Arrowhead Starts Slow

By Joe Shinners

Special to the Journal Sentinel

      Oconomowoc – Arrowhead Warhawks wrestling coach John Mesenbrink has seen his team start slowly before, but this was surely an experience he didn’t see coming.

      Arrowhead, a state team qualifier a year ago, opened the season Saturday afternoon missing five starters, including senior star Nick Hucke, yet still managed a second-place finish at the eight-team Oconomowoc Dual Tournament.

      “You know, we normally do start out slow based on how I do things, but this year it’s worse than ever.”

      Hucke, a two-time defending Division 1 state champion and the heart and soul of the Warhawks, is out until Dec. 15 due to an athletic code violation last August. Still, another wrestler failed to make weight, one was sick and two more were injured.

      In the final against No. 1-ranked Wisconsin Rapids, the situation finally proved to be too much to overcome after both teams opened the tournament by winning their first four duals.

      Rapids, winner of five consecutive and 13 overall Division 1 state titles, won nine of the 14 matches. Rapids blew open the dual the Red Raiders led by 15-11 with five pins in a seven-match stretch to win by a 48-20 margin in the debut of coach Scott Benitz. Rapids finished 5-0. Arrowhead finished 4-1.  Janesville Craig and Waukesha West finished at 3-2 and Oconomowoc finished at 2-3.

      Benitz, a longtime assistant, saw seven wrestlers post 5-0 records in his first tournament as coach of the young Red Raiders after taking over for his legendary father, Lewie, this year. Only five Rapids wrestlers were on the varsity a year ago.

“I guess I was more worried about the fact it is a young team,” said Benitz. “To me, it’s really no different (than being an assistant). We did some things well. We made a lot of mistakes, but those are things that we can clean up.”

Arrowhead did see promising freshman Jake Sueflohn and three other wrestlers go undefeated on the day and post victories against Rapids. Sueflohn barely held on to beat Rapids senior Carl DeLuca, a D1 103 state place-winner a year ago, by a 6-5 decision at 119 pounds. Sueflohn managed to maintain control while riding after a takedown with 20 seconds left in the third period against DeLuca.

      Other Arrowhead wrestlers to post 5-0 records included seniors Arik Yde (135), Chris Senner (140) and Torsten Nieminen (152).

       Waukesha West rebounded from loses to Arrowhead and Craig in the first three rounds to win its final two duals and win the consolation bracket. West was led by freshman Seth Ganz (5-0 at 130) and sophomore Tyler Semrad (4-1 at 103) and senior Eric Olsen (4-1 at 171). West’s lower weights (103, 119, 125, 130) were impressive as they posted a combined record of 17-3.

      “I’m happy we were able to end the day on a high note,” West coach Dale Van Keuren said. “We have some things we need to work on, and we’re going to go look at the film and get better.”

      Oconomowoc was led by sophomore Zach Mommaerts (4-1 at 112). He had four pins. Mommaerts posted a record of 40-2 a year ago before his season ended with a broken arm sustained prior to sectionals.