger Invite. The Panthers had one of the youngest lineups among the 44 teams competing in this year's tournament.

Senior Frank Holter was the only Panther who won more than one match in the tournament. His chances were hindered by the fact he was competing at 138 pounds. Even though he was a ninth place finisher at the tournament last year, he was seeded 16th at 138 pounds because there were so many talented wrestlers in that bracket. The top 10 seeded wrestlers all had state tournament experience.

Holter opened the tournament by pinning Barron's Justin Bartlett. In the second round, Holter was pinned by Amery's Mike Smith. In the first round of wrestlebacks, Holter was able to score a 10-4 win over Landyn Johnson of Luck-Frederic-Grantsburg-Siren. Holter's tournament was ended when he was pinned in the second round of consolation action by Dylan Nielsen of Neillsville-Granton.

Holter and freshman Tadan Holzer were the Panthers who received the highest seeds in the tournament. Holzer won his opening match at 126 pounds with a 4-2 decision over Nathan Stuart of Boyceville. Holzer lost on a technical fall to Glenwood City's Jake Nadeau in the second round. In the first consolation round, Holzer lost in overtime to Cumberland's Aaron Gunderson.

The only other win for the Panthers was supplied by Nathan Berends in the 285-pound class. Berends lost his opening match. In the first consolation round, Berends pinned Alexis Gomez of Blair-Taylor. But in the second consolation match, Berends was pinned by Durand's Kyle Abramson.

Central coach Brad Holzer said the Panthers drew a number of top seeds in the first round of the tournament, which put many of the young Panthers in unwinnable positions. He used sophomore Erik Collins as an example. Collins drew the top seed in the first round of the 120-pound bracket. In the second round, Collins wrestled actively, locking his opponent into a cradle three times. In his fourth cradle attempt, Collins couldn't complete the hold and got turned for a pin.

"It was good to see him being an aggressor," Coach Holzer said.

The Panthers resume their Middle Border Conference schedule this Thursday with a home match against Amery. The Panthers will also be in action on Saturday in a tournament in Merrill. This is a scramble format tournament, meaning after the first two rounds, the wrestlers will be grouped based on their records, to give them a chance to face opponents of their same skill level.

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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