Whitefish Bay wrestling coach Dale Loebel estimates that there were four or five times senior 182-pound wrestler Ed Dixon could have quit in his match with Germantown senior Hunter Valenta Thursday night.
With Bay nursing a 25-18 lead in the team score, Dixon had fallen behind by 8-1, 13-4 and 15-8 margins, but in a match that featured several wild swings of momentum, Dixon caught Valenta and pinned at 4:29 in the third period.
Teammate Steve Meyer then followed that with a pin of his own in 1:55 at 195 and that was enough of a margin for the Blue Dukes to pull off a 41-33 victory in the opening North Shore Conference dual meet of the season.
"He decided to come off his back and that was the difference," said Loebel of Dixon. "...I knew that this would be a competitive dual. We did well in spots and breaks that could have gone against us went our way tonight."
A big difference in the match, was that Loebel has an upperclassmen-and-upper weights dominated line-up this season. Of the 21 athletes he as out this winter, he has 11 juniors. He had to replace state-tourney participants like Max Carlin, Joey Davey and Rashadeem Gray, a total of over 400 career wins, but was encouraged by the start.
New Germantown coach Jeff Szohr, who replaces Casey Gabrielsen this season, meanwhile, has a bigger roster (39), but notes that his team is very young with 33 of those athletes being underclassmen.
"I'd like to pin this loss on the fact that we just need to get a few more practices in with this young group," he said. "They (the Blue Dukes) have 17 or 18 upper-classmen. That's a big difference. We're taking a step back in the way we deal with things this season. Not a lot of live wrestling (in practice), but a lot of drilling, and a big focus on fundamentals."
Germantown got off to a good start in the match, when sophomore James Nguyen rallied from an early deficit to earn a pin over Blue Duke junior Justin Weil in 5:16 at 120 pounds.
After Bay junior Jack Ludke rallied for a 4-3 decision over Warhawk sophomore Dante Beal at 126, Germantown went up 12-3 with an impressive pin (1:42) by 132-pound freshman Waymon McNeal.
Bay started coming back with an 18-5 major decision by junior Miguel Gomez over Germantown junior Dakotah Barnes at 138, and the Blue Dukes then took their first lead of the evening at 13-12 when junior Jack Plale pinned Warhawk junior Samuel Haferkorn in 4:56 at 145 pounds.
The Warhawks grabbed their last lead of the match at 152, when sophomore Thomas Nelson stuck Bay's Jamal Brown in 1:51.
But when Blue Duke junior Joe Lehrmann pinned Germantown sophomore Landon Valenta in 2:54 at 160 pounds, that would start a streak of five straight Bay victories that would seal the match win for them.
Lehrmann's win was followed by a pin in 1:11 by his older brother, senior ace of the team Ben Lehrmann at 170. He defeated another Warhawk sophomore Chandler Langmann.
That was followed by Dixon's pivotal victory at 182 and by Meyer's flattening of Germantown freshman Jarred Welnak at 195. When Bay senior Joe Beck hit Warhawk sophomore David Nilles with a 13-2 major decision at 220 the meet was decided as Bay had a 41-18 lead.
The Warhawks picked up the final three match victories, including a forfeit to two-time state qualifying senior Hunter Higginbotham at 285 ("His goal is to be a state champion this year," said Szohr); a pin in 3:39 by highly-regarded sophomore Zach Szohr over Bay sophomore Cooper Fergus at 106 and a 4-3 decision Germantown freshman Joe Lutz over Blue Duke freshman Jonah Nelson at 113.
Zach Szohr came into high school over a year ago a multi-time state youth champion but weighed only 80-plus pounds so he was simply overpowered in matches at 106. This year, his coach (and Dad) Jeff said Zach is now going around 102 pounds so people will get to see what his talent really looks like.
"The kids are making adjustments," said Jeff Szohr. "I think we can still get some things done this year."
With all the changes he has had to make to his line-up, Loebel is pleased with where the Blue Dukes are at this point.
"Though we have 11 juniors, we have something like four or five brand-new kids in the line-up at 113, 132, 152, and 160," he said. "We' usually have a bunch of little guys, but this year we'll have some good upper weights. We don't have a lot of guys, but we're able to spread them out."
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