Greenfield - After an indifferent start to the 2011-12 season, the Whitnall wrestling team is starting to put things together.
The Falcons posted just a 6-7 record in dual meets before the holiday break but have gone 13-4 since that time to come into this week at 19-11.
They split a pair of Woodland Conference duals last week, downing New Berlin, 43-21, on Jan. 11 but falling to Wauwatosa, 43-27, on Friday evening.
"We lost quite a few starters from last year," said veteran co-coach John Quinlan. "We pretty much have five freshmen and four to five sophomores in and out of the lineup. For some of those guys, it was kind of throwing them into the fire.
"We lost a team captain (Ruben Garcia) to injury at the start of this year, and we only had one winning record returning from last year. We have a lot of newer guys, and it showed those first three, four weeks of the season. They've started to come around, though. For (the freshmen), it was a matter of realizing that some of the stuff that works in eighth grade doesn't necessarily work against juniors and seniors."
Trip south helped a lot
The Falcons received a huge boost from a trip to Shreveport, La., during the holiday break. Not only did they wrestle well, taking fourth of 28 teams in the Evangel Academy Holiday Duals, they had a good opportunity to become closer as a team.
"It was really good team bonding," Quinlan continued. "The team came together quite well."
The team members enjoyed cookouts with Cajun food and visited the city's famous boardwalk. They also had a fortuitous chance to do some star-gazing of the Hollywood kind, as Winona Ryder, Chris Evans and James Franco were in town to film the movie "Iceman" at their hotel.
On the mats at Shreveport, Whitnall beat the nation's fourth-ranked team from Arkansas in the quarterfinals. The Falcons lost to the top-rated team from Missouri, the eighth-rated team from Texas and a powerhouse squad hailing from Oklahoma.
"The three teams we lost to were really strong, but to beat the No. 4 team … everything went right, and we pulled off a win," Quinlan said.
On the trip home, the Falcons stopped in Nashville, ate at a famous barbeque spot and attended the Music City Bowl college football game, which saw Mississippi State beat Wake Forest, 23-17.
Returning to Wisconsin, they downed Cudahy/St. Francis in a Woodland dual on Jan. 4, then won the Panther Brawls at Palmyra-Eagle on Jan. 7 with a 5-0 dual mark, including a 40-35 squeaker over Westosha Central in the final.
Back home against New Berlin
Whitnall opened the Jan. 11 meet against New Berlin with victories by Alex Sterling at heavyweight with an 8-0 decision and Anthony Senthavisouk at 106 pounds with a pin in 3 minutes, 37 seconds.
After New Berlin's Brian Schafer prevailed over Joe Price at 113, Blake Leslie put the Falcons back on track with a pin in 26 seconds at 120.
New Berlin won the next two to close within 16-12 in the team totals, but the Falcons claimed four straight victories, starting with forfeits at 138 and 145. At 152, Mason Howard pinned his foe in 50 seconds and 160-pounder John McGee dropped his opponent in 1:26. That gave Whitnall a 40-12 lead and clinched the meet.
The other four matches were thrillers: Ty Fischer losing 4-3 at 170, Zach Barnhart taking a 4-2 decision at 182, Jeremy Brunner falling 5-3 in overtime at 195, and Ethan Harycki dropping a 6-4 dual to T.J. Stewart at 220.
The Falcons (4-3 in Woodland duals) did not fare as well against Tosa West on Friday. Winners were Leslie (injury default), Howard (pin in 1:22), McGee (7-1), Fischer (pin in 2:56) and Senthavisouk (pin in 3:59).
Whitnall next hosts the Zielinski Duals at 9:30 a.m. Jan. 21. The powerful field includes Merrill, Stoughton, Mukwonago, Muskego, Pewaukee and West Allis Central.
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