In at least one statistical category entering this weekend’s WIAA Individual Wrestling State Championships, Random Lake sits at the top.
The Rams are sending nine wrestlers to the Kohl Center in Madison, the most of any program in the state.
“It’s something that’s generating a lot of excitement on the team and in the community,” Random coach John Hatfield said. “It was well-earned by these guys, a lot of them had to wrestleback for that third-place (spot at sectionals).”
Three Rams wrestlers — sophomore Jon Mudlaff (106 pounds, 44-4), junior Brandon Depies (120, 40-10) and senior Brady Schmidt (138, 32-9) — won sectional titles, setting them up with a first-round bye at State and Thursday night off.
“It’s big for all three,” Hatfield said. “Brandon had to beat (Ozaukee’s) Cole Large, who he’s been going back-and-forth with this season, and Brady had to beat (Ozaukee’s) Logan Smith, who took third at State last year.
“Those two were very big matches. You take two similarly matched kids, both those guys wrestled the best they had all year. It’s a great thing to be peaking at this time of year.”
Six of Random’s contingent will hit the mat Thursday, including junior Jacob Behn (24-10) at 145, who was helped out by a last-second win in sectionals.
“He had to come back in the last 10 seconds of his first match (at sectionals),” Hatfield explained. “He hit a takedown right at the end of the third period, and won by one point. From there, he just had a great tournament. It’s great to see him make the most of that opportunity and get himself down (to Madison).”
Also opening Thursday will be senior Kohl Sanders (113, 22-9), junior Trent Gottsacker (126, 41-8), junior Zak Stepniewski (132, 26-7), junior Adam Risse (170, 31-6) and junior Jesse Verbanac (182, 37-12).
“The Thursday night matches, those are tough,” Hatfield said.
With so many state qualifiers for the individual tournament, the Rams will also reap benefits for next weekend’s team state tournament, where they will face Lancaster in the semifinals.
“It’s definitely a good thing,” Hatfield said. “It’s tough on a team when the team goes two weeks (without competing). It kind of feels like a (college football) bowl game, where you just practice, practice, practice. This keeps us focused with high-level wrestling.
“It’s an exciting time of year. The conference is well-represented. It makes it fun being down there and seeing kids that you know. When they’re not wrestling us we become their fans.”