hunter photo

Stoughton's Hunter Lewis, left, competes on the way to a 9-1 major decision over Sauk Prairie's Jesse Huerth in the 138-pound quarterfinals Thursday at the Kohl Center.

A year ago, Stoughton’s Hunter Lewis stood atop the awards podium as the WIAA Division 1 state wrestling tournament’s 120-pound champion.

Lewis’ first state title also made him Stoughton’s 49th champion. And that total placed the Vikings second all-time — one individual championship behind Mineral Point — entering this year’s state tournament, which began Thursday at the Kohl Center.

“I’d say that was a pretty cool thing — being Stoughton’s 49th,” Lewis said.

The senior began his quest for a second consecutive title, winning his two 138-pound matches and moving into tonight’s semifinals.

The top-ranked Lewis, a North Carolina State commit, didn’t waste time or energy in his opening match, pinning Slinger senior Cameron Tonsor-Heesen in 21 seconds.

“I wanted to go out there, get it done and get off the mat,” Lewis said. “There’s not much else to say.”

Lewis later improved to 50-1 with a 9-1 major decision over Sauk Prairie senior Jesse Huerth, who had advanced with a 4-0 decision over Mukwonago junior Lucas Benn in the first round. Lewis said he knew Huerth because they work out at Advance School of Wrestling in Madison.

“We are, in a way, teammates because we go to the same club,” Lewis said. “He’s a strong kid. But (I thought), ‘If I keep doing my stuff, I should be able to come out on top.’”

Lewis’ title last year followed a runner-up finish at 106 in 2017. He was one of eight Stoughton wrestlers who qualified for individual state this season, matching a program record.

Lewis believes another title is within reach.

“There are a lot of longtime Wisconsin wrestlers who have placed pretty high before, but if I keep doing my stuff, I should be fine,” said Lewis, who faces Hartland Arrowhead sophomore Jack Ganos (35-10) in a semifinal.

Lewis wouldn’t mind becoming Stoughton’s 50th individual champion, but he said 106-pound freshman Nicolar Rivera (53-0) might get there first.

“Nicolar is a stud,” Lewis said.

Five Vikings advanced to the semifinal round: Lewis; Rivera; 145-pound sophomore Luke Mechler (51-3), winner by major decision and technical fall; 160-pound senior Cade Spilde (44-6), the son of Stoughton co-coach Dan Spilde; and 195-pound sophomore Brooks Empey (50-6), the son of Stoughton co-coach Bob Empey. Empey pinned his two opponents.

Rivera and Middleton senior Kevin Meicher were among nine Division 1 wrestlers who entered the tournament with undefeated records.

Top-ranked Rivera dispatched Racine Park junior Angel Rodriguez via technical fall (17-1, 4:00), then earned a 6-1 decision over Mukwonago freshman Cody Goebel. Rivera will meet Stevens Point junior and second-ranked Justin Groshek (43-0) in a featured semifinal.

At 152, top-ranked Meicher (33-0) defeated Marshfield senior Nolan Hertel by major decision 14-6, then topped Appleton East senior Tyler Locke 9-2. Meicher, a University of Minnesota commit, was the 126-pound champion as a freshman, second at 138 in 2017 and fourth at 152 last year.

Waunakee advanced two wrestlers into the semifinals: Zachary Marek (43-6), a 182-pound senior, and Reed Ryan (44-2), a 220-pound senior. Marek recorded two pins while Ryan pinned Waterford senior Boyd Biggs in 58 seconds, then defeated Slinger senior Bennett Connolly 10-5.

“That first match, (I had) a little bit of nerves because it’s your last year,” Ryan said. “You just had to go out there and get a few takedowns, and I would say definitely after that the nerves started to go away and it felt like you are just at another regular wrestling tournament you are at every Saturday.”

Watertown senior Matt Brewster (39-5) also moved into the 220 semifinals.

On the other side of the 160-pound bracket from Cade Spilde, Sauk Prairie senior Bryant Schaaf (43-5) advanced to the semifinals with a 7-5 victory over Elkhorn/Faith Christian junior Colman Karl and 3-2 decision over West Bend East senior Cooper Schlosser.

“I kind of figured my two matches were going to be tough,” Schaaf said. “But I knew they were winnable matches. … I have two more wins to get — to get where I want to finish.”

That would be claiming a state title.

“I’m pumped right now,” Schaaf said. “(I’m) a two-time placewinner and I’m not done yet. I still have two wins to get. It’s been 11 years since Sauk Prairie had a state champion. This is the year we are going to get one.”

Portage junior Jessie Tijerina (40-2) won twice by decision at 126 and will meet Watertown junior Edward Wilkowski (42-6).

Janesville Craig senior and top-ranked Keeanu Benton (41-1), a University of Wisconsin football commit, advanced with pins in his two matches at 285.


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Jon Masson covers high school sports for the Wisconsin State Journal. He has covered a variety of sports — including the Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin men's and women's basketball and volleyball — since he first came to the State Journal in 1999.