CHIPPEWA FALLS — Even as a late deficit grew, the Menomonie wrestling team was right where it wanted to be.
The Mustangs overcame a 29-12 hole to defeat Chippewa Falls 41-35 on Thursday evening in a Big Rivers Conference dual, winning five matches in a row with a pinfall win by Andrew Fenton at 285 pounds over Taylor Pahl icing Menomonie’s second league win of the season.
This was the second year in a row the dual between the Mustangs and Cardinals went down to the wire. Chippewa Falls edged Menomonie 36-35 a season ago.
“One thing that we talked to our guys about before the match is that if we do everything right, everything we’ve been working on, not giving up the extra points we thought we could really take it to Chippewa and revenge what happened last year with that one point,” Menomonie co-coach Ray Paul said.
“If we didn’t do what we had to do in the middle weights and the beginning weights, it was going to come down to our big guys getting it done and our big guys are where our experience is. No better guy to have it come down to than one of our hardest workers in the room (in Fenton).”
Menomonie trailed 29-12 after eight matchups before rallying. Jake Boyette’s first-round pinfall win over Elijah Hable at 182 pounds was bookended with forfeit wins to close the gap to 29-24.
Sam Thompson put his team in front 30-29 with a pinfall win over Nick Mason in the first round with two matchups left. Fenton squared off with Pahl in a battle of the bulls at the heavyweight spot with a Chi-Hi forfeit win at 106 looming to end the night. But Fenton clinched the win for his team by working a pinfall at 2:51 to go in front 42-29 with the one matchup left.
“Andrew last year didn’t wrestle at regionals, had a tough end of the season,” Paul said. “He’s only been wrestling for three years but one of the hardest working kids in our room. That experience group at the top of our lineup comes to practice every day and they deserve to be in a spot like that.”
Chippewa Falls opened the night with a major decision win before back-to-back decision victories by Nick Haviland (120) and Blane Keyes (126) gave the Mustangs the lead. The Cardinals pushed the advantage to 17-6 before Chris Haviland stopped the run with a pinfall win. The Cardinals picked up two pin wins after that, putting the team on the verge of victory before the Mustangs responded.
Menomonie improves to 2-0 in Big Rivers Conference duals after beating Eau Claire Memorial on Nov. 29 in the conference opener. The Mustangs are back in action on Saturday at an invitational hosted by Barron before returning home to host River Falls on Thursday, Dec. 13.
“What we can’t do is give up pins,” Paul said. “When we talk about dual meets, we have to fight to the whistle and we have to make it to that whistle. We can’t give up pins, even our inexperienced guys and we have them.
“But with the conference we’re taking it one match at a time, one practice at a time. From our first dual (against Eau Claire Memorial) we were sloppy. We’ve got to worry about ourselves and if we get better every single day, things will take care of itself.”