Opening night of the WIAA individual state wrestling tournament hasn’t been kind to the Lodi wrestling team in recent years.
The Blue Devils flipped that script Thursday night as the team’s three qualifiers who were in action on opening night went a perfect 3-for-3 in their preliminary matches at the Kohl Center in Madison.
For first-year coach Cody Endres, the undefeated night was one simple word: fun.
“It’s not often you have multiple guys wrestle in a session and go undefeated as a team,” he said. “Our guys are in a good spot and this is fun for them.”
Garrett Moll got things going for the Blue Devils as the three-time qualifier notched his first ever state win in dominating fashion. The junior 120-pounder got on the attack early and rolled to a 14-2 major decision win over Medford sophomore Dane Higgins.
Moll (37-3) jumped out to quick 5-0 lead in the opening 30 seconds after a furious opening takedown and three back points. Moll added another takedown before the end of the period and took a 7-1 lead into the second period.
From there, Moll continued to attack, rattling off seven more points, including a takedown and three back points in the third period to close out the win. For Moll, the atmosphere of the Kohl Center pumped him up and really carried over into the match.
“It’s definitely exciting,” he said. “I think it was a good confidence booster, setting the tone and I’m excited to keep going.”
“It’s an important first match,” Endres added. “I know he’s going to feel a lot better going into tomorrow after putting up 14 points.”
Behind Moll, sophomore Colton Nicolay and senior Max Barreau each pulled out nail-biting wins in their 132 and 160-pound preliminary matches. Nicolay, making his second straight appearance, edged Grafton sophomore Ellis Pfleger, 8-7, while Barreau was victorious in his debut with an 8-6 sudden victory over Spooner junior Chase Melton.
Nicolay (34-14) trailed 5-4 after the second period and after trading a takedown for a reversal, he fell behind 7-6 with 1:15 left in the third period. With time ticking away, Nicolay scored a reversal with 15 seconds to go and held on from there.
“I just had to stay focused, don’t do anything dumb, stay in good position,” he said. “I wasn’t really nervous, just staying in a good position and waiting for my opportunity.”
Barreau (38-9) led in each of the first two periods but gave up late reversals in both to send things into the third tied at 4. With the choice, Barreau elected to start down and scored a reversal with a minute left to go up 6-4, but again allowed Melton to score a late reversal to force overtime.
In the extra period, Melton went for a quick shot but came up empty as Barreau stuffed the attempt and circled around for the match-winning takedown.
“We went over in overtime how they don’t want to be there any longer as much as you do,” he said. “I could tell he was ready to shoot and I was ready to go around behind.”
“Our guys wrestle best with their backs against the wall and both guys put themselves in some pretty bad spots, but they just want to win so bad,” Endres said. “They’re in such a good spot with their mindset that until they have to shake the opponents hand and it gets raised, they think they have a shot to win and are going to take it to them.”
With the trio of wins, the Blue Devils will have four wrestlers in today’s quarterfinals, including senior Jacob Heyroth, who received a bye after finishing first at 182 in last week’s Richland Center Sectional. Endres knows how big it is for the Lodi program to have four wrestlers still alive and even more so, he knows all four boys are ready to go.
“They’re not nervous, (but) excited to compete and we’ll see what happens,” he said.