Oconto Falls’ Clayton Whiting takes first at loaded Pulaski Invite

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Panthers have six wrestlers place

Oconto Falls’ Aidan Stary, left, tries to escape the hold of Elkhorn Area’s Aaron Taylor during a consolation round match at the 170-pound weight class at the Pulaski Invitational on Saturday. Stary rallied late for a 7-4 decision win and went on to place fourth. (Times Herald photo by Morgan Rode)

The Oconto Falls wrestling team knew the stiff competition they would be going up against at the 50th annual Pulaski Wrestling Invite on Saturday.

So while only one Panther wrestler finished in the top three of his respective weight class, the team came away from the day with plenty of reasons for optimism.

“We were happy with the boys that did wrestle,” Oconto Falls tri-head coach Marc Kinziger said. “And yes, that tough competition is like putting money in the bank — and will be ready for withdrawal come regional time.”

Clayton Whiting continued his standout freshman season on the mat, emerging from the 152-pound weight class with a first-place finish to lead Oconto Falls, which scored 73 points to finish 11th as a team.

After a first round bye, Whiting claimed a 10-3 decision win to advance to the semifinals, where the freshman picked up an hard-fought 8-4 decision win.

In the first place match, Whiting was set to battle Luxemburg-Casco’s Nathan Ronsman, who was the top-seeded wrestler at 152 for the invitational and was ranked second in the 152 weight class coming into the invitational, according to wiwrestling.com. Whiting came into the invitational as the No. 2 seed and third-ranked wrestler at 152 pounds on wiwrestling.com.

The matchup lived up to the hype, with Whiting claiming a 3-1 win in sudden victory.

“Me mentally getting prepared for each match — running each match through my head, preparing for each opponent, focusing on one match at a time,” said Whiting on what helped him take first. “I also felt like I was most dominate on my feet at the tournament since that’s how I scored most of my points on the mat.”

Sophomores Jager Eisch (113) and Aidan Stary (170) each placed fourth in their respective weight classes. Like Whiting, the duo was up against some of the state’s best wrestlers almost every time on the mat.

After receiving a bye, Eisch opened his day on the mat with an 8-2 decision over Kaukauna’s Jaden Verhagen, who was ranked fourth in the Division 1 113 weight class.

After falling by major decision, Eisch won an 8-0 major decision over Seymour’s Wyatt Kaczrowski, who was ranked third at 113 pounds, a spot ahead of Eisch. In the third place match, Eisch dropped a major decision to Verhagen.

Stary went 3-2 on the day. He started the day with a technical fall victory, and after being pinned in his second match, earned back-to-back decision wins, one over ranked Conner Lamers from Kaukauna.

Stary’s two losses on the day came at the hands of Hortonville’s Colin Schuler, who was ranked in the Division 1 170 weight class.

“Pulaski is a top-notch tournament and it helps to push us in the final weeks,” Stary said. “It’s good to gauge the competition, as well as fine tune our individual skills. I thought our team did well on Saturday. Our goal was to compete strong, place, and use the outstanding competition as a benchmark for where we need to be for regionals.”

Oconto Falls has just one scheduled dual remaining before regionals, traveling to Luxemburg-Casco on Thursday. The Panthers will then gear up for the Marinette Regional, which is set for Feb. 9.

Three other Oconto Falls wrestlers placed at the invitational.

Freshman Jaden Ganter posted a sixth-place finish in the 106 weight class with a 2-3 record. Ganter’s wins came by a technical fall and ultimate tie breaker.

Seniors Bodee Woods (138) and Caleb Carlton (195) each came in seventh in their respective weight classes.

After winning a decision to open the day, Woods dropped back-to-back matches. He responded by winning two more decisions to cap the day.

Carlton wrestled just three opponents on the day after receiving two byes. After losing his first two matches, he ended the day on a high note, earning a 14-8 decision win.