OSHKOSH – Ripon’s Cody Jacobson hardly broke a sweat in his first match of the On The Water Classic on Thursday afternoon.
The Tigers’ behemoth who looks like the textbook definition of a heavyweight wrestler needed just 38 seconds to dispatch Wesley Johnson of Wittenberg-Birnamwood – a junior that was closer to wrestling in the 195-pound class than reaching the heavyweight limit of 285 pounds.
His next match was over even faster. His third match didn’t last a minute.
The three quick pins helped the second-seeded Jacobson reach Friday’s semifinals and didn’t happen necessarily by accident either.
For those who are focused on climbing up the medal-podium steps when the tournament concludes, getting through the first day’s matches as quickly as possible is a good thing.
“You can save a lot of energy, especially on the first day when you have a lot of not as high competition,” said Omro’s 220-pounder Jack Dietzen, who won his first two matches by pin, including one in the first period. “You get the quick pins, save your energy, so when you go to day two, you can be firing on all cylinders.”
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Oshkosh West’s Reed Yoder agreed that getting through the early matches quickly is key, but there is also a fine line that wrestlers have to watch.
“You want to give it your all during the matches – you don’t want to end up not continuing – but if you can save energy for the next matches is the best possible way,” said Yoder, who won his first two 170-pound matches by a combined score of 24-6. “The more you win the less matches you have.”
Yoder was one of three Wildcats who remained alive to win On The Water titles, earning spots in Friday’s semifinal round. Reese Thompson (132), Yoder (170) and Andrew Kalfas (285) each posted quarterfinal wins.
Ripon had a pair of semifinalists in Zach Beck at 113 pounds and Jacobson at heavyweight.
The tournament continues Friday with wrestling starting at 9:30 a.m. The championship matches are slated to start at approximately 3:30 p.m.
Trying to save any energy often only works in the early rounds because of the quality of competition in the tournament field.
The event expanded to 66 teams this season and once again features some of the top wrestlers in the state. The list of top seeds includes state champions and place winners from Division 1, Division 2 and Division 3.
Yet, for this tournament, everyone in a weight class lands on one bracket.
“It’s a pretty big (measuring stick) to know if I can keep up with the top guys in the state,” Beck said. “It’s a really great tournament, you see a lot of top competition and I just love wrestling in it.”
Thompson also liked the idea of being able to find out where he stands against some of the state’s best.
“You get matched up with some of the best kids in the state so it gives you a chance to see where you are and what you need to improve on,” said Thompson. “It’s always a great time.”
For some wrestlers, it’s not only the chance to wrestle top-level competition but simply the chance to wrestle.
Jacobson came in with a 13-0 record but had actually wrestled only four matches because of dual-meet forfeits and lightly filled tournament brackets. That doesn’t happen at On The Water.
“Actually getting to wrestle on the mat is nice,” Jacobson said. “I look forward to wrestling good people because hopefully if everything goes OK and I make it to state, then I have a good six, seven matches under my feet and I’m used to wrestling somebody that good.
“I think this tournament may be even harder than state because you have all of the divisions pooled into one which makes it that much harder.”
There is definitely the opportunity to learn from wrestling top opponents, but for some wrestlers, that’s not the only time to go to school at the meet.
With such a high level of talent at the tournament, simply being a fan of the action can pay off.
“There’s a lot of downtime, so if they are paying attention they should be able to learn a lot. Just seeing the different techniques that the best are using,” Wagner said. “They are seeing the good wrestlers, which is part of it — seeing what the good guys are doing. Get the experience and learn what those guys are doing.”
Beck, for one, watches as many matches as he can around getting ready to wrestle himself.
“I love to watch other people and learn,” he said. “See the different moves they do and watch other people who I’m going to wrestle down the road.”
There’s likely to be plenty of those taking the mat these two days in Oshkosh meeting up down the road in Madison at the state tournament in February.
“This is the probably the best it’s been since I’ve been here in the last four years, just a lot of competition,” Yoder said. “A lot of good teams and such a big tournament.”