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WIAA state wrestling: Individual tournament preview

WIAA state wrestling: Individual tournament preview

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THE BASICS

What: The 76th annual WIAA state individual wrestling tournament.

When: Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 21-23.

Where: Kohl Center, 601 W. Dayton St.

Tickets: Available at the gate at $8 per tournament session, or in advance at wiaawi.org/tickets (additional fee of $2 per ticket).

On TV/online: Finals will be carried live on Fox Sports Wisconsin, with separate streams of all three finals mats available via streaming with the Fox Sports app. All pre-finals action will be streamed live (by subscription, $9.95/month) at the www.wiaa.tv portal of the NFHS Network. Archived streams may be viewed for free starting 72 hours after the tournament ends.

On the Web: The live tournament results portal can be found at this link. For more preview and background information, visit the WIAA’s wrestling home page at this link.

Parking: Availability will be very limited before 5 p.m. on Thursday and Friday. Cost is $8 in the State Street Campus Ramp and $10 at Lots 29, 46, 83 and 91. A limited number of accessible parking spots are available for purchase in Lot 48.

Shuttle bus: Every 20 minutes throughout the tournament, a shuttle bus will run from the Pavilion 2 area at Alliant Energy Center, 1919 Alliant Energy Center Way. The parking fee is $7 per vehicle ($21 per bus); the shuttle fee per person is $3 (one-way), $5 (round trip) or $10 (three-day pass).

Gate security: Everyone entering the Kohl Center is subject to pass through metal detectors, which is likely to cause delays. Gates will open at 1:30 p.m. Thursday and 60 minutes prior to every subsequent session. For a list of prohibited and permitted carry-in items, visit this link.

SCHEDULE

Thursday: Division 1 preliminaries, 3 p.m.; Division 1 quarterfinals, about 5:15 p.m.; Division 2/3 preliminaries, about 7 p.m.

Friday: Division 1 consolations, 10 a.m.; Division 2/3 quarterfinals, about 11:15 a.m.; Division 1 consolation semifinals, about 1:45 p.m.; Division 2/3 consolation semifinals, about 2:45 p.m.; semifinals, all divisions: 7 p.m.

Saturday: Consolation wrestlebacks, all divisions, 10 a.m.; followed by fifth-place and third-place matches; championship matches, all divisions: 5:30 p.m.

THE LOWDOWN

Notable

Mat to court to mat: Waterford sophomore Hayden Halter, who won the 106-pound title as a freshman at Burlington last year, takes a 37-6 record into the Division 1 120-pound class this season. But he almost didn’t make it at all: Halter was penalized twice for unsportsmanlike conduct after winning his Southern Lakes Conference championship match. According to rule, those penalties disqualified Halter from participating in the next match — which would have been the WIAA regional, bringing an end to Halter’s hope for a repeat state title. But his family went to court, requesting an injunction, and (one day before the regional) Halter was granted permission to wrestle and advanced through the regional and sectional. The matter could return to court after the state tournament.

Most qualifiers: Mukwonago leads this year’s Division 1 field with 11 qualifiers (out of a possible 14), followed by Burlington with 10 and Marshfield nine. Stoughton has eight. In Division 2, Ellsworth has eight qualifiers. In Division 3, Fennimore and Coleman each have eight qualifiers.

Returning champs: Twenty-one wrestlers enter this year’s tournament as former state champions, including 18 who won a title last year.

Unbeatens: The field also features 21 wrestlers who enter state with undefeated records: Nine in Division 1, six in Division 2 and six in Division 3. Also, 33 wrestlers enter state with one loss on the season.

All-time champs: Mineral Point has produced the most individual champions, 50. Stoughton follows with 49 champs, Wisconsin Rapids has 44 and Milwaukee South and Luxemburg-Casco have 39 each.

WRESTLERS TO WATCH

Division 1

Nicolar Rivera, fr., Stoughton (51-0 at 106 pounds): Has barely been challenged all season as he earned not only the top state ranking, but he’s ranked sixth nationally by Intermat. According to his Track Wrestling statistics, Rivera has 28 pins (including his last nine matches) and seven technical falls.

Hunter Lewis, sr., Stoughton (48-1 at 138): Ranked first in Division 1 throughout the season, Lewis won the state title at 120 last year and was second at 106 in 2017. Lewis will wrestle next season at North Carolina State.

Kevin Meicher, sr., Middleton (31-0 at 152): Ranked first in Division 1, Meicher won the state championship at 126 as a freshman, took second at 138 in 2017 and was fourth at 152 last year.

Keeanu Benton, sr., Janesville Craig (39-1 at 285): The Wisconsin football recruit has topped the Division 1 individual rankings throughout the season after finishing second at state last year.

Jessie Tijerina, jr., Portage (38-2 at 126): Ranked second in Division 1 after finishing fifth at state at 120 last year.

Reed Ryan, sr., Waunakee (42-2 at 220): The North Dakota State football recruit is ranked second in Division 1 and took fifth at 220 last year.

Bryant Schaaf, sr., Sauk Prairie (41-5 at 160): Enters with the No. 3 ranking in Division 1.

Stoughton’s deep contingent: Other top-five Stoughton entrants (according to the state rankings) are junior Braeden Whitehead (40-4, second at 132); sophomore Luke Mechler (49-3, second at 145); junior Gavin Model (48-5, fifth at 152); senior Cade Spilde (42-6, fourth at 160); sophomore Brooks Empey (48-6, third at 195).

Watertown leaders: Two Watertown wrestlers enter state with No. 5 rankings: junior Edward Wilkowski (40-6 at 126) and senior Matt Brewster (37-5 at 220).

Parker Keckeisen, sr., Glendale Nicolet (43-0 at 182): Holds the No. 1 national ranking, according to Intermat, and is No. 1 in Wisconsin. Keckeisen moves up to 182 this year after winning at 170 last season, taking second at 170 in 2017 and finishing fifth at 160 in 2016.

Keegan O’Toole, jr., Hartland Arrowhead (21-0 at 145): The two-time state champion (132 last year and 120 in 2017) moves up two weight classes this year and takes a 105-5 career record. A Missouri commit, O’Toole is ranked fourth nationally by Intermat.

Eric Barnett, sr., Hortonville (43-0 at 126): Barnett, ranked fourth nationally by Intermat and first in the state, takes a 180-3 record into his final state tournament. He hasn’t lost since the state tournament of his freshman season, winning at 113 last year and at 106 in 2017.

Joshua Otto, sr., Hartland Arrowhead (38-1 at 170): Won at 152 last year and took third at 152 in 2017. Otto — a University of Wisconsin signee — is ranked first in the state and 13th nationally.

Other returning champions: Hayden Halter, so., Waterford (37-6 at 120; won at 106 for Burlington last year).

Other unbeatens: Justin Groshek, jr., Stevens Point (41-0, 106); Dajun Johnson, jr., Whitefish Bay Dominican/University School (36-0, 160); Jake Deates, sr., Kenosha Bradford (14-0, 182); Jacob Somlai, sr., Brookfield Central (44-0, 220).

Division 2

Shane Liegel, sr., River Valley (44-0 at 182): Went 48-0 with 25 pins last season and is ranked No. 1 in Division 1 this season with 26 pins, according to his TrackWrestling.com statistics. Takes a 193-14 career record to state.

Quintin Gehrmann, sr., Jefferson (34-3 at 113): Kept his No. 2 ranking at 113 despite a loss to top-ranked Tommy Larson of East Troy in the sectional final.

Garrett Moll, sr., Lodi (40-5 at 132): Ranked third in Division 2; beat third-ranked Edgerton junior Cole Bavery (36-3) in a sectional final last week.

Bryce Bosman, sr., Luxemburg-Casco (33-6 at 132): Bosman is out to become the 17th wrestler in WIAA history to win four state championships. He won at 126 last year, at 113 in 2017 and at 106 in 2016. He enters ranked second in Division 2

Matt Bianchi, so., Two Rivers (47-2 at 132): Bianchi, last year’s state champ at 113, holds the No. 1 state ranking at 132 and could wind up in a showdown against Bosman in the championship match. Bianchi defeated Bowman, 3-0, in last week’s sectional final.

Aidan Medora, jr., Delafield St. John’s NW/Brookfield Academy (30-0 at 138): A Wisconsin commit, Medora is ranked 11th nationally by Intermat. He won at 132 last year and took second at 126 in 2017. He takes a 102-4 career record to state and is ranked No. 1 in Division 2.

Stephen Buchanan, sr., Neillsville co-op (45-0 at 195): A Wyoming recruit, Buchanan is ranked 14th nationally by Intermat and No. 1 in Division 2. He won the 182-pound title last year and was sixth at 170 in 2017.

Logan Zschernitz, sr., Spencer/Marshfield Columbus (43-0 at 285): Holds the No. 1 state ranking after winning at 285 last year and taking third in 2017. He is a Northern Illinois football signee and is ranked 19th nationally by Intermat.

Other returning champions: Tommy Larson, jr., East Troy (43-2 at 113; won at 106 last year); Cody Holmes, sr., Two Rivers (45-4 at 126; won at 106 in 2017); Ryan Larson, sr., Hammond St. Croix Central (18-3 at 220; won at 195 last year).

Other unbeatens: Jacek Nickowski, sr., Baldwin-Woodville (35-0, 120); Gabe Wertel, jr., Denmark (44-0, 194).

Division 3

Cash Stewart, fr., Poynette (31-6 at 113): Ranked fourth in Division 3 entering his first state tournament.

Mineral Point contingent: The Pointers’ state crew includes senior Danny Pittz (35-4 at 126, ranked fifth); senior Caden Carey (34-6 at 132, ranked sixth); senior Logan Schmitz (34-5 at 145, ranked third); sophomore Logan Springer (34-8 at 152, ranked seventh) and senior Garrett Ward (24-15 at 285, honorable mention).

Brock Schlough, sr., Boyceville (47-0 at 152): Also trying for a fourth career WIAA championship, Schlough won at 152 last year, at 160 in 2017 and at 138 in 2016. He holds a 94-0 mark the last two seasons and is 179-5 overall, and is ranked No. 1 in the division.

Koltin Grzybowski, sr., Coleman (40-2 at 113): Ranked No. 1 entering state, Grzybowski won the 113 title last year and the 106 title in 2017. He takes a career record of 163-12 into the state tournament.

Caleb Gross, sr., Coleman (40-3 at 126): Like his teammate, Grzybowski, Gross is ranked No.1 and is chasing a third state title after winning at 120 last year and 113 in 2017. He has gone 126-7 over the past three years.

Ryan Neu, sr., Dodgeland (37-0 at 170): Neu won at 170 with an unbeaten record last year, took fourth at 152 in 2017 and was third at 138 in 2016.

Trevor Wanek, sr., Fennimore (301-4 at 138): Won the state title at 126 in 2017, and took fourth at 132 last year.

Other unbeatens: Cian Fischer, sr., Weyauwega-Fremont (44-0, 120); Brady Spaeth, jr., Cadott (43-0, 160); Trett Joles, so., Boyceville (47-0, 182); Ethan Heil, jr., Edgar (32-0, 220).

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