Down four points and with its best wrestler on the mat in the evening’s final match, the Kaukauna wrestling team was hoping for the best on Saturday at the WIAA Division 1 state team wrestling tournament.
Ghosts sophomore Robert Lee did indeed defeat his opponent, Wausau West’s Hunter Kuehl, 5-1 at 120 pounds, but wasn’t able to get the needed major decision to tie or tech fall/pin to win as Wausau West held on to a 28-27 victory over the Ghosts to claim its second title in school history.
“This time we were right there,” Kaukauna coach Jeff Matczak said. “I couldn’t have drawn up a better scenario.”
The Ghosts, who advanced to the final with a 49-15 victory over Sauk Prairie in the morning semifinal, had been in this position before as state runner-up in 2000, 2003 and 2008, but never in a position where it came down to the final match.
The match started with the 126-pound weight class and Kaukauna rallied from a 25-4 deficit after Wausau West won six of the first seven matches.
The Ghosts, however, knew their strengths against the Warriors were in their bigs and in the lighter weights. And Kaukauna made its move at 182, with Vince Zornow’s 11-4 decision over Kyle Zimick. That decision started a run of Kaukauna victories as the Ghosts claimed wins in six of the next seven matches.
Nick Dercks (195, 1-0), Tyler Nelson (220, 2-0) recorded wins by decision for the Ghosts, with Tres Leon (106) getting a pin at 1:06 over Bee Lor and Bailey Van Handel getting a tech fall over Wausau West’s Alex Burk 16-0 at 113 the other major to spark that run.
Even as Kaukauna rallied, Wausau West coach Troy Fabry said the Zimick loss was critical because Zimick recorded a late escape that dropped the victory from a major decision (four points) to a decision (three points).
West also won the Division 1 title in 2008 with a win over Kaukauna.
“It came down to bonus points at the end of the match and Zemick’s late escape to get a point was big,” Fabry said. “We said it all year. It’s about 14 guys. You wrestle for each other and not as an individual and you can do amazing things. We had 14 guys that came out and wrestled tonight. They had the vision and they ended up on top today.
“We have a ton of respect for Kaukauna. They’re a well-coached team and they’re a young team and they’re tough. We faced them earlier in the year and we had a heck of a dual at (Wisconsin Dells). They came out ahead there 32-30.”
VanHandel’s tech fall pulled Kaukauna to within 28-24, setting up the matchup between Lee, a two-time state qualifier, and the Warriors’ Hunter Kuehl.
Lee controlled the match from the start, but Kuehl was able to deftly avoid giving up any more points and avoid the major decision.
“That’s our horse,” Matczak said of Lee. “Coming here and losing a few times … but when you have your best wrestler on the mat with four points (to score) and after you see Tres Leon get the pin and Bailey VanHandel get the tech, all of a sudden you’re like, ‘Boy, oh boy!’ That’s an unbelievable position (to be in). We’ve never been in that position.”
Dercks said that the way the match ended was tough to take.
“I think we knew it was going to be a close match, but just how close it was and how the match ended was just tough,” he said. “I think everyone tried their hardest and gave it their best. We just didn’t come out on top today.”
WAUSAU WEST 28, KAUKAUNA 27
126: Colin Baine WW won by tech. fall over Kolton Jansen 16-1; 132: Joe Umlauf WW major dec. over Evan Hietpas 13-3; 138: Justin Kloehn K major dec. over Tanner Baine 10-0; 145: Ben Kostroski WW dec. Zach Frassetto 6-1; 152: Travis Hettinga WW pinned Tanner VandenHeuvel 3:57; 160: Jared Mataczynski WW dec. Zach Shukoski 7-2; 170: Cody Grunenwald WW major dec. over Nick Agen 12-3; 182: Vince Zornow KAU dec. Kyle Zimick 11-4; 195: Nick Dercks K dec. Jake Whalen 1-0; 220: Tyler Nelson K dec. River Judd 2-0; 285: Ryan Fay WW dec. Will Russum 5-1; 106: Tres Leon pinned Bee Lor 1:06; 113: Bailey VanHandel K won by tech. fall over Alex Burk 16-0; 120: Robert Lee dec. Hunter Kuehl 5-1.
KAUKAUNA 49, SAUK PRAIRIE 15
120: Robert Lee K pinned Aaron Hankins 3:47; 126: Kolton Jansen K pinned Kyle Herbrand 4:33; 132: Evan Hietpas K major dec. over Luke Vils 11-2; 138: Justin Kloehn K pinned Austin Fjoser 2:51; 145: Zach Frassetto K dec. Austin Powell 4-1; 152: Brandon Sprecher SP pinned Tanner VandenHeuvel 4:20; 160: Zach Shukoski dec. Chris Chrisler 5-0; 170: Jared Schaaf SP dec. Nick Agen 9-7; 182: Vince Zornow K pinned Gage Neumeier 3:29; 195: Caleb Sisbach SP dec. Nick Dercks 2-1; 220: Tyler Nelson K dec. Gavin Halverson 7-2; 285: Will Russum K pinned Zach Niemi 3:18; 106: Tres Leon K pinned Alec Bader 3:05; 113: Eddie Smith SP dec. Ian Gioacchini 6-0.
— Ricardo Arguello: 920-993-1000, ext. 558, or firstname.lastname@example.org; On Twitter @PCRicardo