It’s possible that someone who walked into the Two Rivers high school gym on Saturday could have mistaken the finals of the Eastern Wisconsin Conference tournament for a TR home dual meet.
As the competitors for the conference championship matches were announced, 10 Raiders wrestlers lined the mat.
Of Two Rivers’ finalists, seven of them placed first and, in doing so, helped the Raiders to their third straight conference tournament championship.
At 106 pounds, Two Rivers’ Tyler Domnitz fell to Alex Costello (Campbellsport) 8-2.
Paul Bianchi (113) was the first TR wrestler to pick up a conference title, pinning Bennett Marchant of Campbellsport in 1:11.
Ty Pelot (120) followed suit winning by decision over Kiel’s Tanner Woepse.
At 126, Brandon Holmes kept things rolling for the Raiders. He topped Ryan McGinnes (Sheboygan Falls) 6-2.
Another weight class brought another win for Two Rivers. Cody Yauch (132) pinned Kewaskum’s Andy Pryor in 4:44.
138 pounds was one of the afternoon’s marquee matchups. The Raiders’ Chris Yauch squared off with Alex Fitzgerald of Sheboygan Falls. Yauch entered the match ranked No. 2 in Division 2 at 138 in the Wisconsin Wrestling Online rankings. Fitzgerald was No. 4.
Fitzgerald took a 2-0 lead after the first period.
In the second, Yauch earned an escape and scored a takedown of his own to grab a 3-2 edge heading into the final period.
The turning point of the match came early in the third as Yauch reversed Fitzgerald and then scored two nearfall.
“(I was) just hoping to get a reversal and come out on top,” Yauch said of his plan heading into the final period. “He kind of slowed down after that and I basically just played off of that.”
Yauch went on to win the match 7-3.
The junior wrestler also set the Two Rivers single-season takedown record during the match, racking up his 115th takedown of the season.
Chandler Donati lost a close match to New Holstein’s Cole Fritsch at 152 pounds. Donati fell 7-5 in a tiebreaker.
The championship match at 182 pounds was another top-tier tilt. The Raiders’ Bobby Geiger went toe-to-toe with Aaron Field (Kiel). Geiger is ranked No. 3 in D2 at his weight and Field is No. 5.
Geiger got the better of Field, pinning him in 2:41.
This marked the third time this season the pair has crossed paths. Geiger emerged the victor all three times.
After the awards ceremony, the pair, who train together outside of school, had a brief, friendly exchange about possibly meeting at the state tournament.
“He said ‘hopefully he’d beat me there,” Geiger said. “I hope I see him at State. It was a fun match wrestling him. He’s a good wrestler and it’s always a good match.”
Top-seeded Scott Skornicka pinned Sheboygan Falls’ Dustin Setzer in 4:34 to claim the individual crown at 195.
“I think we established ourself where we wanted to be at this point,” Two Rivers head coach Paul Gehrke said. “We came out and were pretty aggressive and accomplished most of our goals in the conference.”
Matt Halverson pinned Kyle Behrandt (Two Rivers) in 27 seconds to give Kiel an individual champion at 285 pounds. It was the first EWC title for the senior.
“It feels good. It’s a good thing to get a win. I haven’t got one yet. It feels nice,” Halverson said. “It’s a lot of preparation, a lot of hard work, a lot ache, but it’s all worth it.”
Kiel head coach Eric Billman appreciated that he and his assistant coach were able to share a special moment with their wrestler.
“For a kid like Matt who has…a boatload of accolades in wrestling, to finally get that conference title, it’s pretty cool,” Billman said. “The cool part is: we were a part of it.”
Kiel placed sixth in the team standings.
With the conference tournament come and gone, teams now turn their attention to the state tournament series, which begins with regionals Saturday.
“I’m thinking that we have a chance to send six or seven guys onto our sectional,” Billman said. “If we can get through regionals, some our guys can get to State. Our goal is to see three guys get to the state tournament. We will do what we can do to get them down there. Once we’re down there, anything can happen.”
Halverson hopes to stand atop the podium at the state tournament.
“A state championship, nothing less,” Halverson said. “That’s my goal.”
Two Rivers, the fourth-ranked team in Division 2, also has big plans for the postseason. It starts with regionals at Sturgeon Bay on Saturday. The tournament will feature third-ranked and returning Division 2 state champion Luxemburg-Casco
“I want to come first out of regionals and I want the team to finally beat (Luxemburg) Casco so we can get our state title,” Geiger said.
Gehrke hopes his team’s impressive showing on Saturday will help put his wrestlers in the right mindset moving forward.
“I just hope they gained some more confidence,” Gehrke said. “The camaraderie is always there and they are always there for each other, but I think confidence for certain individuals is going to help pay off next week when we really need to keep the team focused on beating, what looks like, Luxemburg (Casco) at our regional.”
Team scores: Two Rivers 246, Sheboygan Falls 170, Kewaskum 131, Campbellsport 92, New Holstein 88, Kiel 75, Plymouth 68.5, Waupun 58