By Dan Hardenbrook

The Newberry Varsity wrestling team continued its strong start to the season last week, following strong showing in the second round of Straits Area Conference matches and an impressive day at the annual Bridge Brawl in Sault Ste. Marie. Several individuals shined in meets that factored heavily both into both solo and team rankings.

Newberry entered the second round of SAC competition ready for head-to-head showdowns with two of the largest and toughest competitors they will face all season. The Sault Blue Devils and Cheboygan Chiefs, competing in the final year of the longtime conference, have controlled the league with their large squads for many years.

Early season leaders Kennedy Depew, Hayden O’Neil and Quentin Bliss attempted to lead the charge, but the Sault’s depth brought them to victory with a score of 47-28. Depew defeated Marc DeWildt in a 175lb matchup and Bliss picked up points at 132lbs after going the distance in his match with Wyatt Peabody. O’Neil was a match winner as well, beating Caleb Klier in a faceoff of 144lb wrestlers.

The Indians bounced back in a nailbiter against Cheboygan, beating the Chiefs in a head-to-head showdown where every match made a difference. Bliss and Depew got the job done again, while O’Neil earned a victory on a voided class by Cheboygan. Gabe Hamilton, wrestling at 285, earned his first Varsity victory and Delaney Bliss earned a hug win at 120lbs. Kamron Blau put the Indians ahead for good in the second-to-last match of the competition, earning a 6-point victory when he out maneuvered Evan Blaskowski. to give the Indians another conference win in the SAC standings.

The Bridge Brawl has long been a battle of bragging rights between the top teams from each side of the Mackinac Bridge, and the Indians were determined to put themselves into that conversation. Newberry stormed through the event, reaching the fifth round of the day, going 3-2 overall with their only loss coming on a tie breaker. They blasted by Boyne City 42-24, winning seven of eight head-to-head matchups and moved past Rogers City (36-24) and into a rematch with Cheboygan. This time it was the Chiefs earning a narrow victory by a score of 42-30. The Indians bounced back, easily dispatching Charlton Heston Academy (36-30) before falling to Petoskey after the Northmen were awarded a tiebreaker point for filling more weight classes and earned the 31-30 victory.

Hayden O’Neil had a day to remember. He was a perfect 5-0 in matches. His undefeated day included three wins that took less than one minute each. O’Neil also earned his 100th career Varsity win, a milestone many wrestlers never reach. Quentin Bliss went 4-1 on the day, including three quick wins in the first round. Depew was also 4-1 in his Bridge Brawl matchups. Senior Gabe Luck picked up a pair of wins and two other voided wins, while Delaney Bliss added a victory for Newberry.