The Wauwatosa wrestling team knew its big guns were still ahead, and the co-op would have its chance to score some points against Milton on Jan. 17.
It needed every one, and almost every second, to pull off a crazy rally.
Tosa won the final five bouts in the dual, and when Max Nelson recorded a pin with 10 seconds to go in his 138-pound match, he gave his team a 34-33 win.
'We felt like we would win the last five matches, and we knew if we kept things anywhere between 24 and 34 points, we'd have a chance,' coach Kent Morin said. 'But what makes it difficult is that their last five guys, who are all underdogs, know their job is to basically not get pinned. We felt like we could win those last five by really good margins, but it became more difficult because their job was to make sure pins didn't happen.'
A big comeback
Tosa trailed at one point, 33-9, but Kai Castaneda (113) and Zach Miller (120) both notched first-period pins to ignite the comeback. Ben Reagan won by decision at 126, missing a major decision by one point with an 8-1 finish. AJ Minucci grabbed the major at 132, 9-0, but that meant Tosa still trailed by five points heading into Nelson's battle with Evan Whitehead.
A tech fall would have tied the match, but Tosa didn't have the edge on tiebreaking criteria, meaning Nelson needed the pin. And everyone knew it.
'I was looking for throws and takedowns, and he was getting defensive,' Nelson said. 'I was down on the mat and put his head down, so I just punched through a quarter nelson and eased him to his back. The second his shoulders touched, I just squeezed. He rolled over at one point and I brought him back over.'
With time running out, Nelson was given credit for the pin at 5:50, and Tosa had a crazy win.
'It was awesome,' Nelson said. 'They've been ranked a couple times in the state this year. We didn't know how this meet was going to go.'
Others pull through
There were other important matches. Sam Bertz was bumped from 160 to 170 and won a key decision, 8-3.
'On paper, I had him as the underdog, but he wrestled a solid match and gave us a chance to win at the end,' Morin said.
At 220, Greg Lewis won, 11-5, but it wasn't as close as the final score indicated. He scored seven of those points in the third period, breaking open a 4-3 battle.
'He just outworked the guy and sealed it up, which definitely helped us,' Morin said. 'We needed every point.'
Marcus Morrow won at 145 to open the dual, 9-4, but Milton won six of the next eight bouts heading into the heroics capped by Nelson.
Tosa 2-2 at Janssen
Tosa hosted its own Tom Janssen dual tournament on Saturday and went 2-2, with losses to Badger and West Allis Hale and wins over Manitowoc Lincoln and top-seeded Oconomowoc. Nelson registered the lone pin in a 42-21 loss to eventual meet champ Badger.
Castaneda, Ben Reagan and Nelson all went undefeated at 4-0, with Zach Miller, Minucci and Morrow going 3-1.
Castaneda recorded a pin against Oconomowoc to record his 100th career victory - something only four other wrestlers have accomplished - and the first to do so as a junior.
'If Kai stays healthy, he will easily shatter the all-time wins record,' Morin said. 'He is a great kid who is the hardest working guy in the wrestling room. All of his success, he has earned.'
Castaneda is now 30-1, and Tosa is 21-4 as a team in dual competition.