SPASH Wrestlers Edge Merrill
By Ken McKenzie
The SPASH wrestling team got solid performances from a number of wrestlers in posting a 46-24 dual match win over Merrill Thursday night.
Seniors Dakota Kelz (145#) and Noel Winch (285#) won in their final home dual matches with Nate Duffert, Joey Roth and Nate Engle each adding wins by fall.
Duffert got the night started right for Coach Duane Groshek’s squad, earning a fall over Brett Swan at 126#. Merrill’s Scott Arneson, currently ranked #5 in the state at 138# moved down to 132# and won by fall over Garrett Kvatek to even team scores at 6-6.
After Merrill was awarded a forfeit at 138#, Kelz won 3-2 in a hard-fought contest with Tanner Pettit at 145#. SPASH’s Fritz Schierl was awarded a forfeit at 152# to give the Panthers the team lead they would not relinquish this night. Roth then earned six more points, winning by a fall at 3:40.
Junior Jake Harlow added a 2-1 decision for the Panthers; scoring a take down in the final half-minute of the first period and making those points stand up in only yielding an escape to Lucas Lee in the final seconds of the match. Senior Paul Zalewski found himself in trouble late in the first period to Mason Reinhardt with his Bluejay rival scoring the fall at 1:55.
Next up was Engle, a SPASH junior, who recorded a win by fall at 2:34 over Seth Collins. Austin Reed trailed Merrill’s Collin Zoellner 2-1 after one period; eventually dropping a 7-2 decision as Merrill trailed by 30-21.
SPASH’s Winch won by fall in 53 seconds over Christian Kleinschmidt as the match concluded the upper weight classes with SPASH ahead 36-21. Brady Koontz was awarded a forfeit at 106# and twin brother Dylan Koontz handled Aidan Ball at 113# by major decision (12-0), after opening with 5-0 and 7-0 leads at the early breaks.
The night concluded with a very competitive match at 120# with freshman Chance Bailey coming up just short in dropping a 3-2 decision to Devon Schultz, who scored a takedown with two seconds left in the first as the grapplers rolled off the mat. Bailey managed an escape in the time left and then escaped in the opening four seconds of the second from the down position to tie the match. The pair battled on at 2-2 with Schultz then earning the critical escape in the final minute and fought off Bailey’s last ditch effort for takedown. The resulting decision put the final team score at 46-24 in favor of SPASH.
Honored in pre-match announcements and a post-match reception were wrestling program seniors Tyler Hall, Kelz, Pat Molski, Reed, Winch and Zalewski. The SPASH wrestling squad now will travel to D.C. Everest on Jan. 29 to take on the Evergreens and then will gear up to make their mark at the Wisconsin Valley Conference tournament, hosted this year by Marshfield on Saturday, February 7. Last season the SPASH squad posted a second place finish to Merrill and look to challenge Wisconsin Rapids this time around for top team score.