A fun, intense tradition will come to an end at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 8, when defending Greater Metro Conference tournament champion Menomonee Falls visits GMC dual-meet champion West Allis Central in an early-season dual that will likely decide the league title.
It will be the last such dual between the two regional powers, as West Allis Central will head off to the Woodland Conference next year.
Falls coach Jim McMahon, whose team was also a WIAA state team tournament qualifier last season, will miss it
"Our kids always get fired up for that one," he said. "They're almost always close and fun. It's going to come down to depth."
And that may be an issue for Indians this winter because, as with many teams statewide, numbers are down for wrestling. McMahon anticipated having around 30 this season but is making do with 22.
"Some kids didn't come out, some we lost for disciplinary reasons and we only have two freshmen," McMahon said.
Furthermore, returning senior state qualifier Brandon Schaefer is nursing a knee injury and hopefully will be back by mid-January, he added.
"We just can't afford any injuries because at some weights we have no back-ups," he said.
McMahon said the eighth-grade class is healthy and will be helpful going into next year.
But in the interim, he will build around around a solid corps of seniors, including returning state 120-pound runner-up Eric Wunsch, who is at 138 pounds, as well as fellow state qualifier Austin Lasanske at 132.
Others who will help out include Matt Anderson at 126, Tyler Gill at 120, Noah Dakouras at 145, Kevin Staron at 152, Brett Umbs, Henery Hansen and Josh McMahon at 160, Jon Thomas at 170, Jonah Hestetune at 182, Spencer Nitz at 195, Donald Eruchalu at 220 and Logan Fallon at 275.
One freshman who is making a huge impact is 106-pounder Ethan Pogorzelski.
"We won't have a full lineup (for awhile)," said coach McMahon, "but we're remaining optimistic."
He added the GMC may be deeper this season, as Marquette and Hamilton are both improved.
Falls routed Brookfield Central in its GMC opener on Dec. 1 and finished a strong second in the eight-team Nicolet Scramble on Dec. 3.
In the Scramble, Falls earned four individual titles and scored 225 points for its spot as Elkhorn won with 264.5.
Freshman Pogorzelski was most impressive in earning his title at 106 with four pins and a major decision in five matches, while Anderson also went 5-0 with three pins and a technical fall. Dakouras, wrestling up a class, also went 5-0 for the 145 title with three pins.
Eruchalu lost a tough 5-4 decision in the third round to an Elkhorn opponent but went 4-1 on the day and wound up with the 220-pound class title on a tiebreaker. He had two pins.
Moving up a couple of classes, Wunsch had a challenging day in going 3-2 and taking third at 138. He lost on a pin to an Elkhorn opponent and a decision to a Middleton foe. Taking seconds were Lasanske at 132 (4-1) and Fallon at 285 (4-1, four pins), while thirds went to Thomas at 170 (3-2), Heitman at 152 (3-2) and Gill at 120 (3-2).
Staron battled back after losing his first-round match to win four bouts and take sixth at 152, which is also what Hansen did at 160.
"It was a good way to start the season," said coach McMahon. "We saw a lot of different levels of competition, and everyone got some good matches in. We're emphasizing that all these matches are really warm-ups until we hit the big meets in February. Hopefully everyone gets the message that we just need to be a little patient."