The cold recesses of the Kohl Center were a somewhat dangerous place to be early Thursday evening.
That’s where Neenah’s Mitchell Ledwith hurled his 220-pound body this way and that, giving out high-fives and hugs to anybody who came within his personal space in celebration of his improbable 5-4 victory over Lucas Stromberg-Windau in a WIAA Division 1 state quarterfinal match at 220.
The Rockets senior was one of three area wrestlers to advance to the D1 semifinals, with Kaukauna’s duo of Tres Leon and Robert Lee advancing at 106 and 120, respectively.
Ledwith (35-1) rallied late in the third period with a takedown to notch the victory over Stromberg-Windau (42-5).
Ledwith faces Merrill’s Tyler Schmidt (41-0) today in the semifinals, which begin at 7 p.m., with Tres Leon (12-0) taking on Milton’s Nolan Shea (36-5) and Robert Lee squaring off against Wauwatosa West/East’s Zach Miller (41-5).
“I told myself with one minute left that I wasn’t going to lose so I took a little bit of a risk,” Ledwith said “I took a shot across his body and ended up finishing it. I just had the confidence right there in the end to finish it through.”
Once Ledwith got Stromberg-Windau on the takedown, it was up to him to ride out the win.
“I’m thinking ‘Just finish and make sure he stays down and keep him down,’ ” Ledwith said. “I got a wing up so he couldn’t get up and I just sat on top of him the last 15 seconds.”
Neenah first-year coach Ryan Peterson said that finishing well is something he and the Rockets coaching staff has been working on with Ledwith, in part to take advantage of the senior’s superior conditioning.
“We’ve been talking the last month or so about winning matches when you can,” Peterson said. “His conditioning is real high and we’re looking to get guys in the third period. What we may lack in technique, we make up in athleticism.
“We knew that (Stromberg-Windau) would get tired in the third period and we pressed on and got a good takeout to finish it.”
Ledwith’s preliminary match was also a tight contest, as he outlasted Badger’s Robert Johnson 1-0.
“That’s another thing we’ve been working with Mitch is just to settle in his game,” Peterson said. “Early in the season, he got rattled a little bit if there was a close match. He would make mistakes. I would tell him to ‘Settle down, everything’s good.’
“With that being said, he just has to wrestle within himself and his style and beat kids when we need to beat them.”
Ledwith will have to be at his absolute best today as he squares off against Schmidt (45-0). Schmidt pinned Union Grove’s Cole Ryan in one minute, 16 seconds and Menasha’s Zeek Hooyman in 2:33 to advance to today’s semifinal.
“I told him before the match, ‘Hey, let’s take the easy way and we can rest tomorrow morning,’ ” Peterson said. “The semifinals is where we want to be and gives us a chance to get on the podium, no matter where we land now, and that was the goal coming down here, was to place down here.”
Winning his first two matches was important to Ledwith.
“Those first two, I wanted to win and this is one of the greatest moments of my life right now,” Ledwith said. “I’m so happy.”
— Ricardo Arguello: 920-993-1000, ext. 558, or firstname.lastname@example.org; On Twitter @PCRicardo