Hudson wrestling coach Chris Hansen was emphatic not even Winter Storm Draco was going to stop his team from making the three-hour drive to the east Friday night.
By the time the Blue Raiders left, the Stevens Point Area Senior High wrestling team felt like it got caught in the middle of a storm.
Nate Engle got the Panthers off to a great start with a win at 160 pounds, but it was tough sledding after that for SPASH in a 46-12 nonconference loss to the Blue Raiders at the SPASH Fieldhouse.
Having recently run into Hudson at the Marty Loy Tournament, the Panthers, who weren’t helped by surrendering a pair of forfeits, had a feeling it might be tough to pick up a win.
“We knew what we were running into,” SPASH coach Duane Groshek said. “This gave us a gauge of sectionals because these are some of the guys we’re going to have to compete against in order to get to state.”
In terms of matchups, this one against the Blue Raiders spelled trouble from the very beginning.
Many of the weight classes SPASH counts on for points just happened to coincide with the strength of the Hudson lineup, and that tilted the match heavily toward the Blue Raiders, who entered the match ranked No. 6 by Wisconsin Wrestling Online.
“Stevens Point is a much better team than the score indicated. This was just a matchup that favored us,” Hansen said. “We were coming off a real tough tournament, so we were battle-tested and successful there. I think our kids looked at that and came in with a positive attitude.”
Engle, a freshman, got the Panthers off to a promising start with a 7-1 decision over Sam Green.
That would turn out to be the lone highlight for a long stretch as the Blue Raiders won the next eight matches, recording falls at 106 and 113 to build a commanding 39-3 lead.
Already in a 12-0 hole before the match even began because of forfeits at 120 and 220, SPASH had a chance to halt the Blue Raiders’ run of victories at four in the 285-pound match.
Justin Pawlak was clinging to a 2-1 lead with less than a minute remaining only to have Mathias Tobin score a reversal and hang on for a 3-2 win.
“There were a couple of close matches we lost that were a little disappointing, and that was one of them,” Groshek said. “We knew this was going to be out toughest dual so far.”
Fritz Schierl got the Panthers back on the winning track with an 11-5 decision over Zach Lohman at 126, and Tyler Kiefert followed that up with a 5-3 overtime win at 132.
Hudson’s Nic Johnson spoiled the Panthers bid for a third straight win by rallying for an overtime win at 138, before Jerney Simkowski closed out the SPASH scoring with a 5-4 verdict at 145.
Groshek was already turning his attention to the Oshkosh on the Water Tournament set for Dec. 28 and 29.
“I really believe we have some guys we can put on the podium over there, and it’s been awhile since we’ve done that over there,” the SPASH coach said.
160 pounds: Nate Engle (SPASH) dec. Sam Green, 7-1; 170: Dima Hawksford (H) dec. Billy Duffert, 8-1; 182: Derek Schindler (H) dec. Mitch Mallek, 7-4; 195: Max Gierke (H) pinned Justin Vandre, :19; 220: Eliot Motu (H) won by forfeit; 285: Mathias Tobin (H) dec. Justin Pawlak, 3-2; 106: Mitch Fanning (H) pinned Nate Duffert, 3:03; 113: Matt Koski (H) pinned Kolby Konopacky, 5:09; 120: Nick Nelson (H) won by forfeit; 126: Fritz Schierl (SPASH) dec. Zach Lohman, 11-5; 132: Tyler Kiefert (SPASH) dec. C.J. Steiner, 5-3 (OT); 138: Nic Johnson (H) dec. Dakota Kelz, 6-4 (OT); 145: Jerney Simkowski (SPASH) dec. Cal Johnson, 5-4; 152: Austin Koski (H) major dec. Tyler Engle, 16-3.