Panther Grapplers Fall to Rapids
By Ken McKenzie
The SPASH wrestling squad had good news and bad news Thursday night as they experienced a loss in a dual match at Wisconsin Rapids by a score of 41-24.
The bad news started with several wrestlers still out with injury and recent sickness, forcing the Panthers to forfeit at several weight classes and leaving less options for weight class adjusting in the conduct of the match. They also took a further blow, losing 160# Joey Roth to a painful elbow injury default mid-match.
When you enter the Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln school, you find yourself walking past the massive trophy cases holding 21 state wrestling trophies and awards too numerous to mention. Thursday the WRL program honored their 1974 team and coaches before the varsity match in honor of the 40 year anniversary of WRL’s first state crown in single division days of 376 school participation, leaving intimidation as an easy factor to any visiting team coming in hunting for an upset dual match win. As a wrestler, it could be easy to get lost in a state of intimidation.
But the SPASH squad was determined to earn a bit of their own good news in starting out the dual match with twin wins from twin brothers, Brady and Dylan Koontz. At 106#, Brady battled Bryson Einerson, scoring a takedown during the initial period and working a reversal during period two, shutting out the WRL wrestler for a 4-0 win.
Dylan Koontz followed at 113#, posting a 3-1 win over fifth-ranked Matrix Jisko and with Koontz earning an escape in period two to initiate the scoring and earning a hard-fought win to push the team score to 6-0.
“They are really tough wrestlers,” said Coach Duane Groshek later of the Koontz twins.“Each of them is always up to a challenge and they continue to perform well for their team.”
The forfeit at 126 tied the score 6-6 and two falls and a forfeit later, SPASH was looking up at a mounting lead by their hosts.
Senior Dakota Kelz earned a 2-0 takedown lead in the first stanza, worked an escape in the second and went on to post a 9-4 win over Dylan Hall at the 145# weight. Fritz Schierl returned at 152# after nearly a month lost to injury, looking very strong and in control in his match as posted a fall over Cody Sawyer.
The injury default and a technical fall put SPASH further behind before Paul Zalewski worked very hard to earn the 9-2 decision over Jake Timm at 182#. Teams posted a double forfeit at 220# before senior WRL team leader and state top ranked moved up to 285# and worked quickly, giving the crowd a demonstration in a :16 fall to end the dual.
SPASH will now take their 3-1 WVC dual record and try to return the sick and the wounded to the mat, hosting Merrill in another WVC dual match next Thursday, Jan. 22; then travel to D.C. Everest on Jan. 29 and face off with all WVC foes at the Conference tournament hosted at Marshfield on Saturday, February 7. Last season the SPASH squad posted a second place finish to Merrill.
“We ask 110% from these guys each and every day and there were no disappointments here tonight, said Groshak in a post dual match conversation. “Each young man gave it all on the mat and we’re naturally concerned for Joey’s condition. We’ll continue to work hard and if we can get this team healthy, we’ve got some fun ahead of us.”
Somewhere in all this information is a second bit of good news- that SPASH will only see the Red Raiders once more, at the Wisconsin Valley Conference meet. The WIAA sectional assignments find them heading opposite directions this year as the Red Raiders are in the Green Bay East/Southwest hosted school cluster with SPASH assigned to funnel through the Eau Claire North sectional as individual wrestlers attempt to live out their dreams for a trip to the Kohl Center in Madison on Feb. 26-28 at the WIAA Wrestling State Tournament.