Thompson wrestling finally takes the mat in Wisconsin
Published 10:32 am Monday, January 11, 2016
By DENNIS WILSON / Special to the Reporter
KAUKAUNA, Wisc. – For the Thompson Warriors wrestling team, the trip to Wisconsin to compete in the Kaukauna Cheesehead Invitational tournament was more than just a chance to see another part of the country. It was a chance to finally compete.
The program was placed on restrictive probation by the AHSAA for rules violations in late November, which also resulted in the suspension of head coach Sean Weltzin and his assistant Chris Pike. One of the restrictions of Thompson’s probation was that the Warriors could not compete in anything other than dual meets against one other school, which meant they were unable to compete in tournaments of any kind, including postseason competition. However, based on a review of evidence provided, (the violations were self-reported) the administrators and coaches of Thompson had met all requirements for reinstatement by the AHSAA on Jan. 4. The sanctions were lifted just in time for Thompson to travel to Wisconsin for the Cheesehead.
The lack of actual competition didn’t seem to faze the Warriors however, as they grappled to a 15th-place finish in the 24-team tourney, scoring 257 points. Mt. Carmel of Illinois won the team title, with Carl Sandburg (IL), Kasson-Mantorville, St. Michael’s Albertville, and Apple Valley (all from Minnesota) rounding out the top five.
“A top 15 finish is pretty huge considering how tough this tournament is,” Weltzin said. “Eight of the top 50 teams in the country are at this one tournament, and there are not too many places you can go to see that kind of competition in one weekend.”
The highest finisher for the Warriors was heavyweight TJ Rayam. A two-time Alabama state champion, Rayam lost a close 3-2 decision to Matthew Reyes of team champion Mt. Carmel (IL). The senior had to fight his way back after suffering a shocking pin fall loss in the second round to Sam Skornicka of Two Rivers (WI). Rayam won his next four matches, two by pin fall, and two overtime victories. The first was a sudden victory over Ronald Tucker Jr of Lockport (IL) and the second was a semi-final ultimate tie-breaker over Blaze Beltran of Pewaukee (WI), 3-2.
“I just didn’t capitalize on the mistakes that he made,” a clearly disappointed Rayam said. “I didn’t take enough shots and take kinda cost me.”
Another top five finisher for the Warriors was Nicholas Mobley at 195 pounds. After a first round bye, Mobley won his first two matches before dropping his next two. He was able to earn his way into the third place match with two victories in the Championship wrestle back, including a sudden victory of Dru Worker of Mt. Carmel, who had beaten Mobley earlier in the day.
“I have been waiting a long time to just show what we got,” Mobley said. “We are a really good team, but we have been stuck in practice a lot. We were ready to get out of practice and put that work in and show that we can compete.”
Like Mobley, Rayam was also happy to get back out on the mat and face stiffer competition.
“I feel like coming to a tournament like this has allowed us to catch up to everyone else, if not surpass them,” the senior said. “This tournament gave us a lot of confidence; it showed that we can compete.”
The Eagles had two other top ten finishers, with Gabe Hixenbaugh at 113 pounds taking eighth place and Dominic Latona earning a seventh place finish at 126 pounds.
“Anytime we can come up this way, be it this tournament or the Clash (a team dual meet tournament in Minnesota), it is such a different world than the one we live in,” Weltzin said. “It gets the kids away from their everyday life, and chance to see some really good wrestling and compete against the best kids in the nation.”