The Manawa Wolves wrestling team hosted the Wittenberg-Birnamwood Chargers in a home opener conference dual, Thursday, Dec. 5.
They saw a team across from them they hope to be in a few years.
Wittenberg-Birnamwood walked in the doors as the eighth ranked team in all of Division II and walked out with a lopsided victory.
The wrestling began at 126 pounds as Manawa’s Dalton Timm faced off against W-B’s Gavin Czerwonka. Dalton came out fired up initiating an aggressive tone for the match. He picked a tough counterpart to start the year off against, as Czerwonka is one of the conference’s top 126-pound wrestlers.
Dalton battled and fought hard in his first match back in three years but eventually was pinned.
“Dalton wrestled tough tonight but was overmatched with experience,” said Coach Dan Kundinger. “But this is a matchup we look forward to again later this year as Dalton regains his form.”
Next up for the Wolves was Daryn Claussen at 138 pounds. Claussen also picked a difficult counterpart to start the season off against as he drew Bobby Utecht from the Chargers. Utecht is predicted to be a state medalist for the Chargers this year. Claussen is a returning sectional qualifier and is looking to make a name for himself in the conference this season.
Claussen also started the match off aggressively and proved immediately to all doubters that he wouldn’t back down from anyone. After the first period the score was tight at 3-0 in favor of Utecht but from there it got much tougher for Claussen as he mustered only three points.
“Claussen battled hard not to give up the pin at the end of the match which shows a lot about Daryn and what he plans to accomplish this year,” said Coach Shae Coyle.
Daryn eventually gave up the technical fall, but showed everyone that he belongs in the conversation this year.
At the 145 pound matchup, second year wrestler Justin Wentworth faced off against Griffin Magee. It was a tight battle through the first period as Wentworth found himself down 2-1. It remained tight in the second period as Wentworth gave Magee a run for his money. Justin’s inexperience reared its ugly head as he was in a tough scramble. Magee caught Wentworth out of position and put him in a hold he couldn’t break. Wentworth was eventually pinned late in the second period after a long fight off his back.
“Tonight Justin surprised a lot of people and really showed everyone how hard he really worked this offseason to become a varsity wrestler and contributor for this team” said Head Coach Brad Johnson, “I think we are in-store for something special from Justin this season.”
In the 152 pound bout Manawa’s first-year wrestler Ben Beyer found himself against a well seasoned Charger, Brendan Randall. In Beyer’s first-ever match experience he proved one thing, he is here to battle. From the get go Beyer showed intensity and fight as he quickly found himself fighting off his back.
“For his third week of wrestling we were extremely excited to see the fight he brought tonight. Without knowing a ton and having zero mat experience before this he really gave us all he had” said Kundinger. “Ben was eventually pinned but showed no fear and potential which is great to see from such a ‘green’ wrestler.”
Manawa’s Zach Kreklow, at 160 pounds, was up next. For the first match of his career he drew one of the toughest matchups a kid could ask for — he drew Braxton Potrykus. Potrykus has won a conference title and has made it to the WIAA State Tournament in Madison.
In his first varsity action Kreklow showed no fear and all hustle. He mustered only one point during his time against Potrykus, but he was all over the mat working as hard as he could to find any advantage. In the end Potrykus proved to be too big of a task for the young Wolf, and was eventually pinned.
“Any time a kid goes out there and shows heart like that against one of the state’s best you have to be proud,” said Coyle. “That just assures you he has a bright future in your program.”
Manawa didn’t have another match until the 220 pound weight class when Casey Johnson, who placed sixth at state last season took to the mat. His opponent was August Peplinski, who placed sixth at state in Division II the prior year. This matchup was arranged to happen long before the beginning of the season.
Peplinski saw great success this summer at Nationals and came in trying to prove that he is the best in the conference as only a sophomore. The match started off the way everyone expected, both wrestlers getting a sense of what the other was going to attempt to do.
“In the first minute of the match the gym was just silently as two tough wrestlers were just testing each other, looking for that crucial cue to make a move,” said Kundinger. “Finally Casey saw his opportunity and began to put the pressure on August.”
Johnson got in deep on a double but found himself slightly out of position not allowing him to finish his shot against a skilled wrestler like Peplinski. After a flurry, Johnson found himself in on another double but again was unable to finish. The first period score ended at 0-0.
In the second period Johnson chose down as the first points become crucial in the case of an overtime situation. Peplinski proved to be a tough match for Johnson on the bottom and after an uneventful period the score remained tied.
The suspense built as every second ticked by and every scurry ended with Johnson still in control. Finally, Johnson caught Peplinski in his infamous cradle which he rode to the state tournament the year before. As the official counted the back points Johnson knew all he had to do was hold on. As the time ran out the Manawa bench and crowed went crazy.
“Casey has been preparing for this match for two months, he knew what he wanted, he was driven and focused, he got what was rightfully his,” said Kundinger.
Next up was Manawa’s heavyweight Cole Thompson. Thompson faced the Chargers’ Nick Stringfellow in his first action of the season. Thompson continued the story of the Wolves for the night, he came out fired up and aggressive but found that Stringfellow possessed the same qualities.
In a tough battle Thompson found himself out of position and caught in a hold that is tough for any heavyweight to defeat. Thompson eventually succumbed to the unforgiving hold and was pinned.
“Cole has to take the match with a grain of salt. It has to hurt a little but he has to have short-term memory. That’s not the Cole we will be seeing this season. He is busting his hump in the practice room so I know he will shake it off and comeback strong” said Coach Johnson.
In the final bout of the night the Wolves trotted out Gage Griffin at 113 pounds. Griffin is another very inexperienced wrestler. He drew Chargers’ Zach Urquhart.
With just under three weeks of wrestling under his belt Griffin did not let the bright lights and big stage of the ‘Wolf Den’ affect his plan. Griffin worked and fought hard but found that experience normally overcomes aggression and eventually gave up the pin.
“Gage showed me tonight that he doesn’t care what people think or how tough the other guy looks, he is here to do a short list of things, work hard, be a great teammate, and get some wins. He accomplished two of the three and I can’t wait until he gets some experience to earn those wins” said Coyle.
The night started with a plethora of JV matches show casing Manawa’s young team of wrestler on JV were Austin Wagner, Hakeem Benhamadi, Nick Swenson, Jake Kaczorowski, and Damien Kitowski. Austin Wagner was able to start the night off with two matches. These matches were the first two of his relatively new profession. Austin faced two wrestlers from the Chargers, each a weight class up from his. In each match Austin showed he had a plan and wasn’t going to wait long to get it going. He initiated contact and went right to work each time but soon found that his inexperience limited his plans abilities to adapt. He found himself in inexperienced positions and each time that happened it proved to be the deciding factor in his matches. Wagner was pinned in both matches but got the much needed mat time he has been wanting. “Wags showed me tonight that he has been learning and just needs some more guns to add to his arsenal before he can find the success he is expecting. Look for him to get better and better as the season moves on because he is extremely intelligent and a fast learner” described Coach Brad Johnson after the dual.
Manawa’ Hakeem Benhamadi gave up two pins.
Manawa’s Nick Swenson was pinned.
Manawa’s Jake Kaczorowski wrestled two Chargers opponents and fell each time 8-0.
Manawa’s Damien Kitowski was pinned late in the second period and late in the third period in his tow matched.
Mawana hosts a wrestling match, Thursday, Dec. 12.