Improved NRI provides many challenges
With new teams like Grand Rapids, Minn. added to the field, the 2018 New Richmond Wrestling Invitational featured one of the strongest fields of wrestlers in a number of years.
The NRI moved up to 10 teams this year and teams like River Falls, Clear Lake and Grand Rapids dominated the field. New Richmond was able to get two wrestlers into the finals and had seven wrestlers finish in the top halves of their weight classes.
Advancing to the championships for the Tigers were Tyler Dennis at 132 pounds and Nathan Fehlen at 160 pounds. Fehlen barreled through the competition until he reached the finals, where he faced Spooner's Chase Melton. Fehlen and Melton waged a back-and-forth battle that wasn't decided until the final seconds, when Melton got the points to earn a 7-4 victory.
Both the Dennis brothers, Tyler and Brandon, went 4-1 for the day Saturday, with their only losses coming against a pair of brothers from Grand Rapids. Tyler Dennis was pinned by Zach Holm in the 132-pound finals. Brandon Dennis lost to Josh Holm in the opening round at 126, before reeling off four straight wins to lock up third place.
Also finishing in third place for the Tigers was Jake LaVenture at 182 pounds. LaVenture's only loss also came against one of the Melton's from Spooner, losing a close 4-3 decision to Sam Melton in the semifinals. LaVenture bounced back with a 7-0 win over Osceola's Ethan Carlson in the third place match.
Trevor Hildebrandt was the Tigers' lone fourth place finisher. He opened the tournament with three straight wins at 138 pounds, before running into two strong opponents in the final two rounds.
Travis Messer at 195 pounds and Ryan Muller at 220 pounds were fifth place finishers. Muller has impressed the coaches because of his willingness to take on all challenges.
"He's giving up 30 pounds and he doesn't care. He's been a pleasant surprise for us," said Tiger coach Jeff Swanson. Swanson said Muller could be wrestling at 182, but can't beat out Messer or LaVenture, so he's been competing at 220 pounds. He now has an 11-8 record.
The NRI came two days after New Richmond wrestled at Somerset in a Middle Border Conference dual match. The Tigers were hoping for better results, but Somerset was able to take a 43-25 win in the match.
"Somerset got the job done in the pivotal matches," Swanson said. "We thought we could be competitive with them."
The bright spots for the Tigers came from some of the team's younger wrestlers. Muller, Matt Harle and Christian Moeller gave the Tigers wins in matches that were considered tossups going into Thursday's action. Senior Dylan Wachter was also a winner in the 145-pound class.
The busy schedule for the Tigers continues this week. They host MBC leader Ellsworth in a dual match on Thursday. The Tigers will be in action again on Saturday in a tournament at Chippewa Falls.