Mid-February marks the beginning of the end of the prep wrestling season.
For many wrestlers, regionals mark the end of the road. For a fortunate few, it’s the beginning of something special.
On Saturday, 10 area wrestlers at the WIAA Division 2 regional tournament in Valders took their first step toward the WIAA Individual State Wrestling Tournament.
The team with the most points advanced to team sectionals on Tuesday and the top two individuals at each weight class advanced to individual sectionals Saturday in Seymour.
Host Valders had five wrestlers, including three champions, move on to individual sectionals.
Luke Oltmanns pinned Christian Bradley (Manitowoc Lutheran/Roncalli) in 2:46 to claim the regional title at 113 pounds.
Bradley also advanced to sectionals defeating St. Lawrence Seminary’s Joseph Mortell by rule in the second place match. Bradley defeated Mortell by technical fall in the semifinals.
“Christian has been on something of a hot streak for the last month or so,” Manitowoc Lutheran/Roncalli head coach Paul Schweigl said. “He started the season pretty slow and, at some point, he just kind of flipped a switch. He’s really wrestled well the last month, month and a half.”
Bradley believes the momentum he has gained in recent weeks helped put his mind where it needed to be in order for him to succeed.
“That’s definitely a factor. The recent success was definitely helpful,” Bradley said. “If you go in with the wrong attitude, you’re going to lose. I just went out there and wrestled like I’ve been wrestling. It’s been a good day.”
The Vikings’ Trevor Wittmus (152) pinned the co-op’s Ben Kiel in the championship match to give Valders their second regional champ. The sophomore wrestler has been chasing a regional title since he finished second at regionals a year ago.
“I think I wrestled really well. I pinned my way through the bracket,” Wittmus said. “Last year I took second, so I was coming here to get first this year.”
Brandon Brennan (195) won by fall in the championship match over Dustin Setzer of Sheboygan Falls to advance.
The Vikings’ remaining sectional qualifiers earned their slot by virtue of a wrestle back. Mulugeta Lehman (126) knocked off Alex Stubbe (Lutheran/Roncalli) 11-6 in the second-place match to punch his ticket to sectionals.
Matthew Pekarske followed suit at 132, pinning Eduardo Leon (St. Lawrence Seminary) in 3:45 in their second place match.
Valders head coach Andrew Miller was pleased to see his freshman wrestler rise to the occasion.
“Days like this are always an emotional roller coaster. He lost his semifinal match, but was able to string together two straight wins to get to sectionals,” Miller said. “That’s really cool anytime you see a freshman or a young guy step up and make that happen.”
Valders finished second behind Sheboygan Falls in the team race. Though the Vikings didn’t advance to team sectionals, Miller knows there is still plenty of work to be done.
“I think anytime you qualify for a sectional tournament, the lights are on you, the pressure is on you,” Miller said. “Most of the time, the guys respond in the room. This week, the game plan is to get that extra conditioning in and tone it down before that sectional meet come next Saturday.”
Kiel finished the day with four individual champions.
In the 120 pound championship match, Tanner Woepse pinned Sheboygan Falls’ Ryan McGinnes in 5:21. Woepse was the Eastern Wisconsin Conference runner up at 120 last weekend.
“I feel I wrestled OK. I was sick during the week,” Woepse said. “I stepped up and just fought through it.”
Ben Mannenbach (126) won by major decision in his first-place match, topping Alemayehu Lehman of Valders 13-3.
“I thought Ben Mannenbach wrestled very well. It seemed like he finally put it all together and if there was one day to do it, today was the day to do it,” Kiel head coach Eric Billman said. “Hopefully he can put it all together next week.”
In the 182 pound championship match, Aaron Field pinned Eric Klemme (Sheboygan Falls) in 3:01, while Matt Halverson (285) did the same in his match, winning by fall over Jacob Lorenz (Sheboygan Falls) in 1:21.
“They wrestled really well,” Billman said. “It just keeps getting more and more intense and more and more fun. The higher the stakes, the more fun it is.”
Team results: Sheboygan Falls, 241, Valders 184.5, Chilton/Hilbert 180, Kiel 127, Manitowoc Lutheran/Roncalli 85.5, St. Lawrence Seminary 71