Today is the most important day for individual wrestlers with state championship aspirations.
A misfire at any of today’s statewide sectional tournaments will result in a disappointing end to the season. And there will be celebration as well as disappointments today.
There are no guarantees. A trip or even a medal last season doesn’t not ensure a spot in this year’s field.
Nine local wrestlers reached the award podium last February, including state champions Colin Baine of Wausau West and Edgar’s Luke Nowak.
Both are ranked No. 1 in their respecitive weight classes, 126 and 182, and undefeated as well. Should Baine reign supreme next Saturday he will be the Warriors’ first two-time state champion, while Nowak would be the Wildcats’ fifth to win two titles.
Edgar returns more medalists than any school in the area with four, while the Warriors return a total of three place-winners.
Merrill’s Mason Reinhardt was fifth at 145 pounds a year ago and is the top-ranked wrestler at 160 pounds. Two other Bluejays are vying for a return trips to the big show.
Neillsville/Greenwood/Loyal had a trio of place-winners last season, but return just one, senior Philip Opelt who finished fifth at 113 pounds last season and is currently No. 2 and 42-1 at 126 pounds in Division 2.
All of the above were regional champions, which makes the trip to state somewhat easier, but finishing second, or even third or fourth in the case of Division 1, doesn’t make a state berth out of the question . It’s just a little tougher.
The Stevens Point Area Senior High wrestlers didn’t have a regional champion, but have several boys who could find a way to the Kohl Center.
Wisconsin Valley Conference champion Kolten Pope was the regional runner-up and could get another shot at Wausau East’s Nick Diny, who edged him in the final.
Teammate Mitch Mallek was the top seed coming into the WVC tournament, but was upset in the semifinals by Merrill’s Ben Hintze. The Bluejay has a 2-1 season edge on Mallek, who will be gunning for another rematch in the 182-pound finals.
And perennial power Wisconsin Rapids is in a much different position this year. The Raiders return just one state qualifier in senior 138-pounder Ben Campbell, who finished second at the Appleton North regional.
Rapids’ four regional champions, Patrick Spray (106), Matrix Jisko (113), Jordan Scalice (132) and Beau Thompson (195) are all either ranked or honorable mention according to the wisconsinwrestlingonline.com web site and are sitting a good position to advance to state.
The Nekoosa/Port Edwards wrestlers had four champs at the Wittenberg-Birnamwood regional, Clay Lieber (106), Ben Ayres (138), Jimmy Masonick (160) and Dylan Bauer at 220.
The Papermakers are in the tough Seymour sectional, but are set up to get a good number through to Madison.
WIAA INDIVIDUAL SECTIONALS
At Marshfield, 10 a.m.: Marshfield, Merrill, D.C. Everest, SPASH, Wausau East, Wausau West.
At DePere, 11 a.m.: Wisconsin Rapids.
At Richland Center, 10 a.m.: Adams-Friendship.
At Somerset, 11 a.m.: Abbotsford/Colby, Medford, Neillsville/Greenwood/Loyal, Stanley-Boyd/Owen-Withee/Thorp.
At Symour, 10:30 a.m.: Almond-Bancroft/Pacelli, Mosinee, Nekoosa/Port Edwards, Tomhawk, Wittenberg-Birnamwood.
At Shawano, 10:30 a.m.: Athens, Amherst, Auburndale, Marathon, Spencer, Stratford, Edgar, Rosholt, Tri-County.