MADISON – Every one of Kaukauna’s team wrestling titles is special to head coach Jeff Matczak.
But the Ghosts’ victory on Saturday might get a little bit of an edge over the others on the emotion factor, if only because of the anxiety it caused the program’s venerable coach.
Kaukauna defeated Stoughton 35-27 to claim the Division 1 championship at the University of Wisconsin Fieldhouse. It was the fourth consecutive state title for Kaukauna and came against an opponent the Ghosts had defeated the past two seasons in the title match.
But this year’s Stoughton team, with five individual state finalists, was the top-ranked team in the state and appeared to be favored over the second-ranked Ghosts.
“I was more nervous before this one than ever before,” Matczak said. “It’ll hit me at some point because it’s just so difficult (to win) and Stoughton is really good this year.”
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It wasn’t just Matczak. Senior leader Trent Leon also found himself wondering what would unfold.
“Definitely before the dual, I was real nervous,” he said. “I knew that they were a really good team and I knew we were going to have to wrestle really tough to be able to compete with them.”
Competing is exactly what the Ghosts did against a Stoughton team that had “a lot of firepower,” according to Matczak.
With points at a premium, the Ghosts were able to avoid pins throughout most of the match and also did well in losses to some of the Vikings’ top wrestlers like Tristan Jenny (120) and Cade Spilde (126).
Mikael Kolosso battled Jenny, who placed second at WIAA individual state last week, before falling 20-13, but did avoid the major decision.
Spilde, who placed sixth last week, defeated Jacob Canner 9-7 in a tight match. Again, the Vikings failed to get bonus points because of the fight put up by Canner.
Kaukauna (22-0) got a 2-1 decision from Alec Hartman over Trevar Helland at 160, but forfeited its match at 170 against the Vikings’ Tyler Dow, who won the state title at 160.
That gave Stoughton a 21-17 lead, but that’s when the Ghosts made their move.
Bryson Alsteen got a major decision over Will Neuenfeld 16-6 at 182 to start an 18-point burst that included wins from Jon Heilman (195) over Gavin Miller 9-3 and Mason Van Asten’s technical fall over Logan Dykstra 16-0.
Keaton Kluever secured the championship for Kaukauna with a 52-second pin of Aodan Marshall.
“We knew that we had to come through for our team,” Van Asten said. “We’ve been saying all year that we’re death from above. Me, Keaton and Jon. We’ve been there the whole year.”
Leon also got a pin for Kaukauna, putting Luke Spilde on his back in 3:07 at 138 and the Ghosts’ John Diener got Kaukauna off to a good start with a technical fall win over Dante Steinmetz 21-6 in the first match of the night at 113.
“What can I say?” Matczak said. “Up and down the lineup, our kids went out there and did what they were supposed to do. Sometimes above and beyond. I’m so proud of everyone. Stoughton is a real good team. They got so much firepower. We were able to withstand a lot of that early on and set it up for the end and we got the pins and that was the difference.”
It was the 15th appearance for Kaukauna in the state team tournament and the Ghosts have also finished runners-up in 2000, 2003, 2008 and 2013. This was also their fifth consecutive state appearance, equaling another five-year streak from 1999 to 2003.
Kaukauna’s four consecutive championships streak puts it in rare company. Only Wisconsin Rapids, Milwaukee South (five titles, 1950-1954) and Mineral Point (four, 1980-1983) have streaks equaling or surpassing the Ghosts’ current success.
Rapids won seven titles from 1995 to 2001 and five in a row from 2003 to 2007, with another four-peat from 2009 to 2012.
“It just says a lot about our community and our support and the kids in our program,” Matczak said. “We got a great coaching staff and they come ready to work. And all these kids breaking it down what they needed to do today. And I can’t explain it. It’s fun. We’re going to keep it going.”
KAUKAUNA 35, STOUGHTON 27
113: John Diener K tech. fall Dante Steinmetz 21-6. 120: Tristan Jenny S dec. Mikael Kolosso 20-13. 126: Brandon Micksh K dec. Kaleb Louis 3-1. 132: Brandon Klein S dec. Jacob Schramm DQ. 138: Trent Leon K pinned Luke Spilde 3:07. 145: Cade Spilde S dec. Jacob Canner 9-7. 152: Garrett Model S dec. Zach Lee 9-5 SV-1. 160: Alec Hartman K dec. Trevar Helland 2-1. 170: Tyler Dow S won by forfeit. 182: Bryson Alsteen K major dec. Will Neuenfeld 16-6. 195: Jon Heilman K dec. Gavin Miller 9-3. 220: Mason Van Asten K tech. fall Logan Dykstra 16-0. 285: Keaton Kluever K pinned Aodan Marshall :52. 106: Hunter Lewis S pinned Mason Campshure 2:48.
Ricardo Arguello: 920-993-7191 or email@example.com; on Twitter @PCRicardo