Oconto Falls vs. Freedom in Northeastern Conference Showdown ; Manawa looks to use Wittenberg-Birnamwood as a chance to get better.
Pulaski Can End Four Year Skid Against Bay Port
To coach Ryan DePrey, Thursday’s night battle in Bay Port is not any bigger than any other dual Pulaski has on the schedule.
“If we make too big of a deal out of this dual, and it feels like we are hitting our Climax in December, man we have a long season ahead of us.”
After finishing one match short of State last season, the Pulaski Wrestling team is out on a mission this year, and their next stop is Bay Port, a team that has gotten the best of the Red Raiders in the last four dual meets. Coach Ryan DePrey said this match-up is exciting, but the season is not based on this one night.
“To win this dual is nice, but February is the goal.” If you season is peaked on December 8th, you have a long two months ahead of you” said DePrey.
Pulaski has already proven that they can beat Bay Port in some aspect. After falling to the Pirates 40-26 in the regular season dual last year, the Red Raiders beat Bay Port in the Division 1 Regional team score, sending Pulaski to team Sectionals.
“In the dual last year, they plain out wrestled us” commented DePrey. “They were better than us in just about every position and they won all the toss ups. In the Regional, we were improved and healthy, but you can’t compare a dual with a tournament.”
With four returning state qualifiers, and five ranked wrestlers set to take the mat on Thursday, Pulaski sets out to prove that they can knock out Bay Port in a dual, something they have not done since 2011.
The Red Raiders are coming off a fourth-place finish at their own Red Raiders duels on Saturday. Pulaski fell to Coleman and Two Rivers and finished the day 2-2. They enter the night 3-2 overall. Bay Port was second at the Luxemburg-Casco duels, falling to the Spartans for the Championship. The Pirates are 3-1 on the season and send three ranked wrestlers to the mats.
“The kids who may be outdone a little try really hard to keep the matches close and prevent giving up bonus points, so they are really well coached.”
The Red Raiders return the Gille brothers, who both have started the season unbeaten. Also off to a strong start this season is Brandon King, Derek Gibbons and Peter Karcz.
The dual may not officially be the Conference Championship, but both teams know that the winner will have the early drivers seat for the Conference title.
FREEDOM AT OCONTO FALLS
Oconto Falls is ranked 3rd and Freedom 4th as the two teams meet in a Northeastern Conference showdown. Oconto Falls, an early season favorite to make a run towards a return to the State Tournament, enters the night with 9 ranked wrestlers. The Panthers return State Champion Nate Trepanier along with State qualifiers Bryce Ash and Mac Winkler.
Freedom has 8 ranked wrestlers and are returning to the mats after finishing 2nd at the Pulaski Red Raider Duels on Saturday. The Irish fell to Coleman in the Championship.
MANAWA AT WITTENBERG-BIRNAMWOOD
The Manawa Wolves are off to a great start to the wrestling season, jumping out to a 5-1 team record. Wrestling coach Brad Johnson said this was not the kind of start he had expected, but he’s been more than happy with the way his team has worked for their early success on the mats, even though they haven’t been filling as many weight classes.
“We had a whopping nine wins last year, and I am hoping we can get double digit wins this year” said Johnson.
Coach Johnson says he’s working to establish an identity for Manawa wrestling, which is something that hasn’t been present in previous years. He knows the program still has a way to go, but he’s been encouraged from what he’s seen.
“We competed more than we did last year” said Johnson. “All the work that they are doing in the off-season is starting to pay off and I never thought I would see that day, I see it now.”
Manawa knows they’ll have a tough meet tonight against Wittenberg-Birnamwood.
“We are going in to make sure that team knows who we are” said Johnson. “When they wake up Friday, we want them to think that the dual meant something.”
Johnson said the youth program the Wittenberg-Biramwood has is one that they would like to operate like.
Johnson says regardless of winning as a team, his wrestlers know they have an opportunity to improve going up against some of the best.
Everyone’s motivation is different, but we just need to go out and battle.”
Regardless of the outcome coach Johnson knows his young team can learn.