RIVER FALLS — The numbers have not favored the area wrestling teams this season.
While neither Boyceville nor Glenwood City has been able to fill all 14 weight classes, that hasn’t prevented them from finding success.
For proof, one needs to look no further than last Saturday’s annual Big Rivers/Dunn St. Croix Conference Wrestling Challenge.
Despite fielding just nine- and eight-man varsity lineups respectively, Boyceville and Glenwood City both enjoyed a successful 2017 tournament.
The Bulldogs finished fourth with 147.5 points and had three individual champions and a runner-up while the Hilltoppers placed seventh after tallying 118 points and had a tournament titlist, a second and a pair of thirds in the 12-team tournament held February 4 at River Falls High School.
Boyceville’s Brock Schlough (160), James Palmer (182) and Garrett Joles (220) – all ranked first in the most recent D3 individual state poll – copped championships as did Glenwood City’s Marcus Ullom at 145 pounds.
Hudson claimed the top spot with 256.5 points while eight-time defending D-SC champion Spring Valley/Elmwood was the runner-up with a score of 172.5. Eau Claire North was third with 155.5.
The Big Rivers/Dunn-St. Croix Challenge should serve as a good tune-up for the what is a loaded WIAA Division 3 regional tournament in Clear Lake this Saturday, February 11. The meet will feature four state ranked squads – Spring Valley/Elmwood (#8), Cadott (#9), Clear Lake (#11) and Boyceville (#12) – along with the Toppers and Cornell/Gilman/Lake Holcombe plus dozens of highly ranked and regarded individuals.
The top team will advance to the team sectional to be held Tuesday evening, February 14 at Boyceville High School while the top two individual placewinners in each weight class will qualify for the February 18 individual sectional tournament to be held at Osseo-Fairchild High School.
“Some of our kids right now are wrestling at a very high level,” said Coach Olson following the conclusion of last Saturday’s BR/DSC Wrestling Challenge.
None have been better than the Bulldogs trio of champions – Schlough, Palmer and Joles.
Olson was quick to point out that all three are special athletes that reap the rewards that come with dedication and hard work.
“They dominated in very competitive weight classes,” said Olson of his top-ranked triumvirate.
Schlough was never challenged in the 160-pound weight class as he improved his season mark to 34-1 with a 19-4 technical fall in the quarterfinals and back-to-back pins in the semifinal and championship rounds. He pinned Chase Schmidt of Rice Lake in 3:05 to win the gold.
Palmer and Joles, now 35-1 on the season, stood well above their respective competitors in River Falls.
Palmer moved to the 182-pound final via a first-period pin in the quarters and a 11-0 major decision in the semis. In the championship, the Boyceville senior beat Othayun Smith (23-3) of Eau Claire Memorial 8-1.
Joles scored falls over River Falls’ Joshua Langlois in the quarters and Jacob Bugella of Rice Lake in the semifinals. Hudson’s Cole Godbout awaited Joles in the finals. The Boyceville junior and two-time state runner-up handily won the match, 15-2.
Junior Justin Malean nearly added a fourth gold to the Bulldogs take as he finished second at 170 pounds. Malean opened with a 11-2 major decision over Zeke Schwarz of Hudson and then beat Bryce Johnson of Mondovi, an opponent he had lost to earlier in the week, 8-2. Carter Merth of Spring Valley/Elmwood once again held the upper hand on Malean, winning the championship match 9-4.
“Justin Malean wrestled real well in the semis defeating a Mondovi opponent that defeated us on Tuesday,” said Olson. “Justin had a bit of a let down in the finals, but we will be more prepared for that opponent on Saturday.”
Nick Goodell (120) and Noah Novotney (285) continued to have strong seasons as both placed fourth and losing some tough matches against good kids.
Hunter Lipke took fifth at 195 going 2-1.
Palmer, Schlough, Joles and Novotney all earned first team, All-Conference honors for the Bulldogs while Malean, Goodell and Lipke made the second team.
A top five finish was the Hilltoppers’ goal when it came to River Falls last Saturday for the 2017 Big Rivers/Dunn-St. Croix Challenge.
The team came close to fulfilling it.
“As a team our goal was top five in this tournament,” stated Glenwood City coach Shane Strong.
“I know that sounds like a stretch with only eight kids competing in the tournament,” added Strong. “But we thought if we wrestled well we could have four in the finals. We lost some close matches that took us out of the top five spot.”
Senior Marcus Ullom led that charge, finishing first in the 145 pound weight class with three straight pins on his march to the title including two over Big Rivers’ foes.
“Marcus Ullom wrestled a great tournament,” Strong said. “We moved him up a weight a week ago to help him practice and compete at a higher level. We felt he would feel stronger in both practice and during competition.”
“I thought he was very focused and determined to do well at River Falls,” added his coach. “He went out and scored points early in his matches and kept that pace throughout.”
Junior Jacob Nadeau just missed joining Ullom atop the awards podium as he copped second at 120 pounds. After winning by pin and an 8-0 major in his first two bouts, Nadeau was beaten 10-1 in the championship by Hudson’s Mitchell Anderson.
“Jake Nadeau picked up a very good win in the semi-finals,” said Strong. “He defeated a state ranked kid from River Falls that had pinned him the week before. Not only did he win, but he won by major decision 8-0.”
Carson Strong and Brad Kessler both finished third in the tournament. Strong took the bronze at 132 pounds while Kessler grabbed his at 126 pounds.
Strong sandwiched a 15-0 technical fall in the quarterfinals and a fall in the third-place match around a heartbreaking 4-3 loss in the semifinals to Logan Hatch of Hudson.
“The semifinal was a match he (Carson) needed to win and should have won,” said the Coach Strong. “Carson needs to be more aggressive on his feet early, looking to score more points. The match was close which allowed the Hudson kid to stall the final minute of the match.”
“I think Carson was focused and wrestled well in his other two matches,” noted Strong. “He recovered from that loss and picked up a nice pin in the third place match.”
Like Carson Strong, Brad Kessler came up short in his semifinal’s match. He lost a 6-2 decision to Dylan Bune of Spring Valley/Elmwood. Kessler scored a fall over Menomonie’s Chris Haviland and was a 15-8 victor in his third-place match against Chippewa Falls’ Dylan Schimmel.
“Brad Kessler showed that he can compete with state level competition,” said Strong. “He lost a close match in the semi-finals to Bune from Spring Valley. Brad defeated him in overtime earlier in the year and many believed it was a fluke. Brad proved them wrong by wrestling another close match with the state-ranked wrestler. He came up short, but will have another shot at him this weekend.”
Three other Glenwood City wrestlers earned places last Saturday.
Dan Taylor took fifth at 106 pounds, Spencer Peterson was sixth at 182 and John Pagnotta copped seventh in the 152-pound bracket.