With tournament time just around the corner, Muskego's wrestling team continues to show it has a chance to be a factor when it matters the most.

Despite being shorthanded due to injury and illness, the Warriors began last week with a 64-12 win over Waukesha North in a Classic 8 dual meet on Jan. 19 before going 3-2 to take third place out of 16 teams at the Zelinski Memorial Duals on Jan. 21 at Whitnall High School.

Muskego beat Hartford (42-24) and Kenosha Bradford (36-35) to reach the championship round, where it beat Neenah (46-14) before losing to Waunakee (43-29) and top-ranked Stoughton (49-28).

"The kids surprised me," Muskego coach Sean Fortmann said. "I wasn't sure going in how we'd perform. We beat Kenosha Bradford, which is ranked in the area and a state qualifier from a year ago. That got us in the 'A'-pool against some of the big-time schools that were there. I just told the guys we had nothing to lose.

"Our guys did an awesome job of stepping up and pulling together. As we get to the end, it is encouraging to see that."

Freshman Alex Wintheiser (106 pounds) and senior Connor Schwartz (182 pounds) each went 5-0 on the day to help the Warriors move to 8-3 in dual meets on the season.

Tyler Larsen (170 pounds), Connor Schwartz (182) and Jakob Hein (220) had pins against Hartford, while Adam McNally (152) won by tech fall, Gavin McNally (195) won by major decision and Ben Shalk (138) and Evan Sinda (145) earned decisions.

With Schwartz winning by forfeit, Hein and Jorin McGuire (285) recording pins and Gavin McNally and Alex Wintheiser winning by decision, the Warriors jumped out to a 24-0 lead on Kenosha Bradford (12-5). A pin by Dale Kafura (120) made it 30-3, but Bradford rattled off 17 consecutive points to get back in the dual at 30-20.

The crucial win of the dual came from Sinda, who was leading, 7-2, when Marco Infusino, previously undefeated and ranked No. 10 at 145 pounds, was removed from the match due to injury with 35 seconds remaining.

That allowed Muskego to hold on for the 36-35 victory despite surrendering two pins over the final three matches.

"(Infusino) and Evan have a little bit of a rivalry going," Fortmann said. "Evan was really pumped to wrestle that match. He kept the pressure on hard for six minutes. It was 2-2 in the third period, and Infusino went for a throw, and Evan stuffed it and put him on his back for 5 points. That was the difference in the match. If Evan is mentally ready to go, he's tough to beat."

The Warriors cruised to a 46-14 win over Neenah, which is ranked honorable mention in the Division 1 state rankings. McGuire, Shalk and Schwartz won by fall, while Wintheiser, Parker Bevilacqua (113), Adam McNally and Larsen took major decisions and Hunter Albrecht (120), Kafura, Sinda and Ben Terloin (152) won by decision.

Pins came from McGuire and Kafura against Waunakee (10-3). Wintheiser and Bevilacqua won by major decision, and Sinda won by decision. McGuire, Kafura, Schwartz and Hein earned pins against top-ranked Stoughton (21-0) with Wintheiser grabbing a major decision.

Receiving eight forfeits, Muskego rolled to a 64-12 win over Waukesha North. Only six matches were wrestled in the dual, with the Warriors winning three.

Adam McNally opened the dual with a 21-11 major decision over state-ranked Drew Malicki at 160 pounds. Larsen followed with a pin over Hunter Sell in 5 minutes, 56 seconds at 170 pounds. Schwartz then pinned Chris Dominguez in 1 minute, 47 seconds at 182 pounds to put Muskego in front, 22-0.

"We competed pretty well," Fortmann said. "Our normal varsity guys wrestled really well. Adam McNally really took it to the best guy on their team. Tyler Larsen, we've bumped him up to 170 all year. I thought he went out and wrestled real well. We had a couple of JV guys at 138 and 145 that got some good experience."

Muskego will close out its dual-meet schedule at Arrowhead at 7:15 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 26. The Classic 8 Conference tournament is slated for Feb. 3 with regionals on Feb. 11.