The Merrill wrestlers might have come into the WIAA individual state tournament with less hype than Wausau West, but it didn’t bother the Bluejays one bit.
All four of Merrill’s qualifiers won both of their matches Thursday afternoon during the Division 1 competition at the Kohl Center to quietly advance tonight’s semifinal round.
The Warriors, meanwhile, came down with six wrestlers and two — 2012 state champion Colin Baine, and Joe Umlauf — advanced.
The Bluejays won all eight matches during the first day of competition, with 126-pounder Garrett Schmelling getting them started off with a pin in the preliminaries and an 8-1 win over Verona’s Ben Hansen in the quarters.
“I’m ecstatic right now,” said Schmelling, who improved to 37-10. “My best two shots were working tonight and I was using my technique … and it turned out great for me tonight.
“I’m just going to wrestle whoever is in front of me in the semis and if I beat him, I’m one step closer to my goal.”
In front of Schmelling in the semifinals will be Evan Garcia of Green Bay Preble/East (41-4).
Joining Schmelling in the semifinals is Mason Reinhardt (160), David Pophal (170) and Tyler Schmidt (220).
Reinhardt (45-3), the No. 3 wrestler at his weight, won both matches by pin. He will face Waterford’s Cody Nannemann (43-5) in tonight’s semifinal round, while Pophal (45-3) takes on Duncan McKinney of Holmen (38-12). Schmidt (43-0), who also notched two pins, will face Mitchell Ledwith (35-1) of Neenah.
The undefeated Baine (48-0), of West, won a controlled first round match and followed it up with a dominating technical fall in the quarters. His semifinal opponent is another undefeated wrestler, Tyler Rice of Kenosha Tremper (52-0).
Umlauf (36-0), also undefeated, eked out a 2-1 decision over previously undefeated Gabe Grahek of Milwaukee Marquette. Umlauf will take on Chad Osmanski (41-7) of Bay Port in the semifinals.
“I knew my quarterfinal was going to be a tough match,” Umlauf said. “I knew his style and he likes to slow his matches down. I won a tough match and there are plenty of other tough guys left in this bracket.”
Travis Hettinga, also of West, wasn’t as fortunate, as he lost 3-1 in sudden victory to Harford freshman Beau Breske.
Tied 1-1 after regulation, Hettinga went for his bread-and-butter move, a headlock and nearly had the takedown, but Breske popped his head out to get the takedown with seven seconds left in the sudden victory period.
“We knew we’d have some championship battles in the quarterfinals,” West coach Troy Fabry said. “Travis went for it and you can’t fault that. It he gets it he’s a hero and he didn’t get it night. I thought he could have ridden him out and escaped to beat him, but it’s a what if situation and he wrestled hard.”
Breske wasn’t sure if he was going to get the two when he was thrown, but managed to land on his stomach.
“When I was lying there I didn’t know what would be two, so I pulled my head out and got the takedown,” Breske said.