The host Dragons, rated eighth in Class AA, led 24-12 after Nate Turck, fourth individually at state last year, recorded a pin for Litchfield at 145.
Junior Joe Hiltner started the clinching streak for the Bulldogs at 152, pinning his senior opponent in 2:31. Hiltner led 4-2 after the first period, and his opponent chose to start the second period in the down position. Hiltner didn't let him up, as he got the pin 31 seconds into the second period.
Chris Sogge got the next pin for Paynesville at 160, which tied the score at 24. Sogge led 11-2 after two periods before getting a takedown and pin in the final period.
The Bulldogs, rated second in Class A, took the lead at 171, where Shaun Fleischhacker pinned his opponent in the first period. In seven matches so far this season, Fleischhacker has pinned his opponent every time. Five of his pins have come in the first period. His longest match so far is three minutes.
With Paynesville leading 30-24, Scott Braun sealed the conference victory for the Bulldogs with another first period pin at 189. Braun, who moved up a weight class, gave Paynesville an insur-mountable 36-24 advantage.
"We needed to win all four of them, and a couple of them by pins," said coach Virg Vagle, of the four weights. "Those guys did an outstanding job."
At heavyweight, Litchfield's Jess Munoz, rated tenth in the state in Class AA, earned a 5-2 decision over Paynesville's Matt Brauchler, making the final score 36-27.
Litchfield, with three state-rated wrestlers, won four of the first six weight classes in taking an 18-7 lead. Freshman Adam Christian and senior Brad Schultz got important wins for the Bulldogs in the lower weights.
After a scoreless first period at 103, Christian scored five points in the second and four in the third. His 9-1 major decision earned four team points for Paynesville, giving them a 4-0 lead after one match, a key start according to Vagle.
The Dragons' Matt Forster and Mark Twardy both placed in the top four in state individually last year and are ranked first at 112 and 119 respectively this year. Nathan Glenz and Jeremy Sogge for the Bulldogs yielded just major decisions to them, and the Dragons led 8-4.
Schultz won a close decision at 125. His second period escape was the only point in his match against Jake Ziegler. "That was a very important win for us," said Vagle.
Schultz's 1-0 win cut the deficit to 8-7, but Litchfield got a pin at 130 and a major decision at 135 to build their 18-7 lead. Paynesville's Chris Welle won by technical fall at 140 and earned five team points for Paynesville, making it 18-12. In a match that lasted 5:15, Welle had three near falls and six takedowns to win 20-4. Vagle said Welle's win kept the Dragons from gaining the momentum, which the Bulldogs subsequently took during their string of pins.
"We were fortunate," said Vagle of the win. Litchfield, he said, has as many outstanding wrestlers as Paynesville, but the Bulldogs had greater depth and the entire lineup contributed to the victory.
Some contributions aren't as obvious as others, according to Vagle. For instance, Nathan Glenz and Jeremy Sogge wrestled well against outstanding foes and limited the Dragons' team score by yielding mere decisions. And Josh Schreifels made weight at 145, which enabled Joe Hiltner to avoid wrestling the Dragons' Nate Turck. Hiltner started the Bulldogs' late run with a pin at 152.
"They're just such a balanced team," Litchfield's coach Chip Rankin told The West Central Tribune about the Bulldogs. "Where they aren't outstanding, they're still very good and that's the difference. I told our kids if we got pinned at 160, 171, and 189 we'd lose and they got us at 152, too."
"They're a great team," he added. "That's why they're ranked number two in the state."
The Bulldogs wrestled without two regular wrestlers. David Kerzman was sick, and Josh Bork is injured.
With the win, the Bulldogs remained undefeated in the West Central Conference North at 2-0. For the season, they are 7-0 overall. Five wrestlers are undefeated individually after at least four matches. They are: David Kerzman (5-0), Chris Welle (5-0), Joe Hiltner (6-0), Chris Sogge (4-0), and Shaun Fleischhacker (7-0).
The Bulldogs don't wrestle again until January. In their first home meet, they will face Albany and Big Lake in a triangular on Jan. 6. Albany is a conference opponent. Big Lake, a nonconference foe, is rated second in the state in Class AA as a team, and have five individual wrestlers rated in state.
At Farmington on Jan. 8, the Bulldogs will wrestle in a tournament against a number of the state's top teams.
Paynesville 36, Litchfield 27
103: Adam Christian (P) maj. dec. Joe Schoolmeesters, 9-1;
112: Matt Forster (L) maj. dec. Nathan Glenz, 20-7;
119: Mark Twardy (L) maj. dec. Jeremy Sogge, 17-7;
125: Brad Schultz (P) dec. Jake Ziegler, 1-0;
130: Bryce Schaurer (L) pinned Bryan Kotten, 3:51;
135: Erik Flowers (L) maj. dec. Jim Mehr, 10-1;
140: Chris Welle (P) tech. fall Mike Worden, 20-4;
145: Nathan Turck (L) pinned Josh Schreifels, 4:59;
152: Joe Hiltner (P) pinned Justin Piepenburg, 2:31;
160: Chris Sogge (P) pinned Travis Evenson, 5:17;
171: Shaun Fleisch-hacker (P) pinned Adam Beck, 1:17;
189: Scott Braun (P) pinned Jake Carr, 1:16;
Hwt: Jesse Munoz (L) dec. Matt Brauchler, 5-2.
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