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Panthers win pivotal matches, get first MBC win

St. Croix Central junior Ryan Larson (top) made a successful return to the lineup on Thursday, recording a pin at 182 pounds. He'd been out due to an injury suffered during football. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia

Things finally fell right for the St. Croix Central wrestling team.

And it resulted in the Panthers' first Middle Border Conference dual victory of the season. The Panthers put on a strong showing in front of their home fans last Thursday to defeat Amery, 45-36.

In previous matches where the Panthers hoped for a team victory, it seemed that the lineups didn't line up in the Panthers' favor. This time, with the Panthers getting a win in the opening match of the night, it caused the lineups to work in the Panthers' favor.

That opening win came from senior George Vondriska at 152 pounds. He and Amery's Canyon Schwartz were in a close match, when they went into a scramble late in the period.

"Both kids were on their backs," Central coach Brad Holzer said, saying Vondriska reacted quicker and was able to pounce on Schwartz and hold him to the mat for the pin.

Amery came back with a pin at 160 and a forfeit at 170. Central then was empowered by the return of junior Ryan Larson for his first match of the season. He earned a third period pin, tying the match at 12-12.

The Panthers then burned through the upper weights. Logan Johnson earned a pin at 195, Oliver Olsen took a forfeit at 220 and Nathan Berends earned a tense 3-2 win at 285.

Amery's strength is in the lower weights. The Panthers forfeited to unbeaten Walker Ingham at 106, but Central countered with Charlie Magee getting a pin at 113. Amery's Jordan Penard got a pin at 120, but Central freshman Tadan Holzer matched it at 126 pounds.

Amery needed pins in each of the final three matches to pull out a team win. That's when Panther sophomore Garrett Hafele stepped into the spotlight. Hafele picked the perfect time for his first varsity victory, pinning Amery's Austin Deleon 2:32 into the 132-pound match.

"That was one of those memory makers," Coach Holzer said of Hafele's win. "He did exactly what we've been working on."

On Saturday, the Panthers wrestled at the Bluejay Invitational at Merrill. The Panthers showed more progress, finishing in the middle of the pack, placing ninth among the 17 teams attending the meet.

Larson was Central's top finisher, placing second at 182 pounds. His only loss was a wild match against one of Boyceville's top wrestlers in the championship round.

Holzer was Central's only fifth place finisher. His only loss came in the championship of his pool. He needed a five-point throw in the final seconds to win the fifth place match over Merrill's Alex Gehrke, 8-6.

Senior Frank Holter also went 3-1, but the coaches held him out of the 138-pound fifth place match. Holter is one of several seniors dealing with shoulder injuries. Coach Holzer said seniors Jimmy Brandvold and Derek Rock are likely out for the season due to their shoulder injuries.

The Panthers resume their MBC schedule this Thursday when they wrestle at Osceola. The Panthers will be at home Friday, hosting a meet that will include Baldwin-Woodville, Durand, Merrill, Luck and St. Croix Falls. Action begins at 5:30 p.m. Friday's event will also serve as the Panthers' annual Alumni/Hall of Fame night. Between the second and third rounds of the tournament, they will hold Hall of Fame inductions. This year they will induct 1996 graduates Jeff Ross and Nick Gillis. In addition, there will be a reception for all SCC Wrestling Alumni and SCC Wrestling Association members (past and present) at the Hammond Golf Course following the tournament.

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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