The Ripon High School Tiger wrestling team opened its season last week Saturday, when it went 1-4 at the Lomira Multi-Duals.
While the undermanned Tigers won just one dual — a 30-24 victory over West Allis NH — first-year Ripon head coach T.J. Mlodzik was pleased with what he saw from his wrestlers.
The Tigers lost to Lomira 57-22, Chilton/Hilbert 54-24, Cedar Grove-Belgium 63-6 and Menomonee Falls 60-12. They gave up 30 to 36 points in many of the duals as it was able to fill only nine of 14 weight classes.
“The kids did really well,” Mlodzik said. “I thought we were prepared very well with the three weeks of practice; conditioning-wise, the kids looked really well. There are some things that we’ve got to work on, but that’s going to happen with having the first actual competition of the season.”
He added that while this was his first year at the Lomira Multi-Duals, he heard from assistant coach Derek Kraege that it always has been a tougher tournament for the Tigers since there’s good competition.
“It can be a downside for some of these guys mentally, but we’ve just got to make sure we’re staying on track and looking at the positives of what we’re doing,” Mlodzik said, adding he embraces the challenge.
One wrestler who rose to the occasion was Riley Nickel. The freshman went 4-1 in the 145-pound weight class, which included three pins and a win by forfeit. His only loss came on a 6-5 decision to Lomira.
Mlodzik noted that Nickel looked good on the mat and was able to put multiple moves together.
“With our forfeit counts that we have with open weight classes, every team point is going to be needed for us, so he kind of went up there and took care of business,” the Ripon head coach said.
Also finishing with a winning record for Ripon was Joey Williams. The sophomore finished 3-2 in the 120- and 126-weight classes, with two of his wins coming by pin and the other on a 13-4 major decision.
“Joey looked really good for the first competition,” Mlodzik said. “On the ones that he didn’t pin the kids, he was aggressive and kept trying to score points for us.”
Williams wasn’t the only one who was aggressive for the Tigers as Mlodzik noted that all of the wrestlers were on the attack and that he was happy to see that out of his guys.
Another wrestler who won multiple matches by pins was Caden Kraege. The sophomore, who is Ripon’s lone returning sectional qualifier from a season ago, finished 2-3 at the 285-pound weight class with two pins.
“There are some things that we’ve got to work on,” Mlodzik said. “He’s giving up a little more weight than I would like to see at that higher weight class, but he definitely looked good. The two pins that he did get were definitely some good wins for his confidence.”
Also finishing 2-3 were Brandyn Beahm and Corbin Hein. Beahm won both of his matches at the 152-pound weight class by forfeit, while Hein picked up a win by pin and one by forfeit at the 138-pound weight class.
Tyler Bradley also picked up a win by pin for Ripon at the 170-pound weight class en route to a 1-4 record between the 170- and 182-pound weight classes, while Jordan Perkins and Brendan Shurpit each won one match by forfeit. Perkins’ win came at the 182-pound weight class, while Shurpit’s win was at 126 pounds.
Jack Schoelzel dropped all five of his matches for Ripon at the 195-pound weight class.
While Mlodzik was pleased with what he saw from his team as a whole at the Lomira Multi-Duals, one of his biggest takeaways for improvement was putting multiple moves together.
“The guys were going in for a shot and as soon as they didn’t get it, they stopped,” Mlodzik said. “... So just getting mentally prepared to continue to think about the next two, three moves ahead after they commit to one move [is a focus]. And then just keeping their head up, which they did a good job with.”
Ripon will try to show improvement Thursday, when it hosts Winneconne in its conference opener.
Mlodzik noted that the competition is going to be another tough one as the Wolves’ program has been moving in the right direction.
“It’s going to be another good opportunity for our guys to see some good competition,” he said. “I’m looking forward to a good week of practice and then the guys going out there and giving it their all.”
The Tigers also will have a chance to get more mat time and refine their skills Saturday, when they travel to Sun Prairie for a tournament. It will be an individual-style tournament rather than team duals.
The conference dual will begin at 6:30 p.m., while the tournament gets underway at 9:15 a.m.