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Neu’s repeat bid falls one point short in semifinals

February 24, 2019

MADISON — Dodgeland senior Ryan Neu lives for matches that push him to his limit.

Two such matches in one day left him keenly aware of where that limit was.

The defending Division 3 state champion fought valiantly in two epic matches in the 170-pound weight class at the WIAA State Individual Wrestling Tournament on Friday. Neu fought off a massive challenge from two-time state runner-up James Pfeiffer from Cadott to win a 15-8 decision in the quarterfinals. In a rematch of last year’s title match, Neu held slim leads several times but came up on the losing end of a 9-8 decision to Stratford junior Trevor Dennee.

Pfeiffer (44-2) scored the opening takedown against Neu, but Neu escaped and took him down for a 3-2 lead after one period. Neu led 7-4 after two periods and 9-5 with a minute remaining, but Pfeiffer scored two takedowns to cut the deficit to 10-8. In the closing seconds, Neu came up with the final answer, countering a throw attempt by Pfeiffer with a neck wrench for a takedown and three near fall points at the buzzer.

Both wrestlers were delirious by the time it ended.

“That was exciting,” Dodgeland wrestling coach Josh Engel said. “We take it one match at a time, six minutes per match. We knew that kid was a quality wrestler. A two-time runner up, he was coming at Ryan from the get-go. To come in and score the first takedown on Ryan, that was impressive. My hat’s off to him. Ryan woke up a little bit and those two kids were wide open the whole way. Neither kid wanted to wrestle another second after it was over.

“They were both spent. That’s a credit to both of them and both of their efforts. We’re happy to get out of there with the W.”

Cadott wrestling coach Josh Spaeth tipped his cap to both as well.

“Neu is just a really tough wrestler,” Spaeth said. “We gave up two takedowns that we probably shouldn’t, but we knew it was going to be a tough match, so hat’s off to him. I don’t know if have a lot (to say about it now), it was a hard one to swallow, but it was a great match. It was a lot of fun to watch. The crowd liked it.”

Neu scored on high crotch moves and once on a double leg takedown. He momentarily lost vision while leaving the mat and complained that his chest was on fire minutes later. He overcame an asthma attack at the sectional while fighting off a cold. Those effects were clearly still a factor at this tournament.

“I always come here for the tough matches,” Neu said. “It wouldn’t be worth a state title if I came through here and walked through the tournament. Wrestling quality kids, facing opponents like him make this whole tournament worth it.”

Dennee (46-1) dropped down from 182 to get another shot at Neu, and won a war of attrition.

Neu (38-1) scored first on a fireman’s carry 28 seconds into the semifinal, but was never able to keep Dennee on the mat. The same was true of Dennee as the lead see-sawed throughout. Neu took his last lead at 8-7 on an escape with 21 seconds left, but Dennee scored the winning takedown on a single leg shot with 15 to go and rode Neu out the rest of the way to reach tonight’s final against Pittsville senior Hunter Grimm (40-7). Neu faces Kewaunee senior Travis Reinke as he attempts to wrestle back for third.

“We knew it was going to be a tough match going into, and I knew it was going to be won on the feet,” Neu said. “Ninety percent of the match was on our feet and that’s what I expected going into my match.

“I hit the high crotch right off the whistle, like he hit a shot, and my re-shot was right in there with the high crotch. I got in deep. I had a hard time transferring off to the other leg, with keeping his leg cracked down. He had good high crotch defense and that’s what saved him the match. Every time I was close to getting a takedown (he defended it). I was in deep. He just had good defense and I wasn’t able to finish as quickly as I wanted to.”

Engel again credited both wrestlers for a great battle.

“There’s only one spot on top,” Engel said. “If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. Today was Trevor’s day. But there’s only one Ryan Neu. There’s only ever going to be one Ryan Neu. We’re proud of him. You can’t take anything away from his body of work. I am just lucky to be along for the ride.”