The Lakeland wrestling team got roughed up by Antigo 57-19 on Jan. 3 at home, losing eight of 12 matches wrestled and forfeiting two.

But the Thunderbirds did have some excellent performances on the night.

At 145 pounds, Jason Hilgart won a lengthy battle, 13-6, over Antigo’s Dylan Warax.  Though Hilgart dominated the points, he did have to use all his strength and athleticism on a couple occasions to escape near pins and hold out for the victory.

Xavier Burgess, at 170 pounds, also had a long, hard fought match, and was able to pin Korbin Krueger after 3:44 of battle for the win. The victory by Burgess avenges a pervious loss to Krueger earlier in the season at the Antigo invitational.

At 195 pounds, Henry Evenhouse made quick work of Antigo’s Brady Vandeweerd and pinned him in 1:44.

At 106, Lakeland’s Sawyer Duir took Seth Beaber the distance and beat him handedly 16-8, though again, the match was back and forth and full of escapes and near pins, but Duir survived with the win. 

In the other matches Logan Edwards pinned Lakeland’s Tim Burnett in 3:43 in the 126 pound weight class. At 132 pounds, Antigo’s Jaden Schoeneck pinned Lakeland’s Nazar Lenz in 30 seconds. At 138 Benjamin Stimac pinned Lakeland’s Tyson Coy in 1:28, while at 152 Antigo’s Joshua Heuss pinned Tanner Wildes in 59 seconds. 

At 160, Royce Bauer took care of Lakelands’s Hunter Kanzelberger by pin in 2:25. Collin Eldridge did the same to Andre Starynski in 2:58 at 182 pounds, and the Red Robins’ Nick Roller pinned Ian Valliere in 48 seconds.  

At 113, Connor Dettman had his hands full with Lakeland’s Harry Nemcek, who battled him to the end, but Dettman hung on to the victory 13-7.

Lakeland forfeited at 120 and 285.

“I don’t get caught up in wins and losses, but I want to make sure every time we go out on the mat we compete and I felt like Thursday was time where we let a team come in and push us around and that’s a thing we won’t allow,” Lakeland head coach Adam Bremer said.

The Thunderbirds fared better over the weekend when they traveled to Merrill for the Bluejay Challenge.  

“I felt like Saturday was a great job of answering the call that we put forward after that Thursday dual,” Bremer said. “We were aggressive. We went out and attacked. Win or lose I felt like guys came to wrestle.”

They placed 15th out of 19 teams though they had some quality top five performances.

At 113 pounds, Harry Nemcek pinned Lorenzo Meza of Barron, then got a bye before losing to Piersson Czaplinski of Three Lakes/Phelps. But Nemcek would bounce back for two straight victories, pinning Hugh Wiese of Rhinelander and winning by decision, 10-6, over Gage Robinson of Tomahawk. For his work, Nemcek placed fifth and earned 31 team points.

Tim Burnett, at 126, also finished in the top five and despite two loses to end his day, Burnett rode an early bye and two straight pins to a fourth place finish. He pinned Kane Lipinski of Edgar in 1:03 and Luke Knight of Tomahawk in a lengthy 3:14 battle.

“Tim probably had the biggest, most exciting match of the day. He had a huge upset,” Bremer said about Burnett’s match with Knight.  

Nemcek’s match against Robinson and Burnett’s with Knight were rematches from a dual meet earlier in the season and the fact that the T-Birds came out on top over the Hatchets this time around is the exact improvement Bremer wants to see at this point in the season.

“One thing I talk to the guys about is the idea of improvement,” Bremer said. “Not being afraid to wrestle guys that we’ve struggled with in the past and challenging them and pushing them, making them wrestle even better than they did the last time.”

Jason Hilgart, at 145, also finished in the top five. After a bye, he pinned Jonas Hicks of Adams-Friendship in 2:43. Then he won by technical fall over Jesse DuPuis of Three Lakes/Phelps 18-2. 

He would lose his final two matches in the championship bracket, but still wrestled good enough for fourth.

“Jason’s the kind of motivated wrestler that will grow from that and he will improve and he won’t let those situations happen again in the future,” Bremer said.

As a team, the Thunderbirds scored 171.5 points which gave them 15th place. Tomahawk won the tournament with 426 points. Wausau West was second with 412 points, and Prairie du Chein rounded out the top three with 396.5 points.

Next up for the T-Birds is a dual at Rhinelander on Thursday at 7 p.m.

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