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Knights take down ranked Denver, East Marshall in final NICL duals
January 30, 2020

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For the first time since 2015, Union wrestling has bested NICL rival Denver 37-36 in their last conference duals of the season on Tuesday, Jan. 28 in Le Grand, adding a win against host East Marshall/GMG 54-24 to go undefeated in conference duals this year.

"Defeating Denver is a good feeling because we have won against them since 2015," coach Bart Mehlert said. "They are a scrappy team and so was East Marshall tonight. We didn't perform very well in Saturday's tournament. We talked in practice about attitude and effort. The kids came through tonight."

The Knights accomplished their feat over the eighth-ranked Cyclones with a 27-3 start, including four straight pins at weights 138 lbs through 160 lbs. Denver would counter with four falls in a row before Liam Stone broke the streak at heavyweight with a pin in 30 seconds. The Cyclones again had an answer with wins at 106 lbs and 113 lbs to put the score at 36-33 in their favor. It all came down to Kolten Crawford's 9-1 win to give Union that bonus point for the win. This comes after Crawford won his 100 career match on Saturday.

"Kolten Crawford had that big win, but I tell them it should never come down to one guy," Mehlert said. "This should be a team effort, but tough duals came down to the wire. [Kolten] should be proud of his milestone and reaching it his junior season."

Union wrapped up conference play with a 54-24 win over East Marshall/GMG during the host's senior night, completing a sweep off the conference. Six straight pins, including Jon Millard and Dacoda Marvets at 170 lbs and 182 lbs respectively, proved to be the difference even as the Mustangs won four matches.

"We battled in both duals against two solid teams tonight," Mehlert said. "Those kids that got us bonus points and falls for us were big for us. We're undefeated in conference duals and that was one of our goals this season."

Sarah Michael represented Union at the second annual IWCOA Girls State Tournament on Friday in Waverly, going 3-2 on the day. Michael had watched the tournament from the edge of the mat last year as her sister, Hannah, had the first pin of the first ever girls state tournament.

"It was a super exciting experience last season because this was the first time this competition happened," Michael said. "It was cool to witness history being made for girls wrestling. Everyone there was supportive for this competition to become an annual thing."

Fate just so happened to grant the younger Michael the same honor in 2020 as she took to the mat this time. The sophomore had three falls in the tournament and finished just outside the top eight in crowded field of 37 girls. Michael was influenced by her sister to compete this year after starting out as a manager in her freshman year.

"I've been focused on taking shots because I've been struggling with that this season," Michael said. "I really had to prepare mentally for this. It was awesome to experience the same adrenaline my sister did in being the first pin. Hannah was right there with me, coaching me. I jumped into her arms. I cried because I was so excited."

Michael enjoyed being around girls with a similar interest and loved the support they showed to one another over the course of the day. She will consider returning to the mat next season or return to managing for the team. Either way, Michael plans to continue being a part of the program.

"That was a great experience for a girl that just started wrestling this past summer," Mehlert said. "Sarah battles and has a good attitude. Girls wrestling has grown from 80 girls last year to 380+ girls this year. I feel the sport will be sanctioned here soon."

While winning sweeping their conference duals is an accomplishment Mehlert is proud of, the emphasis is on the NICL Conference Tournament on Saturday in Denver. The Cyclones have walked away with the tournament title in recent years, yet Jack Thomsen will return as the reigning Most Outstanding Wrestler from last year's competition.

"Attitude and effort is all we can ask for," Mehlert said. "You wrestle your best, good things will happen."

Union will compete in Sectionals on Saturday, Feb. 8 at a location still to be announced. The Knights will host Regional Duals on Tuesday, Feb. 11 as the team seeks a chance to compete together in State Duals. Districts will be held on Saturday, Feb. 15 with a location also still to be announced. Photos of the dual wins over Denver and East Marshall can be found at www.flickr.com/photos/151817931@N05/albums/72157712907800978

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