Anyone who knows anything about the Menomonee Falls wrestling team knows that their strength is in the lower weights.
But Thursday night against defending Greater Metro Conference dual meet champion West Allis Hale, it was the big guys who supplied the decisive muscle as the Indians avenged a bad defeat to the Huskies last season with a decisive 44-21 victory.
Jake Fuiten at 182 pounds (5-3 decision), Brandon Schafer at 195 (pin) and James Dow at 220 (pin) put the final touches on a meet win that was pointed to ever since last year when the Huskies came into the Falls gym and thumped the Indians.
However, when the freshman Schafer's 46-second pin clinched the triumph, the tables were turned and the Falls' bench collectively bounced to its feet in joy.
"Last year was exactly the same atmosphere (at Falls), the noise, the excitement with both teams going 100 percent," said the senior Fuiten. "But this year things went our way. We got the luck of the draw and we were able to set our line-up the way we wanted."
Then Fuiten ruffled the freshman Schafer's head, laughed and added:
"And then for guys like Brandon to go out there and pin is just icing on the cake," he said.
"To go out there on the mat for a match like that was the most exhilirating moment of my life," said Schafer.
Veteran coach Jim McMahon was happy with the victory but noted that it does not clinch the league dual meet title as the Indians still have duals with Brookfield Central (Jan. 23) and Sussex Hamilton (Jan. 30), but he did say that this was a big win.
"A lot of kids have been wrestling for a long time," said McMahon. "They like each other. There's good camaraderie and they really feed off each other."
Hale coach Randy Ferrell said the meet "was a marathon" and that Falls got the momentum and just kept rolling with it. He was proud of his team's tenacity, but noted that the Huskies were short five starters this night.
"There were a lot of great matches tonight," said Ferell. "Last year, we were able to get the momentum and roll with it. This year, they did. We have a next man up mentality here though and I was pleased with how we battled in a dual meet of this caliber."
The Huskies did battle. Falls built a 29-9 lead by winning seven of the first nine matches, but then Hale got back into it when Jake Gruichich picked up a pin 3:36 to close the gap to 29-15 at 160 pounds.
It looked like Falls was going to possibly clinch the match at 170 but then the Huskies' Ryan Sheard rallied for a pin at the five-minute mark to make it 29-21.
That left it up to the Indian big guys. Fuiten went against the Huskies' Andrew Buelow in a battle of state-ranked seniors. Fuiten picked up a third period escape and takedown to earn the pivotal 5-3 win.
Then the Falls' fans exploded in quick joy not once but twice when Schafer and Dow (44 seconds) picked up their quick clinching pins.
"I can't say enough about those two guys on top (Schafer and Dow)," said McMahon.
Falls picked up earlier victories from Eric Wunsch at 106 pounds (22-13 major decision), Aaron Daly at 113 (4-0), Bill Holz at 120 (third period technical fall), Jeff Kleser at 132 (15-3 major decision), Jake McMahon at 138 (pin 5:24), Casey Crangle at 145 (10-2 major decision) and Zach Pogorzelski at 152 (6-3).
Hale bumped up undefeated state powerhouse Dallas Wanta from 220 to 285 and he was still able to turn in a technical fall over Falls heavyweight Trayvon Handy who outweighed him by close to 60 pounds.
"I rolled the dice a little with that one," said Ferrell. "Our regular heavy is out with a concussion and we have a capable back-up but the weight difference between him and Handy was just too much. We put Dallas out there and he was able to get us five points (with the tech fall)."
Hale's only other victory was a 12-3 major decision for Luke Ellis at 126.
Coach McMahon, who was without 2013 state qualifier Jerott Holz (precaution for an injury) said he was hemming and hawing with a few different line-ups going into this match, but decided in the end to play it straight up.
"I was a little worried early," he said, "but after a few matches we were OK." He highlighted the effort of his son Jake, who got the first pin of the meet.
"He's dedicated himself to this sport," said McMahon. "He's just a grinder." The coach also praised the efforts of Ben Bonesho, who lost to Ellis at 126 when Jerott Holz could not go. Bonesho was giving up about 10 pounds but held his own said the coach.
It was all part of the team effort that earned this critical victory, said Fuiten, who credited his coach for putting together a very difficult schedule "to prepare the team for nights like this."
"This was one of our main goals, to beat Hale this year," Fuiten said. "It's a great climax to this difficult part of our season."
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