'This is the year' as veteran Bay wrestlers claim Nicolet Scramble title
Young Knights take 11th in own event
If the still young season were to end today, it would still be a wild success for the Whitefish Bay wrestling team.
The veteran-led Blue Dukes opened the campaign with a sound 45-27 thumping of North Shore rival Germantown on Nov. 29, their first win over the Warhawks in 12 years, and then won the 17-team Nicolet Scramble on Saturday behind individual titles from Rashadeem Gray and Ben Lehrmann.
But Blue Dukes coach Dale Loebel, wants more, much more.
"This is the year, potentially the best year we've ever had," he said. "It's because expectations are much, much higher. There were at least four or five matches that we should have won. Still, this is a first for us and Gus (Nicolet coach Kaufmann) gave us one nice big trophy at the end of it all."
And in the eyes of Kaufmann, whose young team battled its way to an 11th-place finish, the meet itself was a victory of sorts.
"Sorry I didn't get in touch with you earlier," he said early in a conversation last Sunday. "I had to borrow mats from Concordia (University in Mequon) and I needed to get them back. … This was a full team effort and it turned out great. We had a lot of parental involvement, the kids who weren't wrestling helped out and we even had some alumni come back and lend a hand.
"It was just great to see so many people come back and help."
And keep the profile of North Shore area wrestling high.
State qualifiers lead Bay
The Blue Dukes, who are paced by returning WIAA state meet qualifiers and seniors Gray, Max Carlin and Joey Davey, have about 25 wrestlers out this season and the roster is loaded with veterans up and down the lineup. Lehrmann is a junior, who Loebel thought should have been at state last year but came up just short in sectional.
Overall, the Blue Dukes should be able to fill all 14 weight classes on a regular basis and Loebel is looking forward to the winning attitude of other programs from the fall carrying over to his grapplers.
"It's been really nice so far," Loebel said. "These are a group of kids who want to work hard, who want to put in the effort. They've seen the success of the football and the soccer teams. Now they want that for themselves.
"It's a great combination. Terrific kids with a great work ethic."
At Nicolet, Bay scored 394 points to edge South Milwaukee (389) and Menomonee Falls (329).
Lehrmann won his title at 160 pounds, going 5-0 on the day including pins over Riverside, sophomore teammate Connor Claiborne, Martin Luther and Milwaukee King opponents, before beating a foe from South Milwaukee, 4-1, for his title.
Gray claimed his crown at 170, as after a first-round bye, he defeated Hartford (major decision), Martin Luther (pin), Nicolet (pin) and Menomonee Falls (10-4 decision) grapplers for his title.
Taking seconds were freshman Cooper Fergus at 106 (4-1 on the day, two pins) and Davey at 138 (4-1).
Carlin was third at 120 (4-1), while Miquel Gomez was fourth at 132 (2-3) as was freshman Andrew James at 195 (2-3).
Fifths went to sophomore Justin Weil at 113, Clairborne at 160 and Steve Meyer at 195.
"The funny thing is, is that we didn't even wrestle very well," Loebel said. "There were about four or five more matches that we should have won easily."
The effort against Germantown was more complete, Loebel said, as after losing the first three bouts, the Blue Dukes went on to claim nine of the next 11 for the dual meet victory. Fergus at 106 (decision), Weil at 113 (pin), Carlin at 120 (pin), sophomore Jack Ludke at 126 (overtime decision), Gomez at 132 (pin), senior Tyler Spangenberg at 152 (pin), Lehrmann at 160 (decision), Gray at 170 (pin) and senior George Dixon at 182 (pin).
Bay travels to the Tom Burns Invitational at Marquette on Saturday.
Nicolet loaded with youth
For Kaufmann and Nicolet, they scored 204.5 points for their spot. It was a good learning experience for a team that has 18 first-year wrestlers on a 24-man squad.
"It'll be fine," said Kaufmann. "We're setting ourselves up for a couple good years down the road."
Seniors Jordan Fischer (170) and Nate Patton (285) lead the way along with junior Jack Kalloch (113).
"Those guys will help us hold it together until the kids' club we have going can bring us a few more athletes," Kaufmann said. Jeremie Ott, a UW-Parkside Hall of Fame wrestler is leading that youth effort, Kaufmann said.
The top finish for the Knights at the Scramble was a second by Fischer at 170 as he went 4-1 on the day with his only loss to Gray. Kalloch was third at 113 (3-2), while Danny Zenge was fifth at 182 (3-2) and Patton sixth (3-2).
"We're kind of spread out so we should be able to fill weight class," Kaufmann said. "We're just really new."
Nicolet will be at the Sheboygan Falls Invitational on Saturday.
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