Normally, Tomah’s dual wrestling opener against Mauston is a competitive matchup that comes down to one or two bouts.
Not this year.
The Timberwolves plowed through a series of mostly one-sided matches and claimed a 55-16 victory in their season opener at Tomah High School.
The margin pleasantly surprised Tomah coach Jeff Von Haden, who has a deep roster but sent only four seniors onto the mat.
“I was surprised we pinned them as much as we did,” Von Haden said. “I knew we would be a little bit favored in those lower weights.”
Von Haden said he “took a little chance” to start the dual by moving freshman Caden Griffin from 106 to 113 pounds to face Mauston freshman Tanner Wheeler in the night’s most dramatic match.
Wheeler got a two-point near-fall in the first period and carried a 5-3 lead into the second. Halfway through the period, Griffin got a lightning-fast takedown and pinned Wheeler at the 2:53 mark.
Since Mauston didn’t have a 106-pounder, Tomah could have easily taken the guaranteed six points, but moving up to 113 netted the Timberwolves another six points despite Griffin tipping the scales at just 100 pounds.
“He was giving up a bunch of weight, and (Wheeler) looked pretty solid, but he just kept battling,” Von Haden said. “I respect that. He’s going to be a battler all year. He’s a little spitfire.”
Tomah wrestlers Dawson Lambert (126), Nate Boulton (132), Owen Walters (138), Kaden Hericks (195) and Angel Burkhalter (220) gave up only escape points on their way winning with pins, while Marques Fritsche gave up only three escape points at 171 to earn a major decision.
Connor Von Haden (182) came from behind to record Tomah’s other pin. He entered the second period trailing Dakota Barrix 4-2 but got a reversal 11 seconds into the period to deadlock the match at 4-4.
Von Haden rolled Barrix into a two-point near-fall for a 6-4 lead and was called for an illegal hold that sent the wrestlers to the center of the mat. Von Haden stuffed a Barrix escape attempt at the whistle and took him straight to his back for a pin that ended the match.
The only other close match was at 145, where Tomah’s Aaron Springman pulled out a 4-3 decision over Josiah Ziebel. Springman built a 4-3 lead with takedowns in the first and second periods and held on during a third period when neither wrestler scored.
Tomah’s victory margin likely would have been bigger had Edgar Rodriguez not been injured in the 285 bout. He was leading 2-0 early in the first period when the match was terminated by injury default.
The dual ended with a double forfeit at 106.
Mauston’s only two victories came from Teagan Miller (152) and Jarrett Dolota (160), both of whom qualified for last season’s state meet.
Von Haden was happy to win nine of the 11 contested matches.
“For the first match of the season, the kids wrestled really well,” he said.
The Timberwolves start the season with a hole at 113, but Von Haden believes it eventually will be filled.
“Hopefully we’ll get to the point where we can get a guy down to 113, but it’s going to take a little time,” he said.
The Timberwolves return home Saturday, Dec. 9 to host the Tomah Scramble. The field consists of Baraboo, Boscobel, Caledonia (Minnesota), Cashton, Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau, Lancaster, Mauston, Mosinee, Osseo-Fairchild, Eau Claire Regis, Richland Center, Royall, Viroqua, West Salem, Westby.