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WIAA state wrestling preview: Scaled-down, split-up tourney field still features deep well of area talent
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WIAA STATE INDIVIDUAL WRESTLING PREVIEW

WIAA state wrestling preview: Scaled-down, split-up tourney field still features deep well of area talent

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THE BASICS

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

When: Saturday.

Where: Division 1 at Kaukauna High School; Division 2 at Adams-Friendship High School; Division 3 at Wausau East High School.

Schedule: 10 a.m. session (9 a.m. at Wausau East) — Quarterfinals, followed by semifinals, consolation semifinals and wrestlebacks, with a 15-minute pause between rounds. 5 p.m. session — Championship, third-place and fifth-place matches.

Tickets: Tickets, at $11 per session, are only available through member schools with competitors qualifying for the state tournament, with a limit of two tickets per qualifier. No general admission tickets will be sold at the venues.

COVID-19 concerns: Due to COVID-19 protocols, only eight wrestlers qualified for state in each divisional weight class. COVID-19 protocols will be strictly followed for participants, officials, workers and attendees at all three sites.

Live streaming/broadcast: All matches except championship finals will be streamed live on the WIAA.TV portal of the NFHS Network for a subscription fee. All championship matches will be aired live on FS Wisconsin and streamed on FoxSportsGo.com.

On the Web: Preview information, tournament brackets, historical information and live updates can be accessed through the WIAA wrestling home page at wiaawi.com.

Returning champions, unbeaten qualifiers: Despite the limited field, 23 of this year’s entrants are defending state champions. And due to regular-season restrictions on competitions, 101 of the 336 state qualifiers enter with undefeated records, and 102 more have one loss.

By the numbers: There are 172 Wisconsin high school programs represented in this year’s field. Kaukauna leads Division 1 with eight qualifiers, Amery and Prairie du Chien have seven each in Division 2, and Kenosha Christian Life, Mineral Point and Random Lake have six each in Division 3. … Stoughton has produced the most individual championships in tournament history with 53, followed by Mineral Point with 51 and Wisconsin Rapids with 44.

THE LOWDOWNWRESTLERS TO WATCH

DIVISION 1

Hayden Halter, sr., Waterford, 126 pounds: Halter (11-0) finished third at 126 last season after winning championships at 120 as a sophomore and 106 as a freshman. Standing in his path will be Kaukauna sophomore Greyson Clark (15-0), who won the championship at 106 last year.

Nicolar Rivera, jr., Stoughton, 132: Rivera (9-0 this year, 118-0 career), faces a challenge as he moves up two weight classes to 132. He won at 106 in 2019 and 120 last season. This year, another defending state champion is in the field in Kaukauna senior Jager Eisch (14-0), who won at 126 last year. Rivera is ranked No. 1 and Eisch No. 2 by WiWrestling.com.

Sam Lorenz, sr., Waunakee, 138: Lorenz (10-0) won his sectional with a 4-0 victory over Mukwonago’s Tyler Goebel. The two are ranked first and second, respectively, by WiWrestling.com.

Mitchell Mesenbrink, jr., Hartland Arrowhead, 152: Mesenbrink (14-0) won the title at 138 last year after taking third at 120 in 2019. He is ranked No. 1, followed by Milton freshman Aeoden Sinclair (11-2), whom Mesenbrink beat 3-0 in the sectional final.

Luke Mechler, sr., Stoughton, 160: Mechler (10-0) took third at 152 last year and earned his state berth with a 5-2 victory over previously unbeaten Jack Ganos of Hartland Arrowhead. The two are ranked first and second, respectively, by WiWrestling.com.

John Gunderson, sr., Baraboo, 182: Gunderson (12-0) lost in last year’s state final to Mason Diel of Hartland Arrowhead but enters this year’s tournament unbeaten and ranked No. 1.

Brooks Empey, sr., Stoughton, 220: Empey (10-0) won the 220-pound title last year after taking second at 195 in 2019 and sixth at 182 in 2018. He is ranked No. 1.

Other top area qualifiers: 106, Riley Nilo, jr., Milton (5-1, ranked No. 2); 170, Brody Hemauer, jr., DeForest (11-1, ranked No. 3); 195, Rudy Detweiler, sr., Stoughton (10-0, ranked No. 2); 285, Griffin Empey, so., Stoughton (10-0, ranked No. 2).

Other top-ranked qualifiers: 106, Ben Bast, so., West Bend West (17-0); 113, Joey Showalter, jr., Elkhorn (13-0); 120: Alec Hunter, sr., Oshkosh West (16-0); 145, Connor Thorpe, sr., Brookfield East (10-0); 170, Noah Mulvaney, so., Hartland Arrowhead (16-0); 195, Drake Anderson, sr., Bay Port (17-0); 285: Ben Kawczynski, sr., Oak Creek (12-0).

DIVISION 2

Rhett Koenig, so., Prairie du Chien, 113: Koenig (16-1) won the championship at 106 last season and moves up one weight class. He is ranked No. 1 in the division by WiWrestling.com.

Caleb Meunier, jr., Winneconne (126): Meunier (15-2) won state at 113 last year and was runner-up at 106 as a freshman. This year, he is ranked second at 126 after losing a sectional final last week to top-ranked Max Ronsman of Luxemburg-Casco (16-0).

Blaine Brenner, sr., Stanley-Boyd/Owen Withee, 132: Brenner (15-0 this year, 107-2 the last three seasons) won the 106-pound title in 2019 and won at 120 pounds last year. He is ranked No. 1.

Matty Bianchi, sr., Two Rivers, 145: Bianchi (9-0 this year, 147-10 career) will attempt to become the 19th wrestler in WIAA history to win four individual championships. He won at 138 last year, 132 in 2019 and 113 in 2018, and is ranked No. 1 by WiWrestling.com.

Braden Scoles, so., Kewaskum, 160: Scoles (13-0) won the state title at 145 as a freshman and is ranked No. 1.

Clayton Whiting, jr., Oconto Falls, 182: Whiting (14-0 this year, 110-4 career) is chasing a third straight title after winning at 152 in 2019 and 170 last year. He holds the No. 1 state ranking.

Other top area/recion qualifiers: 113, Parker Heintz, jr., Lodi (5-1, ranked fourth); 120, Ryder Koenig, so., Prairie du Chien (16-1, fifth) and Mason Mau, fr., Belleville co-op (13-1, sixth); 126, Chandler Curtis, jr., Lodi (11-1, fourth); 138, Gus Donovan, sr., Richland Center (21-0, fifth); 145, Zane Licht, so., Lodi (9-1, fifth); 152, Matt Rogge, sr., Prairie du Chien (15-2, fourth); 160, Owen Heiser, so., Evansville (10-2, fifth); 170, Bradyn Saint, sr., Prairie du Chien (15-0, third); 182, Cole Hoesly, jr., Brodhead/Juda (10-0, third); Aaron Heine, sr., Jefferson (11-1, fourth); 220, Hunter Isaacson, so., Wisconsin Dells (10-1, fifth); 285, Michael Douglas, sr., Belmont/Platteville (12-0, second).

Other top-ranked qualifiers: 106, Easton Worachek, so., Luxemburg-Casco (17-0); 120, Brody Hart, fr., Winneconne (17-0); 138, Jordan Penard, sr., Amery (17-0); 152, Bailey Thelen, sr., Two Rivers (13-0); 170, Jared Stricker, sr., Ashland (14-0); 195, Kale Hopke, jr., Amery (17-0); 220: Koy Hopke, fr., Amery (17-0); 285, Quincy Klister, sr., Wrightstown (15-1).

DIVISION 3

Brayden Sonnentag, so., Cadott, 120: Sonnentag (16-0) won the title at 106 as a freshman and is ranked No. 1.

Tanner Gerber, jr., Cameron, 126: Gerber (13-0 this year, 110-3 overall) won at 113 last season and 106 in 2019. He is ranked No. 1.

Jack Severin, sr., Kewaunee, 132: Severin (19-0) moves up one weight class after winning at 126 last year. He is ranked No. 1.

Cash Stewart, jr., Poynette, and Gavin Drexler, jr., Stratford, 138: The two former champions seem headed for a collision course for what would be a semifinal showdown if both win their opening matches. Stewart (7-0) has jumped up three weight classes after winning at 113 pounds last year and taking fourth at that class in 2019. Drexler (18-0) won the title at 126 last year. The WiWrestling.com rankings have Drexler ranked No. 1 and Stewart No. 2.

Karson Casper, jr., Coleman, 145: Casper (14-0) won last year at 138 and is ranked No. 1 at 145 this season.

Kole Marko, jr., St. Croix Falls, 152: Marko (15-0 this year, 98-4 overall) won state titles at 138 as a freshman and 145 last season, and enters state ranked No. 1 in his weight class.

Aiden Vandenbush, sr., Random Lake, 160: Vandenbush (18-0 this year, 115-4 overall) won at 152 last season after taking third in that class in 2019. He’s ranked No. 1 in the class.

Nolan Springer, sr., Mineral Point, 170: Springer (11-0) won the state title at 160 last year and was fifth at 152 as a sophomore. He’s ranked No. 1 in his weight class.

Trett Joles, sr., Boyceville, 195: Joles (16-0 this year, 158-3 overall) has won championships the past two years at 182, after taking thid in 2018. He is ranked No. 1.

Tanner Gaffey, sr., St. Croix Falls, 285: Gaffey (15-0 last year, 107-3 overall) went undefeated to win at 285 last year and is ranked No. 1.

Other top area/region qualifiers: 106, Elliott Biba, fr., Iowa-Grant/Highland (17-2, ranked fourth); 113, Nolan McKittrick, sr., Royall (17-0, ranked first); Lucas Sullivan, so., Mineral Point (11-1, ranked fourth). 120, Brett Birchman, so., Fennimore (10-1, ranked fourth); 126, Tarrin Riley, so., Mineral Point (11-0, ranked second); 132, Brody Lee, sr., Fennimore (10-0, ranked third); 145, Gunnar Hamre, so., Poynette (13-1, ranked third); 152, Korben Brown, sr., Orfordville Parkview (12-1, ranked second); Aiden Brosinski, jr., De Soto (15-0, ranked third); 182, Cal Dorota, jr., Iowa-Grant/Highland (18-0, ranked first); Mason Hughes, sr., Mineral Point (10-2, ranked second); 195, Ryan McCartney, so., Lancaster (16-1, ranked second); Cezar Garcia, sr., De Soto (13-1, ranked third).

Other top-ranked qualifiers: 106, Ian Radintz, so., Glenwood City (15-0); 220, David Gauderman, so., Wittenberg-Birnamwood (16-1).

— Art Kabelowsky

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Wisconsin State Journal prep sports editor Art Kabelowsky has traversed the state to cover sports while working for daily papers in Fort Atkinson, Racine, La Crosse, Milwaukee and Baraboo.

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