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Panthers wrestle in sectional meet, Preview

Ellsworth High School's wrestling team hasn't lost to Neillsville since team wrestling tournament was created in the early 1990s nor have they lost to Amery in any kind of dual meet since 1986.

The No. 3 ranked Panthers hope at least keep those winning streaks alive along with once again getting to the state team tournament in Tuesday's WIAA Division 2 sectional meet at Amery Tuesday evening.

Wrestling begins at 6 p.m. at Amery High School with the Panthers, 14-5 overall, taking Neillsville, 13-4 overall and 4-2 in the Cloverbelt Conference, in one semifinal while the host Warriors will take on Maple Northwestern, 14-3 overall and 6-2 in the Heart O'North Conference, in the other. The finals will begin a half-hour after the semis.

Northwestern is back in the sectional meet for the second year in a row while Neillsville is back after a one year absence. Both had to eke out wins in last weekend's regional meets with the Tigers edging out Cumberland 226-211.5 and Neillsville finishing ahead of Abbotsford-Colby by an even slimmer 212-210.5 margin. Both of those meets were in their home gyms.

Neither squad finished in the top of their respective conferences. Northwestern was third behind Cumberland and Ladysmith in the Heart O'North and Neillsville was third in the Cloverbelt behind No. 5 ranked Cadott and Abbotsford-Colby. But both teams pulled off the upsets they needed to in the regionals to make it to the team sectional.

This is Amery's third straight team sectional appearance. The Warriors, 13-4 overall and 6-1 in the MBC, were sectional runner-ups last year losing 56-11 to Ellsworth.

While EHS has a win streak against Neillsville, their last dual against each other was a doozy as the Panthers held on for a 35-32 sectional semifinal win, also in Amery, back in 2008.

Neillsville has several 30-plus win wrestlers in their line-up including Kyle Wilson at 119 pounds (34-9); Damien Luchterhand at 140 (39-3) and Dan Schoen at 189 (39-2).

Northwestern's top wrestler is 215-pounder Ryan Miesbauer (35-1), the favorite for the individual sectional title in that weight class. They also bring back 30-plus winners Nate Nelson at 130 (35-2) and Wes Snow (35-4) at 140. Bob Tahtien at 145 is 28-8 and Josh Zimmer at 189 is 26-6.

Amery hopes to get one more crack at Ellsworth this season. The Warriors lost the dual meet 42-21 at Amery during the regular season and were 12 points short of the Panthers in the Middle Border Conference meet. Amery has to hope their "big six" of Chad Bartschenfeld at 103, Gabe Paulson at 125, Kyle Larson at 135, Jared Nelson at 152, Blake Lundgren at 171 and Bryndan Schock at 189 can get the points they need to upend the Purple in a sectional match for the first time since 2005 when EHS lost to Osceola in the finals at Melrose-Mindoro.

The state team tournament is in Madison March 5-6 at the University of Wisconsin Fieldhouse.

This weekend the individual sectional meets will be wrestled. For this area, Merill hosts the Division 1 meet, the Division 2 meet is in Somerset and Division 3 is at Osseo-Fairchild High School in Osseo hosted by Independence-Gilmanton. Readers can take links to look at the individual pairings for Pierce County wrestlers below.

In other area team sectionals on Tuesday, No. 4 Wausau West faces No. 6 ranked Hudson at Eau Claire Memorial in Division 1 while the Division 3 meet in Ladysmith pits No. 3 Boyceville vs. the host Lumberjacks in one semifinal while No. 5 Cadott wrestles Arcadia in the other semifinal.