HOWARD LAKE – For the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted wrestling team, injuries have plagued them all season. They lost one of their top wrestlers in Quinn Mathisen before the season even started, and the injuries have piled up even more so far this season.
Despite all that, the Lakers, a team filled with young and exciting wrestlers, are still finding ways to win.
That was on display Friday night as the Lakers picked up a thrilling 36-35 win over the Royalton Royals under the spotlight and in front of their home crowd.
“Royalton has beaten us the last few years,” HLWW coach Joe Puncochar said. “I knew this year we had a chance to get it done. We got it done. That’s the key. Our team motto is when the team wins, we all win. Everybody won tonight.”
While HLWW found a way to win despite missing several wrestlers, it wasn’t always perfect. With several young wrestlers filling in, there were mistakes made that HLWW will need to fix going forward.
“We left a lot of points on the board out there tonight,” Puncochar said. “To find the positive words to say in the huddle was difficult, but obviously we’ve got to get better. We pulled it off at the end, which was great, but it also gave a nice big list of things to go back and work on in the room.”
While mistakes are bound to happen, the Lakers got a spark from a surprising person. After Caleb Boese won the opening match at 106 via a second-period pin, seventh-grader Tony Baumann got the crowd into it during his match at 113.
“That kid is a spark plug,” Puncochar said. “He’s fun to watch. He just goes. He doesn’t quit. He’s a seventh-grader and not a kid you see coming in counting on as winning big matches. You’re just hoping that you can fill a weight, and he did a good job of that tonight. He did a really good job of that. He just kept going. That motor was awesome. I think it really got the crowd into it. That just got us going even better.”
Taking on Royalton’s Johnathon Bzdok, Baumann had the crowd on the edge of their seat throughout. He held a 5-4 lead after two periods, and ultimately held on for a 9-7 decision to give HLWW a 9-0 lead.
“I feel like everybody played a part in it tonight,” senior Ryan Tuchtenhagen said. “It was amazing. Tony went against that guy and it was just awesome. He’s just a great kid and a good friend of mine. He was just pushing through. He had the feeling of ‘‘I can do this. I can be better than this guy.’
A forfeit at 120 for Royalton gave the Lakers a 15-0 lead, but the Royals would fight back. The Royals would win six of the next seven matches, taking a 32-21 lead over HLWW with just four matches to go.
With momentum all on Royalton’s side now, it was Tuchtenhagen who came through in a big spot for the Lakers.
“Before my match, I was just thinking that I’ve got to do this,” Tuchtenhagen said. “I’m always thinking before my match that I just want to be the best. I know I can be the best. When I go into my match and we’re in a position like that, I know I just have to go. I just need to get that pin. Once I finally got there, it just felt amazing.”
Tuchtenhagen had a 7-4 lead heading into the final period for HLWW, but a decision wasn’t going to be enough for him. He wanted the pin and he got it, giving HLWW a spark late and bringing them within five with three matches left.
“That was huge,” Puncochar said about Tuchtenhagen’s pin. “Especially late in the match like that. I wouldn’t say we were guaranteed to win that match. To get that in the third period from a senior captain, that’s what senior captains are supposed to do. That was pretty awesome.”
Following the big pin by Tuchtenhagen, Colton Long followed that up a 3-1 decision at 195 to bring HLWW within two at 32-20. A forfeit at 220 by Royalton put the Lakers up 36-32, with one final match to go.
It all came down to Danny Mosford, who has been battling his own injuries the past week. All he had to do was wrestle smart in the final match, and he did just that for his team.
“Danny’s been battling,” Puncochar said. “Our top guys have been banged up. Quinn is out for the year. Joseph is out for the year. Danny’s been in and out of the lineup with injuries. We’re just trying to survive up there. Danny’s barely been practicing all week. He knew he had a job. That kid was a state entrant last year. He did exactly what he’s supposed to do and wrestle a smart match. That’s a win in our books.”
Mosford ultimately fell in a 6-4 decision, but it was enough for the Lakers to hold on for the win by one point.
“There were some mishaps that came up tonight, but eventually, we pulled through,” Tuchtenhagen said. “We were able to get some big wins. That last match with Danny, he was able to pull through despite having an injury. He was able to get the win for us.”
The Lakers will be looking to build off the exciting win and get better as they turn their focus to the Rumble on the Red Invitational this weekend.
“We’re going to be pushing forward into next week at Rumble on the Red,” Tuchtenhagen said. “I’m really excited for that. There’s a lot of good teams there. We’re going to practice for that and be ready for it.”
HLWW 36, Royalton 35
106: Caleb Boese (HLWW) over Michael Zimmerman (Royalton-Upsala), (Fall 2:22). 113: Tony Baumann (HLWW) over Johnathon Bzdok (Royalton-Upsala), (Dec 9-7). 120: Porter Matheson (HLWW) won by forfeit. 126: Will Gorecki (Royalton-Upsala) over Steve Heber (HLWW), (TF 20-5). 132: Mitchell Mallak (Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted) over Brock Costanzo (Royalton-Upsala), (Fall 3:20). 138: Jacob Leibold (Royalton-Upsala) over Wiley Wiegert (HLWW), (Fall 4:39). 145: Hunter Novitzki (Royalton-Upsala) over Remington Albright (HLWW), (Dec 10-9). 152: Brayden Conrad (Royalton-Upsala) over Isaac Cain (HLWW), (Fall 5:50). 160: Gabe Gorecki (Royalton-Upsala) over Collin Boese (HLWW), (Fall 6:27). 170: Aidan Olson (Royalton-Upsala) over Isaac Busse (HLWW), (Fall 2:30). 182: Ryan Tuchtenhagen (HLWW) over Isaac Kasella (Royalton-Upsala), (Fall 4:36). 195: Colton Long (HLWW) over Austin Wensmann (Royalton-Upsala), (Dec 3-1). 220: Aiden Debner (HLWW) won by forfeit. 285: Mason Novitzki (Royalton-Upsala) over Danny Mosford (HLWW), (Dec 6-4).