The Lakeland wrestling team traveled to River Falls over the holiday weekend for the Northern Badger Wrestling Classic where 43 teams in three different brackets competed.

“It’s a good bonding experience for the team, spending that kind of time together, that’s why we do a two day tournament,” Lakeland head coach Adam Bremer said about the event. “The quality of the wrestling is just fantastic.”

Lakeland competed in the Division 1 bracket and finished 11th out of 14 teams, though they were able to place three wrestlers.

At 113 pounds, Harry Nemcek won five matches on his way to a ninth-place finish. 

His first win of the day was a quick pin over Leon Baker of Unity High School in 1:07. Then he lost a 16-4 decision to Teadon Nichols of Luck/Frederic/Grantsburg/Siren before bouncing back for another pin against Bryce Baldwin of Cumberland in 2:19.

In round three, Nemcek would get his third and final pin of the day over Zach Roach of Hayward in 2:16. Then he lost 12-0 to Remington Ladd of Cameron in round four before winning two straight decisions to take the ninth place finish.  He beat Jacob Sireck of Rice lake 4-0 in Round 5 and then beat Tyler Schunck of Shell Lake 8-1 in the ninth place match.

“Harry Nemcek had placed 12th last year at 113, so we’re always looking for improvement so that was fun and exciting to see,” Bremer said about Nemcek’s finish.

Jason Hilgart also placed for the Thunderbirds, taking seventh place at 145 pounds.

Hilgart was 4-2 on during the tournament and he got his tournament started with two straight victories. First he won 5-2 over Mason Cable of Prescott. Then he pinned Dearius Clerveaux of Rice Lake in 3:05.

In the quarterfinal match, Hilgart took Zach Pooler of Northwestern into sudden victory, but he lost 6-1 in the extra frame. 

“He pressed a little bit,” Bremer said. “But to his credit he tried a move that didn’t work. Jason was the one that started the move and attempted to score, it just didn’t work out. I love aggressiveness. It was also a great learning experience.”   

Hilgart would bounce back though and beat Nick Goodell of Boyceville 7-2 in round four, but Hilgart was pinned in round five by Henry Foust of Oshkosh West in 4:00 even, which set up a seventh place match with Ivan Ruble of Clear Lake.  

Hilgart would command that match and win decidedly 13-4 over Ruble to take seventh place.

Lakeland’s Xavier Burgess was the Thunderbird’s highest placing wrestler, taking fourth at 170 pounds.

Burgess started out the tournament on fire, with three straight pins. He first took down Kendall Martin of Baldwin-Woodville in 3:16. Then he pinned Nicholas Bushinger of Somerset in 1:14 and Logan Shramek of Blair-Taylor in 2:57.  

But in the semi-finals James Pfeiffer of Cadott beat Burgess by technical fall in 4:05, and then he got pinned in 2:12 by Nathan Fuller of River Falls in the third place match.

“Xavier was fantastic,” Bremer said. His semi-final match was with the eventual champion and that guy is ranked number one in the state right now. Again, a good learning experience. For him to place in the top four was outstanding and we were really proud of him.”

Oshkosh West won the Division 1 bracket with 243 points, followed by Baldwin-Woodville with 241 and River Falls with 207.5. Great Northern Conference rival Rhinelander finished seventh (103 points).

Lakeland returned to action Thursday night in a dual against Antigo that conclude after deadline for this edition. The T-Birds are back on the mats tomorrow morning in the Bluejay Challenge at Merrill High School.

Jacob Friede may be reached at jacob@lakelandtimes.com or sports@lakelandtimes.com.