RIVER FALLS — Call it a baptism by fire.
The Northern Badger Wrestling Classic, which annually features some of the best wrestlers from throughout the area and state in all three divisions, offered many of Glenwood City’s young wrestlers a taste of their first “Big-Time Tournament” of the year and in some cases ever.
“We came in with nine guys,” Glenwood City head coach Shane Strong noted. “So we knew that being the young team that we are, that we would not be in the team race like we have in years past, so we wanted to try and get everybody to the second day.”
While that did not happen, Strong was pleased that four did make it to day two of the competition and eventually the medals stand at the 30th annual Northern Badger Wrestling Classic held December 29 and 30 at River Falls High School.
Sophomore Jake O’Meara lead the way in his first Northern Badger. O’Meara finished in seventh place at 152 pounds, after sitting out much of last season with an injury.
Fellow classmates, Marcus Ullom and Jake Logghe each took home tenth-place medals; Ullom at 132 pounds and Logghe at 160. Both were eliminated after the first day of competition in last year’s tournament.
Junior Hunter Chouinard, who also had an abbreviated Northern Badger in 2013, not only made it to the second day of competition but made the awards podium after placing 11th at 220 pounds. The top 12 place winners in each of the 14 weights classes are recognized with medals.
“Great competition here. I think our kids are going to be better because of the competition that they faced here today and yesterday.”
Glenwood City finished in a tie with Osseo-Fairchild/Augusta/Fall Creek for 29th place in the 2014 tournament which expanded to 43 teams. The Hilltoppers 62 point tally was good for ninth place in the Division 3 (small school) standings.
New entrant, Sparta, took the Division 1 and overall team title with 330 points followed by state-ranked Dunn-St. Croix mates Spring Valley/Elmwood 316.5 and Boyceville 298.5. Clear Lake (214) and Luck/Frederic/Grantsburg (182.50) rounded out the top five in the overall team standings.
The Cardinals took first place honors in Division 2 while the Bulldogs topped the Division 3 field. Spring Valley/Elmwood and Boyceville finished one-two respectively in last year’s tournament.
Jake O’Meara’s inaugural visit proved to be a successful one as he went 4-2 in taking seventh in the highly competitive 152-pound field.
The Hilltoppers’ sophomore opened his first Northern Badger Classic with a pair of wins – a first-round fall and a shutout decision.
O’Meara stuck Bruce junior Andrew Swada with just nine seconds left in the pair’s opening round match and followed it with a solid 7-0 win over Boyceville senior Zach Smith.
A third straight win was not to be. O’Meara ran into talented freshman Hayden Krein in the quarterfinal round. Krein needed just 1:45 to literally pin O’Meara with his first loss.
But the Glenwood City sophomore would rebound with an 8-2 win over River Fall’s senior Casey Slowiak in his first consolation round match.
The win advanced O’Meara to the consolation semifinals where he was blanked, 7-0, by Dakota Schultz of Luck/Frederic/Grantsburg.
Once again, O’Meara would follow the setback with a win. This time he took down Devon Johnson, a junior from Spring Valley/Elmwood, by a score of 7-4 to secure seventh place after rallying from a one-point deficit with a takedown and near fall points in the final seconds of the match.
“Jake O’Meara is a bit apprehensive with his shots right now and we trying to get him past that,” said Coach Strong. “Missing an entire year is tough. He is just coming back.”
“But he hit a nice shot at the end there to win that Spring Valley match,” added Strong. “You like to see kids wrestle for six minutes like that and not shutting down at the end.”
Jake Logghe’s tenth place finish at 160 pounds put a smile on his coach’s face.
“I’m very, very happy with Jake Logghe,” said Strong following the conclusion of the tournament.
“Logghe had the best tournament he has ever had,” Strong added. “He won four matches and lost a very close one where he was up 5 to 3 with 20 seconds left in one of his wrestleback matches and got put on his back and lost.”
Despite that loss, Logghe finished with a 4-3 mark and showed a dramatic improvement over his previous year’s Northern Badger performance when he lost both of his matches.
Even an opening round, 7-0 loss to conference rival Kyle Larson of St. Croix Central did not deter Logghe. He recovered and won three straight in the consolation rounds starting with a 4:00 fall over Dennis Harris of Lakeland, then a 9-4 win against Zack Arvold of Bloomer-Colfax, and followed that with a 8-1 decision over Collin Maiwald of Hayward to qualify for the consolation semifinals.
Logghe suffered his second loss, a fall at 4:56, to Melrose-Mindoro/Galesville wrestler Hunter Shulick in that round.
A 6-4 win in his next match, had Logghe wrestling for ninth place against Boyceville’s Jordan Morse. The Bulldog junior, however, controlled the match from start to finish for a 9-0 major decision.
Teammate and classmate Marcus Ullom also suffered a loss in the ninth place match. But unlike Logghe, he took an entirely different path for the same result – tenth – at 132 pounds.
Ullom opened with a pair of impressive pin falls. He pinned Shell Lake’s Cody Mctaggart in 1:07 and then stuck Tyler Gillet of Cadott at 5:13 before falling in the quarterfinals to eventual champion Jaden Winchel, a sophomore from Sparta, by fall in 45 seconds.
Ullom suffered a second straight defeat with a heartbreaking 5-4 loss to Michael Slagel of Chetek-Weyerhaeuser/Prairie Farm.
Then for the second time in as many days, Ullom would defeated Cadott’s Tyler Gillet, this time 6-2, to make the ninth-place match. Clay Carney of St. Croix Falls won the ninth-place showdown with a fall at 4:23.
“Felt like Marcus Ullom showed signs that he could be a real strong competitor for us the way he wrestled here,” said Strong.
Junior Hunter Chouinard also had a strong showing at the Northern Badger as he became the Toppers fourth place winner with an 11th-place finish at 220 pounds.
Following a first round bye, Chouinard won a 6-2 decision over Decker Grass of St. Croix Central before losing by fall to Clear Lake’s Mitch Lien in 1:18.
Chouinard lost his first two matches in the consolation bracket. He fell 3-0 to Bruce’s Delly Ralston and then lost a rematch with Decker Grass by a slim 3-2 count.
But he finished the tournament strong with a 3:48 pin of Boyceville’s Jake Erickson for 11th.
The Hilltoppers five other wrestlers that competed did not place. Freshman Jake Nadeau and junior heavyweight Quinton Rogers scored wins. Nadeau finished 2-2 at 106 pounds while Rogers won one of his three matches at 285 pounds. Freshman Brad Kessler (113), junior Cody Bonte (138), and sophomore Spencer Peterson (145) all went 0-2.
“We have had champions in the past and multiple kids in the top five but we are young and I was very happy with the effort from our boys,” stated Coach Strong.
After competing in Hopkins, MN this past Saturday (see story elsewhere in this issue), Glenwood City’s busy post-holiday schedule will continue this week with a pair of home duals and a Saturday tournament. The Toppers welcomed Cadott last night (Tues., Jan. 6) and will host Mondovi Thursday, January 8 in the Dunn-St. Croix opener. Glenwood City will then travel to Cadott on Saturday, Jan. 10 for the Hornet Invitational.