As dominating as Kaukauna was this past weekend, winning seven Fox Valley Association individual championships and its eighth FVA team title in a row, coach Jeff Matczak knows it’s time to hit the reset button.
Wrestling’s second season gets under way at many WIAA regional tournaments on Saturday and, for the Ghosts, it means more than one opportunity exists.
If top-seeded Kaukauna wins its regional, it will move on to the team sectionals on Tuesday, with individual sectionals set for Feb. 16.
“We’ve got a real big task ahead of us in our regional,” Matczak said. “We don’t see all of our teams from the conference, but we see a lot of the same individuals, a few of the teams in the conference.
“We’ll see Kimberly and then we’ll bring in some teams from other areas of the state, so that is going to be a big day for us. The team state tournament starts with winning that. It’s very stressful. Every match counts for advancement points, so we’re really looking forward to it.”
The Ghosts shook off their tournament troubles at the conference meet and Matczak is hoping that leads to bigger things.
“We really needed to have a day like this,” Matczak said following the FVA meet. “The Pulaski Tournament was tough for us. We haven’t had a lot of individual success this season in tournaments. We only had one champion all year and that was Nick Dercks at Pulaski. The kids came out hungry this week.”
One of the Ghosts with much to prove is defending state champion Robert Lee, who won his state title at 113 pounds and took the 126-pound FVA title with a pin of Menasha’s Jimmy Sell, another solid contender to reach state.
Lee almost didn’t make it to the FVA finals after trailing 5-0 in his semifinal to Josh Adams of Fond du Lac before rallying to win 17-9. He knows if he is to repeat his 2012 success at state, he needs to keep improving.
“I need to work on my hand fighting and shots,” Lee said. “I was getting beat on my shots (Saturday). This is just like a learning point for regionals, sectionals and state. I can learn from my mistakes and keep learning from that.”
Teamamte Tres Leon, who placed fifth at state at 106 a year ago, shook off any rust he may have had to win the FVA title at 113 after missing the regular season with a broken right leg.
Among the other FVA wrestlers looking to get back to state is Torren Peebles of Appleton North. Peebles (23-7), who reached the Division 1 consolation bracket last year at 182, won the FVA title at that weight Saturday.
He, too, said he is looking for bigger and better things.
“It’s certainly a great start, but I still have a very long way to go,” Peebles said. “It’s a good launchpad, but there’s still a lot of hard work down the road.”
Still perfect: Chilton/Hilbert’s Austin Hephner, ranked second in Division 2 by Wisconsin Wrestling Online, is also looking to make a return trip to state. Hephner (33-0), who placed second at 182 last year in the state Division 2 meet, won the 195-pound championship at the Olympian Conference meet by defeating Brillion’s William Browning 3-2.
Browning (36-3) lost in the Division 3 state semifinals last year and is ranked second in Division 3.
Friendly foes: Kaukauna’s Justin Kloehn had to go through a tough opponent to win the 138-pound FVA title on Saturday. He beat Fox Valley Elite Wrestling Club practice partner and good friend Bailey Whipple of Menasha 10-4.
“It feels really good,” Kloehn said on Saturday. “Pretty much all week I’ve been looking forward to this match. I knew it was going to be me and Bailey in the finals. It feels good to have won it.
“I’ve got a lot more confidence now. I feel a lot better going into regionals and, hopefully, I can make it to state this year.”
Solid finish: New London completed its best season in years last week by defeating West De Pere 50-24 to finish 6-2 in the Bay Conference to place third overall behind state powers Luxemburg-Casco and Oconto Falls.
Austin Postel is leading the Bulldogs with a 35-3 record.
— Dan Kohn: 920-993-1000, ext. 305, or email@example.com; On Twitter @PCDanKohn