By Bethany Malisheske
The first team competition for Pierz at the State Tournament was on Thursday. In the afternoon the Pioneers went up against the New Richland – Hartland – Ellendale – Geneva Panthers. Pierz finished with a 28-22 victory to advance to the semi-finals.
The first match found Pierz’ Tanner Tetrick going up against Tim Bartness. After two periods, Tetrick was up 10-8. At the end of three, Tetrick won 12-8. Pierz was up 3-0.
The second round, 112 pounds, had Pioneer Hank Virnig wrestling Brandon Schlaak. After three periods, Virnig lost 3-9 and both teams were tied at 3-all.
Wrestling at 119 pounds were Klye Bednar and Panther Colton Schlaak. Bednar got out to a 7-0 start after the first period. With 1:34 left in the second, Schlaak got a couple of points. In the end, Bednar was awarded a technical fall (18-2). Pierz was up 8-3.
In keeping with the pattern set in the first three matches (Pierz winning, losing, then winning), the Pioneers were handed a loss. The match was close into the second period, but in the third the Panthers secured the win. Krey Cory defeated Isaac Gruber, 11-3. The Panthers had pulled within one.
Jon Andres, wrestling at 130 pounds, gave the Pioneers 3 more points by defeating Brian Bos. In the 135 pounds matchup, Pierz’ Chuck Boser came onto the mat fired up to compete. Halfway through the second period, Panther Gaven Schlaak was up 1-0. With 0:52 left in the third, Schlaak was still leading, 4-3. After the remaining seconds, Schlaak got the 6-5 victory. At this point, Pierz was leading by just one point, 11-10.
The Pioneers then found a hot streak and took the next four rounds. The first came from Nick Gruber who defeated Carl Pederson by a score of 9-4. The second came when Joe Hyatt defeated his 145 pound opponent, Brandon Bartness, 3-0. At 152 pounds, Nathan Britz finally had his chance. He had been sitting on the sideline, watching his teammates up until then. When he went onto the mat, he was determined to come out on top. He finished his match, defeating Curt Pederson by a score of 13-1. The fourth straight win came from Kyle Girtz. Taylor Holland could be seen grimacing through most of the match. He left the mat losing to Girtz, 3-4.
Despite Zach Solinger taking advice from teammates to “scoop the leg,” he was on the losing end of a 2-4 score. Mitch Brekke gave the Panthers three more points.
At 13-24, the Panthers struck again. This time Nick Christensen got the better of Jesse Zajac. The final score was 2-4.
With only two wrestlers left, Pierz was leading 24-16. On the mat next was Cody Luberts and Panther Matt Holland. The fans from both sides became more vocal and among the cheering, “Here we go, Cody, here we go!” could be heard. The crowd got even louder when the only pin of the competition came. Unfortunately, Pierz was on the bottom side of it. With the pin, the Panthers were given six points and the score became 22-24.
It was down to the last pair of wrestlers. In an exciting finish, it was heavyweight Matt Mrnak of Pierz taking on Jesse Quam. With both wrestlers having wrestled earlier in the day in the individual competition, both seemed a bit tired in this final round. After three periods, Mrnak came out with a 9-1 victory.
The Pierz team was on its feet and soon, was congratulating its heavyweight wrestler. Mrnak’s four points gave the Pioneers a 28-22 victory and put the Pioneers in the semifinals.