Talk about a make or break week for the Kaukauna wrestling team.
If the Ghosts are to win their eighth straight Fox Valley Association team championship, this week will go a long way in determining that.
Kaukauna defeated Oshkosh West 42-15 on Tuesday night in a makeup dual match and now must face undefeated Oshkosh North on Thursday.
The Ghosts go into the match with the Spartans as the prohibitive favorite.
Kaukauna is ranked No. 1 in the Wisconsin Wrestling Online team rankings and the Ghosts have six wrestlers ranked among the top individuals with another one gaining honorable mention.
Among the ranked Ghosts are junior Ian Gioacchini (eighth at 106 pounds), freshman Ty Lee (12th at 113), junior Bailey VanHandel (11th at 120), sophomore Robert Lee (second at 126), senior Nick Dercks (seventh at 195) and senior Tyler Nelson (fourth at 220). Junior Evan Hietpas earned honorable mention at 138.
“The two Oshkosh schools and us are the top three teams in the conference,” Kaukauna coach Jeff Matczak said Monday night. “We are definitely looking forward to that Thursday matchup, but we have to get by (West).
The Ghosts did that with a convincing win over the Wildcats. In that match, Kaukauna won seven matches by decision, two by pin and one by forfeit in dominating West.
“They never had their full lineup (until Tuesday),” Matczak said of West. “They were close to that at the double duals and looked pretty good.”
Against North, the Ghosts face a Spartans team that dominated Kimberly 45-24 and Appleton West 63-7 in last Thursday’s double dual.
Back in December, both Kaukauna and Oshkosh North won their respective divisions at the Wisconsin Dells duals.
Kaukauna won the top bracket of that tournament, knocking off state power Wausau West 32-30 in the process.
“Every match is important,” VanHandel said. “We have to keep going. Every single match counts.”
VanHandel knows the reason the Ghosts have been successful is because they have put in the time on the mat and in the classroom.
“We have to keep working to stay ahead,” VanHandel said. “You have to keep working every day.”
Focus is also important.
“We can’t look ahead,” Robert Lee said of the key to staying unbeaten this week. “We need to pin them when we are supposed to pin them. We have to get that huge lead.”
Milestone reached: Freedom’s Reed Ambrosius picked up career win No. 100 this past weekend at the Freedom Irish Invitational.
Ambrosius, a senior, is 28-1 on the season.
Opening some eyes: Three area schools are in this week’s Wisconsin Wrestling Online Division 2 team poll. Chilton/Hilbert is 10th, while Freedom and Wrightstown are honorable mention. Two individual wrestlers are ranked No. 1 in their respective weight classes. Senior William Browning of Brillion is tops at 195 pounds in Division 3 with a 30-1 mark, while Ambrosious is No. 1 at 220 pounds in Division 2.
Elite pair: Menasha’s two returning conference champions, Jimmy Sell and Zeek Hooyman, both won championships this past weekend at the Cutler Classic in New London. Sell (24-3) won the 126-pound division, while Hooyman (20-4) won at 220.
Improved Bulldogs: New London, under first-year head coach Bryon Prey, is much improved this season and has six of the Bay Conference’s top wrestlers in Skylar Moderson (19-9 at 106 pounds), Jake Close (16-12 at 120), Austin Wyngaard (17-10 at 145), Andrew Moser (22-6 at 152), Bret Handschke (19-9 at 170) and Austin Postel (25-3 at 182). The Bulldogs were also able to do something that hasn’t been done in quite some time — beat rival Seymour.
–Dan Kohn: 920-993-1000, ext. 305, or firstname.lastname@example.org; On Twitter @PCDanKohn