KIMBERLY – About half the Sun Prairie wrestlers had never experienced the Papermaker Invitational prior to Saturday.
After competing in the one of the top tournaments in northeastern Wisconsin, Cardinals coach Jim Nelson is hoping his wrestlers will continue to improve as the season goes on.
“We have a young team that’s learning, so coming up here there’s some good wrestling at Kimberly and we knew there had to be some learning that had to take place,” Nelson said. “But hopefully we can figure it out and get better from it.”
Sun Prairie made its annual trip up on the first Saturday in December to Kimberly and placed seventh out of 16 schools.
The host Papermakers took first (442 points), followed by Coleman (438.5), Ashwaubenon (401), Merrill (335.5) and Manitowoc Lincoln (329.5). Sun Prairie scored 274 points.
“We didn’t do too bad, but I feel we definitely could have done better,” said Sun Prairie 113-pounder Alex Yelk. “We’ll just have to focus more in practice and work a little harder.”
Sun Prairie, which was a little undermanned with Brendan Shannon (185) out with an injury, had its wrestlers take away plenty of positives.
“We have kids that understand if you go hard three periods, you win that match at the end of the day,” Nelson said.
The Cardinals had two top-five finishes on the day, courtesy of a pair of their lightweights: Yelk and Bopa Quintana, fifth at 106.
Yelk received two opening-round byes before pinning Dodgeland Juneau’s Braxton Kohn at 2:40. In the semifinals, Ray Lemieux of Coleman won by tech fall.
In the third-place match, Elkhart Lake-Glenbeulah-Howards Grove’s Kyle Jens built a comfortable lead and hung on for a 10-7 decision.
“I did everything right: I got my shots in, I hooked a leg, but I could never finish the shots, that’s something I’m going to need to work on,” Yelk said. “I had to find his weakness and exploit it.”
Yelk – who took eighth in the tournament last year as a freshman — trailed 10-5 late in the third-place match before his furious comeback attempt came up just shy.
“You’ve got to make sure you’re ready at the beginning of that match so you don’t get down and have to claw your way back, because it’s tough,” Nelson said.
Said Yelk: “I’m happy with (fourth), but I wish I could have done better. I certainly did my best to my ability. It will just take more time with practice, more effort, and hopefully I can get that gold sometime.”
Competing in her first Papermaker Invitational, Quintana went home with fifth place.
“I was kind of disappointed because the first match I had I felt like I could have done better,” said Quintana, who is one of five female wrestlers on this year’s Sun Prairie team. “I got tired, so I probably need to work on my stamina a little more. But then the second one, I got a throw and pinned her quickly, so that was good.”
A pair of byes got Quintana into the third round vs. Coleman’s John Nowak, who scored a 4-1 victory. That sent Quintana into the fifth-place match where she pinned Mateja Clark of Berlin in just 24 seconds.
“Bopa did a good job,” Nelson said. “She almost got in the top four, lost that match in the last place of her pool – had the kid on his back and lost by two, I think. Good match and good to see she kept on going and had some bad situations for herself, which happens when you get in those situations. She handled it well.”
Quintana took away plenty of pointers of what she can continue to work on on an everyday basis.
“Every time I’m in match, I always take that on and I work on it in the practice room – what I could have done better and what I didn’t do,” Quintana said. “So, then I just practice that on my teammates.”
Blaine Moore (220) took the next highest finish for the Cardinals, coming in sixth. Richard Quintana (138) placed seventh on the day.
Also placing for Sun Prairie were: GraceAnne Rossmiller (126), 10th; Ryan Rivest (132), 8th; Nicholas Vang (138), 14th; Quinn Hess (145), 11th; Dominick Stroede (152), 8th; Jack Desens (160), 11th; Nolan Murphy (160), 12nd; Kyle Kaltenberg (170), 11th; Dominic Brown (182), 12th; Ann Tess (195), 9th; and Gabe Eull (285), 11th.
Nelson is hoping his athletes can build off the positives and carry that into next week’s home invite.
“You’ve got to realize you’ve got to work hard in practice, take your time to look stuff up on video, get yourself better and realize, hey, every little thing I do or every little second I do on my own or in the practice room gets me better,” Nelson said.
The Cardinals begin Big Eight duals on Tuesday traveling to Madison Memorial for a 7 p.m. start.
Team scorers: Kimberly 442, Coleman 438.5, Ashwaubenon 401, Merrill 335.5, Manitowoc Lincoln 329.5, Marinette 303.5, Sun Prairie 274, Appleton North 243, Kewaunee 226, Elkhart Lake-Glenbeulah/Howards Grove 223.5, Berlin 219, Grafton 215.5, Plymouth 171, Dodgeland 158, Princeton 154.5, Sturgeon Bay 58.