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Wrestling: New Richmond, Somerset meet in MBC dual on Thursday

Somerset's Landon Anez had his arm raised in victory during a match at the Northern Badger Invitational. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia

Somerset senior Jared Grahovac continues to be an unstoppable wrestling force.

Grahovac added to his list of successes by winning the 138-pound championship at the 50th annual New Richmond Invitational on Saturday. Grahovac was one of two Spartans who reached the finals. New Richmond had three wrestlers reach the finals. The Tigers finished fifth in the team competition. River Falls was the meet champion with 265 points. Amery took second place with 250.5 points.

Grahovac improved his record to 23-1 with his five wins in earning the NRI title on Saturday. In the finals, Grahovac and New Richmond’s Tyler Dennis put together an excellent battle. Dennis struck first, getting an early takedown. Grahovac was able to escape and add a takedown that gave him a 3-2 lead at the end of the first period. Grahovac extended his lead to 7-2 by the end of the match.

Somerset coach Ali Peterson marveled at the patience and focus that Grahovac used  in overcoming a quality opponent in the finals.

“He really understands what his strength is. Very few guys can keep up that energy level that strong, that long,” Peterson said.

Also reaching the finals for the Spartans was junior Tyler Hantsbarger at 126 pounds. After winning his first four matches, Hantsbarger was defeated by Amery’s Walker Ingham in the finals, 2-0. Hantsbarger had won an extremely tight battle in the semifinals, edging Clear Lake’s Matthew Anderson 1-0. Hantsbarger’s record now stands at 23-2.

Hantsbarger beat Ingham when the two met recently in the Spooner tournament. Peterson said it’s likely that they will meet at least three more times this season.

“He understands this is a loss that can help propel us forward,” Peterson said.

Because of injuries, the rest of the Somerset lineup that competed Saturday was very young. Peterson said the biggest benefit was getting those wrestlers the experience of five matches.

For New Richmond, the NRI showed how close the Tigers are to doing good things. But they couldn’t quite get the wins in the close matches they were hoping to get.

“We’re not that far away from our kids beating a lot of good kids,” said Tiger coach Jeff Swanson. “We’ve got to get them over that hump. There were wins there to be had.”

Getting to the finals for the Tigers were Brandon Dennis at 132, Tyler Dennis at 138 and Ryan Muller at 195. Brandon Dennis faced Amery’s Jordan Penard in the 132 finals. This match was 1-0 until well into the third period, with Penard finishing with a 3-2 win.

Tyler Dennis had an early lead in the 138 finals against Grahovac, but couldn’t find ways to break free from Grahovac’s ride once Grahovac got on top. Muller was pinned by Spooner’s Sam Melton in the 195-pound finals.

Swanson said one of the highlights for the Tigers was the work of Cayden Henning at 126. Henning went 3-2, but his two losses were in excellent battles against a pair of standouts in Ingham and Matthew Anderson.

Also getting three wins for the Tigers were Jake LaVenture, Noah Henning, Quentin Hayes and Braeden Gefeke. Adam Stener showed his potential as a heavyweight, winning a 3-2 match against Amery’s 285-pounder who finished the day with a 15-7 record.

New Richmond finished fifth in the team standings and Somerset was ninth among the 10 teams in the tournament.

Bluejay Classic

The Panthers exceeded their expectations at the Bluejay Classic at Merrill on Saturday.

The Central coaches gave the wrestlers one challenge for the day: finish at or better than where you were seeded. Every Panther wrestler accomplished that goal.

That success was led by freshman Devin Wasley, who reached the championship round at 145 pounds. Wasley’s best match came in the semifinals, where he pinned an opponent from Lakeland who had taken seventh place at the Northern Badger Invitational the previous Saturday.

“Wasley pounded the Lakeland kid,” said Central coach Brad Holzer. Holzer said Wasley has grown an inch since the start of the season and so the move up to 145 pounds might be a permanent change after Wasley started the season competing at 138.

Wasley was brought back to earth in the finals. He faced Traeton Saint of Prairie du Chien who placed second at state last year and Saint won by technical fall over Wasley.

Central heavyweight Nate Berends improved his season record to 19-6 by going 4-1 in the tournament. Berends is learning the patience it takes to be successful in the upper weights, according to Holzer. Two of Berends’ wins Saturday came in overtime.

David Olson and Tadan Holzer were both fourth place finishers in the tournament. They went 3-2, winning their first three matches.

MBC matches

The Tiger wrestlers made an incredible comeback at Prescott on Thursday. The Tigers trailed 27-0, but somehow came back to defeat the Cardinals, 37-36.

Prescott won the first five matches of the night to build the 27-0 lead. The Tigers got their first win when Cayden Henning got a pin at 126. The Dennis brothers followed with pins at 132 and 138. Prescott won a decision at 145.

The Tigers then won the next four matches. Quentin Hayes won a major decision at 152, Christian Moeller took a forfeit at 160, Braeden Gefeke scored at pin at 170 and Jake LaVenture scored a pin at 182, locking up the team victory for the Tigers.

The St. Croix Central wrestlers suffered a 56-24 MBC loss at Baldwin-Woodville on Thursday.

Central was able to win three of the matches held on the mat. Two came in back-to-back matches at 138 and 145. Tadan Holzer earned the first win, getting a pin early in the third period. Freshman Devin Wasley moved up to 145 and he performed well, with a pin five minutes into the match.

The third win came via another pin, this time by Logan Johnson at 220. Senior Nathan Berends accepted a forfeit for the Panthers at 285.

Central coach Brad Holzer said the most entertaining match of the night was at 195 pounds, where Central’s Josh Bair tangled with B-W’s Chewy Lee.

“It was basically a throw fest. Both kids had a couple good throws,” Holzer said. Lee was able to win on a third period pin.

Upcoming schedule

All three teams resume their Middle Border Conference schedule this Thursday. Somerset wrestles at New Richmond while Central wrestles at Amery.

Central will also host its annual quad tournament on Friday. Joining the Panthers in the tournament will be Baldwin-Woodville, St. Croix Falls, Merrill, Durand and Luck-Frederic-Grantsburg. This will be the annual Hall of Fame event for the Panthers, with Jason Heinbuch scheduled to be inducted into the Panther Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Northern Badger Invitational

Somerset’s Jared Grahovac reached the championship round and St. Croix Central had two freshmen reach the semifinals of the 2018 Northern Badger Wrestling Invitational, which concluded on Dec. 29 at River Falls High School.

Grahovac reached the semifinals at 138 pounds, where he faced St. Croix Falls freshman Kole Marko, the latest standout from the Marko wrestling family. This was an excellent match between the two top-seeded wrestlers, with Marko earning a 5-1 win. It was Grahovac’s first loss of the season. Grahovac disposed of five opponents to reach the championship match.

The semifinal and final rounds at the Northern Badger are wrestled to get maximum exposure for the top wrestlers. The finals are wrestled one match at a time, in the center of the high school gym under a spotlight. Somerset coach Ali Peterson said Grahovac’s career arc made him deserving of this honor.

“It was great how he earned his right to be there. There’s nothing but positives to take from this experience.” It was also the first time Peterson has coached a wrestler in the finals at the Northern Badger.

A significant win for Grahovac came in the semifinals, where he pinned Baldwin-Woodville’s Joe Garcia. Garcia beat Grahovac 1-0 in the Middle Border Conference tournament last year.

Spartan junior Tyler Hantsbarger placed fifth at 126. Hantsbarger suffered his first loss of the season on Friday. He bounced back with three very strong efforts in Saturday’s action.

“Tyler mowed them down,” said Peterson. “He went on the offensive.”

Senior Nick Bushinger was the third Spartan to advance to the second day of the tournament. He placed 10th at 170. Bushinger won four matches in the tournament. He forfeited out of the ninth place match due to a knee injury.

With five of their eight wrestlers advancing to the second day of action, the Northern Badger Invitational was a huge success for the St. Croix Central wrestlers. That’s especially considering that the Panthers didn’t get a single wrestler to the second day of the tournament a year ago.

The top finishes for the Panthers came from a pair of freshmen. David Olson at 120 and Devin Wasley at 138 both reached the tournament semifinals, with both finishing in fourth place. Senior heavyweight Nate Berends placed ninth, with sophomore Tadan Holzer 10th at 132 and junior Erik Collins 12th at 126.

The Panthers are an extremely young team. Coach Brad Holzer said this extent of tournament experience was highly valuable for the Panthers.

“It’s a nice step in the right direction,” Coach Holzer said.

One of the highlights was Berends, who won five matches, four of them in very close finishes.

“Berends wrestled as a heavyweight should. He’s starting to figure out what it takes to be a heavyweight,” Holzer said.

The Panthers are hoping this finish shows that the program is heading in the right direction. Coach Holzer said there are 30 kids signed up for youth wrestling at Central. He said he hopes that interest can be maintained to help increase numbers at the high school level in the next few years.

Bi-State Classic

Brandon Dennis was the only Tiger who advanced to the second day of action at the Bi-State Classic at La Crosse on Saturday.

Dennis was eliminated in the opening round of action on Saturday. Dennis, 14-5, lost to Lowell Arnold of Portage by a 4-1 score.

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 more than 30 years.

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