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Cardinals clip Bulldogs wrestlers in key conference showdown

SPRING VALLEY — Timing they say is everything.

For Boyceville’s wrestling team, the timing of their annual showdown against the Spring Valley/Elmwood Cardinals could not have been worse.

Not only did the Boyceville have to travel to Spring Valley last Thursday, January 8 but had to do so without a pair of starters – Micah Johnson (herniated disc) and Logan McAbee-Thomas (knee) –  in its line-up as injuries continued to plague the squad.

Head coach Jamie Olson and his charges knew that they would be reprising the role of underdogs in this crucial Dunn-St. Croix dual opener that would likely determine the conference championship as it has several times in the past decade when these two teams meet.

Boyceville proved up to the task as it stayed close throughout the dual and took a late 25-23 lead on James Palmer’s 8-0 win at 120 pounds. But Spring Valley/Elmwood won three of the final four matches to hold off the Bulldogs for a tight 34-31 win.

“Timing (of match) did not work out well for us at all,” admitted Boyceville head coach Jamie Olson.

“But kids knew that and they knew they had to step up,” continued Olson. “It took some of the pressure off as some of the kids though we are not expected to win, we have two starters out, and they have been beating us all year.”

“Now we are going in saying  ‘Hey, let’s knock them off’,” added Olson. “Sometimes that underdog mentality can come through for you and it almost did.”

Olson and assistant Corey Day are masters at manipulating their line up but were not afforded that opportunity at Spring Valley.

“You know, we didn’t win the flip that kind of meant that we had to stay where we weighed in at,” noted Olson. “We could have moved a little bit in the middle, that was our plan, to save us some points but we didn’t win the flip so we wrestled them straight up.”

After dropping the first two matches of the dual and trailing 8-0, the Bulldogs won a pair including a pin at 170 to take a 9-8 lead. After that the match was a back and forth affair with the teams trading the lead four more times.

Boyceville, who fell behind 20-9, got a pin from heavyweight Brandon Windsor and a forfeit at 106 pounds to take a 21-20 lead as the dual headed into the much anticipated match at 113 pounds.

That match featured state-ranked wrestlers Austin Wolfe and Spring Valley/Elmwood’s Andrew Webb – both newly crowned Northern Badger Champions (Webb at 106 and Wolfe at 113 pounds) – in a key showdown.

The match lived up to the billing with Webb pulling out a 2-1 win with a late, third-period reversal.

“The big match was Wolfe and Webb,” said Olson. “They have wrestled each other so many times now, its tough to beat a kid that many times. Give Webb credit, in the last 25 seconds or whatever it was, he got a big reversal and held on.”

“That was a big match,” admitted Olson. “Not saying that was the difference in the whole dual but it was a big swing match.”

That gave the Cardinals a short-lived 23-21 advantage. James Palmer gave Boyceville the lead gain in the ensuing match with an 8-0 win at 120 pounds.

But Spring Valley/ Elmwood would secure the lead one last time and the victory with wins at 126, 132, and 138.

Justin Malean gave the Boyceville faithful a boost with a pin in the dual’s final match at 145 pounds.

“Overall, I am very happy with the performance of our kids,” said Olson. “Unfortunately for the third year in a row we came up short (against Spring Valley/Elmwood). But I thought every kid did a really nice job battling. We were outmatched in some weights.”

The dual began at 152 pounds with Boyceville’s Zach Smith wrestling Spring Valley/Elmwood’s Devon Johnson.

First-year senior wrestler Zach Smith did a solid job despite losing 10-3 as he avoided Johnson’s pin attempts throughout the match.

“Starting off the dual at 152, I thought Zach Smith, a first-year wrestler, not giving up a major, that kind of got the kids fire up because we figured that we might give up six (points) there and then for Garrett Joles to get a pin was huge.”

Jed Schlegel gave the Cardinals an 8-0 lead with a 17-2 technical fall over Jordan Morse at 160 pounds.

Joles, just a freshman but already a season wrestler accustomed to high-pressure matches came up with a big pin to put Boyceville on the scoreboard. Joles, who lead 2-0 after one period and 4-2 after two, pinned Quinton Elliott with 38 seconds remaining in the match.

Alex Lovett continued Boyceville’s momentum with a 7-0 shutout win over Ryan Asher at 182 pounds that gave the Bulldogs its first lead at 9-8.

But Spring Valley/Elmwood would take back the advantage in the very next match. Senior Mike Roesler pinned Boyceville Jake Lake, who was seeing his first action of the season, just 43 seconds into the 195-pound match.

“This was Lake’s first time back all year and he didn’t perform as well as he would have liked but he has been out all year and it is hard to expect a lot from him (at this point).”

The momentum swung in Spring Valley’s favor when they parlayed that pin into another as Ethan Hofacker pinned the Bulldogs Jake Erickson at 220 pounds upping the Cardinals lead to 20-9.

Brandon Windsor flipped the tables with a Bulldogs’ pin at heavyweight. Windsor scored the fall over Jake Howe in just 1:20.

Dyllon Johnson then received a forfeit at 106 pounds to put the Bulldogs back in front by a point.

The Wolfe-Webb match was a dandy. After a scoreless first period, Wolfe chose the down position to start the middle period and able to quickly work an escape for a 1-0 lead that lasted for nearly three minutes. But with 1:04 left in the third period, Andrew Webb worked a reversal and then held on for the big 2-1 victory.

With the Bulldogs down two, James Palmer scored first- and third-period takedowns and a reversal and penalty point in the second to post a 7-0 win over the Cards’ Hank Larson. The Palmer win gave the Bulldogs a two-point lead at 25-23.

Brock Swenson and Tyler Stroo both worked hard to keep their matches close and not to surrender extra points.

Swenson lost 15-4 at 126 pounds to Seth Schlegel. Stroo followed with a great effort at 132 pounds but came up agonizingly short in a 3-1 loss to Logan Newton.

Now down 30-25, Boyceville needed a win in the next match for an opportunity at victory in the final match.

Freshman Cody Frederick wrestled sixth ranked Cruze Hurlburt well at 138 pounds but fell 10-2 as Spring Valley/Elmwood secured the victory with the win.

Bulldogs’ freshman Justin Malean surprised Cardinals’ junior Ryan Berg with a  big pin to end the dual on a positive note. Malean’s fall narrowed the final tally to 34-31 in the Cardinals’ favor.

“Overall, I thought the kids really performed well,” noted Olson. “They were really disappointed and we were disappointed, Logan McAbee-Thomas was not in the line-up and Micah is still out.”

“Hopefully we can get the pieces together here for one tournament, one dual because we haven’t had it all year. It has been frustrating.”

“The rivalry we have created (with Spring Valley) makes us better and makes them better,” Olson said.  “They have gotten the best of us the last four out of five years, but that is the way it goes. Hopefully we can turn it around on them down the road.”

The Bulldogs hosted Eau Claire North last evening before heading into a much needed nine-day break. They will return to mat action Thursday, January 22 for a conference dual at St. Croix Central.