ELLSWORTH – Half of Boyceville’s wrestlers found themselves in uncharted waters last Saturday when the Bulldogs’ opened the 2012-13 mat campaign at the Ellsworth Invitational.
The Bulldogs’ varsity lineup featured seven wrestlers, including four freshman, that had no, nada, zilch varsity wrestling experience. And to top it all off, Boyceville was without a 106-pound wrestler.
“We had seven new kids and then we had an open weight, so we had eight weight classes where there were just brand new varsity kids,” Boyceville head coach Jamie Olson stated. “That we’re thrown into a pretty tough tournament.”
A baptism by fire, so to speak.
But the neophytes emerged tempered and hardened by the experience and helped the Bulldogs to a solid fourth place finish with a score of 165 just 15 points behind third-place finisher River Falls.
“I was real happy with fourth place,” Olson said. “Our goal was second. We felt if we had been able to fill that 106 pound weight class that would have helped. Then Dominic Olson did not wrestle and he is one of seniors. He has been sick with strep throat.”
“I figured we left 40 maybe 50 points on the table,” Olson noted. “We get those points and we are right there in that second-place position. But overall, the kids wrestled hard and gained a lot of experience.”
Ellsworth, the defending WIAA Division 2 team state runner-up from a year ago, dominated its own 10-team tournament. The Panthers crowned five champions and had five others finish in second place to amass 321 points for the title. Lake City, MN, with three individual champions, was a very distant second with 211.5. Medford placed fifth just 12.5 points behind the Bulldogs; followed by Unity (148), St. Croix Falls (141), Prescott (131.5), Cadott (116), and Durand (52).
“Ellsworth is a super team and are as good as ever. They just keep reloading and that is impressive,” said Olson. “Then Lake City (MN) brought over a nice team from Minnesota and River Falls wrestled a nice tournament. Overall, it was a balanced tournament with some top notched teams in it.”
Although Boyceville did not have an individual champion, all 13 grapplers placed led by its lone senior participant Josh Cormican, who moved up to 170 pounds, finished with a 4-1 and second place. That move made room for sophomore Logan McAbee-Thomas to wrestle at 160 where he scored four pins and third-place finish as he also completed the tournament with a 4-1 record. Bryor Hellmann locked up fourth as he went 3-2 at 152 pounds. All three of Hellmann’s victories came via pins.
In addition, Boyceville had five, fifth-place showings, a sixth, a pair of sevenths, and one eighth place finish.
Cormican, who would have likely taken the title at 160 pounds, showed himself to be the consummate team player and leader by as he went up a weight class and wrestled the day at 170 pounds.
“Josh bumped up a weight for us to get Logan McAbee-Thomas in the lineup, who had a great tournament at 160,” said Olson. “Josh was being a team player and we are going to do that all year with him. He is going to have to bump around and fill in where we need him; he is tough enough to do that.”
Cormican certainly showed his resilience and strength with four wins that included a bye followed by three straight, first-period pins.
Cormican squared off against Gable Frandsen of Ellsworth in the 170-pound championship as each had won their respective pool of round-robin matches. The showdown was a classic nailbiter.
In the end, Frandsen escaped with a 7-6 win and the title.
“Josh wrestled a great match against a great kid,” Olson noted. “He gave up a little size to him but it was a phenomenal match. It was the best match of the day. Everyone was on their feet. It is a match that is going to make Josh better as the year goes on.”
“Josh had chances to score at the end and just couldn’t quite get away from him.”
McAbee-Thomas made the most of his opportunity as he captured third at 160. His only setback of the day came in the final round of pool play where he lost by fall to eventual champion Aaric Spencer of Medford. But McAbee-Thomas rebounded in the third-place match to stick River Falls’ Erik Dartsch in the second period.
“Logan wrestled a tremendous tournament,” Olson stated. “He is a great athlete. We need to sharpen some skills in certain areas, he is a little raw as a wrestler, but has power and quickness. The sky is the limit for Logy.”
Bryor Hellmann won his first three matches on pins at 152 pounds. Ellsworth’s Max Peterson snapped his win streak with a 10-4 decision in the final round of pool. Then in the bronze-medal match, Colton Sorensen majored Hellmann 16-7.
Wyatt Hansen was the third Boyceville wrestle to cap his Ellsworth tournament with a 4-1 mark but due to tie-breaker criteria he ended up in fifth place at 145 pounds.
“Wyatt Hansen wrestled a great tournament,” Olson stated. “He went 4-1 but took fifth on criteria even though he had beaten the runner-up from Ellsworth. Wyatt then lost to a kid that was fourth.”
Four other Bulldogs, James Lindo (126), Dylan Lamm (132), Zach Sutliff (182), and Brandon Windsor (285), also placed fifth.
Brock Swenson (113) and Dylan Windsor (195) finished seventh and Jordan Morse (138) was eighth.
“Overall as a team, we were really pleased,” Olson said. “We are just going to keep getting better.”
The Bulldogs will head south this Friday to take part in the annual Dells Duals the following day (Saturday, Dec. 8).
“We need to have everybody healthy and need to have a full lineup,” said Olson of Boyceville’s trip to the Dells. “It will be battle for us, there are some good teams in pool 2. But it’s what we want, we want good competition.”
The Bulldogs first dual and home opener will be Dec. 13 when they welcome Cadott.