Standing in the way of Wauwatosa winning a sixth consecutive team wrestling regional championship is New Berlin, a program determined to break through this season.
Tosa got its first crack at New Berlin in a Woodland Conference dual meet on Jan. 25. After jumping out to an early 30-7 lead, Tosa saw New Berlin score 21 consecutive points to pull within 30-28 with two matches remaining.
But heavyweights Lawrence Thomas and Austin Ertl came through in a big way, as each recorded pins to allow Tosa to hang on for a 42-28 victory.
The win locked up at least a share of second place behind Pewaukee in the Woodland Conference dual-meet standings, as Tosa finished its league duals at 5-2. New Berlin sits at 3-1 in conference duals and wrestled Pewaukee, Greenfield and Cudahy/St. Francis/St. Thomas More at the Pewaukee duals on Jan. 28.
If New Berlin would win all three duals, it would tie state-ranked Pewaukee for the conference dual-meet championship. Otherwise, the dual between New Berlin and Greenfield will likely determine which team ties Tosa for second place.
"This guarantees us at least a tie for second, and that's important, as that was one of our goals," Tosa coach Kent Morin said. "Now we will focus on tournaments. But we will see them again at conference and regionals. That is the team right there that we have to beat to win the regional tournament. It was important to come out here and set the tone."
Tosa took a 12-0 lead off a forfeit to freshman Dayton Lewis (25-9) at 106 pounds and a pin by junior Andrew Radtke (22-13) over junior Rob Snyder (13-15) in 5 minutes, 35 seconds at 113 pounds.
With senior Adrian Coppage out due to an injury, freshman Ben Acker was thrust into the lineup at 120 pounds. Acker fell, 6-3, to junior Jacob Reyes (10-23), but he only gave up three team points in the process.
It was the beginning of a big swing for Tosa.
Trailing freshman Max Lewis, 4-3, in the final seconds of the match at 126 pounds, junior Lathan Hay (26-11) recorded a takedown off a restart with 8 seconds left to come away with a 5-4 victory. At 132 pounds, junior Griffin Granberry (21-12) trailed sophomore Tony Scaffidi (15-7), 4-0, entering the third period. Granberry started the third on bottom and brought the score to 4-3 with an escape and a takedown before pinning Scaffidi in 5 minutes, 39 seconds.
Junior Cole Acker (29-6) then pinned Grant Klusmann in 25 seconds at 138 pounds to put Tosa up 27-3. After New Berlin junior Mike Baumann (27-5) won 9-1 by major decision over junior Brian Mahan (17-15) at 145 pounds, senior Brandon Axelson (19-15) took a 7-4 win over Henry Rahmes at 152 pounds to give Tosa a 30-7 advantage.
"I told my guys to trust their training," Morin said. "Their conditioning was superior. That may sound boastful, but I think it is true. We had matches where we were getting beat for two periods, and then our conditioning won out in the third period. If we lose both of those (126 and 132), it is a completely different meet. In both those cases, our conditioning was the difference."
With a confidence in heavyweights Thomas and Ertl at the end of the match, Morin felt comfortable at that point despite knowing New Berlin's run was coming.
Junior Mike White (27-5) began a 21-0 run by New Berlin with a pin of junior Sam Barta (20-16) in 3 minutes, 4 seconds.
Senior Joey Scaffidi (28-5) then earned a fall over junior Michael Pook (15-15) in 2 minutes, 54 seconds. At 182 pounds, Tosa junior Van McNulty (12-17) recorded a takedown with 47 seconds remaining to go up 3-2 on senior Jaron Radish (27-5). Radish escaped to tie the match while going out of bounds with 4 seconds left and recorded a takedown off the restart to win 5-3.
"That was huge," Morin said. "Our guy was definitely the underdog in that match. That could have easily been a 6-point defeat. Now the last match takes on a whole different emphasis. Van McNulty really did a nice job."
Junior Jake Belongia (24-1) needed just 1 minute, 18 seconds to pin junior Ian Carroll (11-10) at 195 pounds to bring New Berlin to within 30-28.
But Tosa's confidence in Thomas and Ertl was justified. Thomas (30-4) pinned freshman Donoven Acevedo (16-15) in 1 minute, 29 seconds to lock up the victory, and Ertl (22-11) ended the night with a pin of senior Zach Hansen (14-9) in 1 minute, 40 seconds.
The two teams will see plenty of each other the rest of the season, first at the Woodland Conference tournament on Feb. 4 and then at the Brookfield Central Regional on Feb. 11.
"You are not going to win a tight dual when you give up points at the end of matches," New Berlin coach Patrick Detmer said. "It is unfortunate. We will get a couple of more cracks at these guys, so hopefully our kids can learn from this. It will be between us and them. They got us tonight. Now we can see if we can get them down the road."