Prep wrestling: Brother feels his pain
Nick Pell winning Pulaski Invite
By Tim Harty
Luxemburg-Casco senior Nick Pell said he won't let the bad news get him down, but it without question affects him. Last year's WIAA Division 2 state champion at 135 pounds wanted more than a second state title this season. He wanted to see his younger brother claim a championship along with him for the second straight year.
It can't happen, though, because Matt Pell, who won the Division 2 title at 119 as a freshman last year, will miss the regional tournament this weekend because his broken collarbone has not healed fully.
"I guess there's nothing else you can do; the guy's injured, right?" Nick said with a somber tone.
Nick enjoyed seeing Matt win a state title last year as much as he relished the one he claimed.
"What me and Matt accomplish in wrestling, it's not really a one-person thing," Nick said, "because each of us wouldn't have been able to do it without the other's help."
Besides the psychological blow, Nick said Matt's mid-December injury has impacted him in the practice room. Matt returned to practice three weeks ago but has been limited.
"With him not at full strength, I can't train like I want to," Nick said.
"Matt knows me better than anybody else in that wrestling room; he can push me harder. He might be smaller, but he knows all my weaknesses; that's basically the only way he can beat me, so he always makes me practice them. With him not there, it affects me greatly."
Nick said he has "a little ways to go" in training before he is on top of his game, but he remains confident he can repeat as a state champ at 135. "I wouldn't see why not," he said.
"It certainly will feel different going down to state without Matt," Nick added. "I know he'll be watching, but it's just not the same."
CHANCE TO WRESTLE REMAINS
Matt Pell's season may not be over, though. If L-C advances to the Division 2 state team meet in West Allis, he might be ready to help the Spartans in their bid for a second straight championship. The state team tournament isn't until March 4, meaning he has three more weeks to heal.
"If we can have Matt back for team state, I think we might be able to match up," Nick Pell said. "We're going to need him back then."
If Matt can't wrestle then, the second-ranked Spartans will have a tougher road to the title.
"I think team-wise we are good enough to make it to state, but it's going to take a little more from everyone on the team to win it again," Nick said. "We'll need a little more heart from everyone. It's going to take more than wrestling like we always do."
L-C senior Jay Shefchik, who finished third at state at 160 pounds last year, believes the Spartans are as good this year as last year, but that doesn't mean a title repeat is automatic. Top-ranked Ellsworth had only two seniors on its team last year when it lost 26-24 to L-C in the championship dual.
"I think we're capable of winning it; I think everyone's wrestling real tough," Shefchik said. "But guys are going to have to pick it up and fill a few holes for us to do it."
Getting back to state isn't a given, either; third-ranked Freedom likely awaits at the team sectional.
LAYOFF WOULDN'T HAVE HINDERED
Matt Pell was 10-0 at 130 pounds before his injury. He has not wrestled competitively for eight weeks, but if he had been able to come back for the regional tourament, Spartans coach Bob Berceau would not have bet against Pell winning another state title.
"I think he would've had a decent shot at winning it," Berceau said. "He's a kid who's always in shape. He's a scrapper on the mat. I think he could've done it."