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DURAND — A youthful Glenwood City wrestling team, that has no seniors and just a single junior, had a lofty goal heading into last Saturday’s regional tournament – to win it!
“Our goal was to win the regional this year,” said Glenwood City head coach Shane Strong succinctly.
While the Hilltoppers fell short of that goal, finishing third in the January 30 WIAA Division 3 Durand Wrestling Regional for second straight year. They ended up just a point behind runner-up Spring Valley/Elmwood – 188 to 187 – in the final team tally, Glenwood City did have four individuals claim regional championships compared to just one a year ago. Only the top two place winners in each weight class advances to the sectional meet.
In all, five of the 13 Hilltoppers that competed in Durand will be advancing to this Saturday’s WIAA Division 3 Individual Sectional tournament at St. Croix Falls High School. First-time regional champions – all sophomores – Ian Radintz (106), James Knight (120), Gabe Knops (132), and Trenton McNamara (285) along with junior Thomas Moede, a second-place finisher at 152 pounds, will represent the Blue and White pinstripers in St. Croix Falls on February 6.
While this will be the second sectional meet for Radintz and Knops, it will be the first for Knight, Moede, and McNamara.
“We knew it would be tough to accomplish with the talent Boyceville was returning,” admitted Strong of the team’s regional-winning aspirations.
And it was!
The defending regional champion Bulldogs were not entertaining an upset bidders for their title last Saturday. In fact, Boyceville led from start to finish collecting 267 points, a winning margin of 79 points, and a program-record 12 sectional qualifiers including six champions en route to a claiming its third straight regional crown. Spring Valley/Elmwood, who is also sending five wrestlers to St. Croix Falls, and Glenwood City securing second and third respectively. Rounding out the bottom half of the six-team regional meet were Clear Lake with 96 points and three sectional qualifiers, Mondovi finished with 78 points and a pair of sectional qualifiers and host Durand posted 73 points and had one wrestler advance to next Saturday’s competition.
Two other Glenwood City wrestlers just missed the sectional cut. Freshman Jonas Draxler (126) and sophomore Alex Brigham (220) placed third. Also closing out their seasons for the Hilltoppers were freshmen Savanna Millermon (113), Xavier Gill (145), and Connor Gross (170), all of whom placed fourth, and Eli Nerby (138) copped a fifth place. While sophomores Noah Brite (182) was fourth and Will Standaert (160) placed fifth.
“Our kids have worked hard to get our intensity level back up in the practice room the way it used to be,” said Strong. “I’m proud how they competed on Saturday and I’m happy for our kids that earned quality victories regardless of placement,” he added.
Leading Glenwood City’s regional performances in Durand last Saturday were its quartet of champions, two of which remained unbeaten.
Ian Radintz and Gabe Knops both maintained unblemished records during this season of COVID-19 as each improved to 12-0 with dominating regional performances.
Ranked second in the state Division 3, 106-pound field according to a recent wiwrestling.com poll, Radintz was the clear cut favorite for the gold at the start of the day. By the tournament’s end, the sophomore lightweight was standing atop the podium after going 3-0 on the day with first-period pins in his semifinal and championship matches.
After a quarterfinal bye, Radintz needed just 30 seconds to stick Mondovi’s Kayden Miller and earn a spot in the finals. There, he met Boyceville freshman Noah Evenson who had upset second-seeded Haeli Casey of Spring Valley/Elmwood on an 8-4 decision in the semifinals. Evenson was no match for Radintz who quickly took control of the championship match which culminated in a pin at the 1:38 mark to earn him his first regional gold.
Although he is unranked in the state polls, Gabe Knops earned the respect of the regional coaches and entered Saturdays’ tournament as the number one seed at 132 pounds.
The sophomore then lived up to the honor by running through his bracket undefeated to earn his first regional title and second sectional berth.
Following a quarterfinal bye, Knops knocked off senior Ashton Crawford of Mondovi via pin at 3:50 of their semifinal match. In the finals, Knops disposed of another senior, Clear Lake’s Shane Larson, who was seeded number two, with a 6-0 shut out decision to earn his first WIAA regional crown and a second straight trip to the sectional meet.
Two more members of Glenwood City’s Class 2023 would take their spots atop the awards podium by meet’s end.
James Knight and Trenton McNamara both upset the top seeds in their respective weight classes of 120 and 285 pounds to take home the gold medal and weight chart.
Knight ran through his weight bracket taking an opening-round bye, besting fellow sophomore Tylor LaCroix of Spring Valley/Elmwood on a 3-0 decision in the semis before surprising and upending top-seeded junior Brice Evenson of Boyceville with a second-period pin (3:14). The trio of victories moved Knight’s season mark to 10-2.
Much like Knight, Trenton McNamara took out another top-seeded Bulldog to win his 285-pound weight bracket. After being pinned back in a December dual between the two rivals, McNamara returned the favor in Durand with a first-period championship pin, at 1:42 of Boyceville junior Keegan Plemon, who received a pair of byes to the title match in the three-man bracket.
McNamara also pinned the other heavyweight competitor, Trace Anderson of Spring Valley/Elmwood, just 50 seconds into the pair’s semifinal bout. With the first-round bye, McNamara heads to St. Croix Falls and his first sectional meet with a record of 8-4.
Like many regional competitors, Glenwood City’s lone junior Thomas Moede sat out the opening round with a bye in another three-wrestler bracket at 152 pounds. When he did hit the mat, he made it a quick one, putting his semifinal opponent Peyton Ponath of Boyceville to the mat in just 29 seconds. That victory propelled Moede into the finals match opposite top seed Max Schmitt, a fellow junior from Spring Valley/Elmwood. Schmitt was able to control the title match and eventually scored the pin at 2:43. Despite the loss, Moede (7-5) earned the silver and his first trip to the sectional meet.
The Hilltoppers two, third-place finishes were turned in by a sophomore and a freshman.
After dropping a disappointing 3-0 decision to Boyceville’s Emma Gruenhagen in a 126-pound semifinal, GC freshman Jonas Draxler bounced back to win his third-place match with a first-period pin applied to Durand’s Lucas Traun just 1:11 into the fray. Unfortunately, Draxler never got the opportunity for a wrestle back when Gruenhagen was beaten in the finals by SV/E’s Tristan Neisinger. Instead, Draxler’s first varsity season ended with a 5-6 mark.
Despite losing his only competitive match, sophomore Aaron Brigham (4-7) placed third after received a pair of forfeits in another three-wrestler bracket this one at 220 pounds. In his lone battle of the meet, John Klefstad of Boyceville got the better of him via a fall at 1:42 of the pair’s semifinal match.
Four Toppers including three freshman placed fourth, and two others copped fifth.
Although each lost a pair of matches by fall, freshmen Savanna Millermon (6-5), Xavier Gill (0-5) and Connor Gross (3-4) finished the season with fourth-place finishes at 113, 145 and 170 pounds respectively.
Sophomore Noah Brite also lost two of his three matches on pins to settle for a fourth at 182 pounds. Brite finished this year 2-7.
Sophomore Will Standaert and freshman Eli Nerby finished 2-1 on the day as both earned fifth place at 160 and 138 pounds respectively.
Standaert (4-8) lost his quarterfinal’s match to Joel Anderson of Spring Valley/Elmwood by fall but rebounded to returned the favor by pinning Ethan Weiss of Durand at the 1:42 mark of the fifth place match.
Nerby (2-2) also lost his opening-round bout at 138 pounds via a fall and then received a pair of byes to cop his fifth-place finish.
“We have work to do if we want to take the next step as a team,” concluded Strong. “We return all of our kids next year with some solid incoming freshman. If we want to beat our neighbors, we need to earn it.”
The Toppers’ five remaining wrestlers will be vying for medals and state berths this coming Saturday in the WIAA Division 3 Individual Sectional at St. Croix Falls High School. Unlike previous seasons when the top three wrestler advanced to state, this year, due to COVID-19 concerns, only the top two place winners in each weight division at the sectional meet will advance to the one-day state tournament to be held Saturday, February 13 at Wausau East High School.
The team with the most points at the end of the tournament will also earn a berth in the state team championship set for February 20 at Wausau West High.