HORTONVILLE – Keaton Kluever has skills to match his size, and the Kaukauna big man came up huge for the Ghosts on Thursday night.
Wrestling a crucial match at 285 pounds, the sophomore showed poise and power by delivering a clutch pin to seal a hard-earned 34-29 Fox Valley Association wrestling win over a quality Hortonville team.
The two-time defending Division 1 state champion Ghosts led 22-21 with four matches remaining when Kluever stepped onto the mat to face a good opponent in Jacob Stein. The Ghosts knew they would pick up a forfeit win at 113 in one of the remaining matches, and Kluever was well aware he would ice a Kaukauna win with a pin. He also understood that Hortonville would likely win the match if he lost.
Compounding the pressure situation for Kluever was the memory of an 8-1 loss to Stein last season in a regular-season dual meet. It took Kluever just 1:29 to even the score with Stein and secure the match for the Ghosts.
“He beat me pretty soundly last year,” said Kluever. “I just wanted to go out there and win for the team and I thought I had to pin him to cinch it. I got him in a headlock and threw him on the edge of the mat and got him. This is definitely one of my biggest wins.”
Kluever was a state individual meet qualifier as a freshman and is rated fourth among Division 1 wrestlers at 285 in the Wisconsin Wrestling Online state individual rankings. Stein is ranked 13th.
“This is going to help with seedings for the conference tournament,” said Kluever. “That’s a guy (Stein) who is going to be competing for a conference championship along with me and another guy.”
Kaukauna is ranked No. 1 in Division 1 in the WWO team rankings and the Ghosts have dominated FVA meets for years, but the Polar Bears gave them all they could handle.
“It’s great to be challenged, but we have a long way to go to get to where we want to be,” said Kaukauna coach Jeff Matczak. “Rankings mean absolutely diddly. We’re not interested in that at all.
“If the state championships were today, I’d feel real bad for the state of Wisconsin if we were the best team. It wouldn’t say much for us. We’re not there. We’re not even close to the caliber of team we were the last two years. But I’m not pointing fingers or saying anything bad about my kids. I love every one of them. We’re just flat-out not there yet.”
The Ghosts (2-0 FVA) received decisions from Ty Lee at 126, Zach Lee (145), Drew Krepline (170) and Mason VanAsten (6-0). Ty Lee won an 8-4 decision over returning state qualifier Jake Barnett, while Zach Lee claimed an 8-2 decison over highly regarded Nathan Lichtfuss.
Returning state qualifier Trent Leon won an impressive 12-1 major decision over 2015 state qualifier Curtis Diedrich, while the Ghosts also received a pin at 182 from Zach Frasetto.
“Hortonville is good,” said Matczak. “They put some moves on us that just flattened us. I hope we get to wrestle them again. The only way that could happen would be at the state tournament because we come out of different sectionals. That would be awesome.”
Hortonville (1-1 FVA) received pins from Joe Cliver (152) , Elliott Luker (160) and Michael Hills (195). Cliver and Luker are returning state qualifiers.
“I have mixed emotions,” said Hortonville coach Chris Gennrich. “I’m not going to beat around the bush. We thought we could win. We came in here expecting to win. I wouldn’t want to have a team take that mat that didn’t believe we could win.
“That’s a great wrestling team over there. Our guys battled hard and we wrestled well. There isn’t much I could have changed. We were a guy short at 113. Is this a good loss? I would think this could be one. If there was any doubt in their minds about where we we think we can go this year, I hope that erased it because we slugged it out and went toe to toe with the best team in the state.”
KAUKAUNA 34, HORTONVILLE 29
126: Ty Lee K dec. Jacob Barnett 8-4. 132: Jordan Cheslock H dec. Trevor Paris 5-0. 138: Trent Leon K major dec. Curtis Diedrich 12-1. 145: Zach Lee K dec. Nathan Lichtfuss 8-2. 152: Joe Cliver H pinned Jacob Canner :34. 160: Elliot Luker H pinned Alec Hartman 3:44. 170: Drew Krepline K dec. Brad Conger 14-7. 182: Zach Frassetto K pinned Kirkland Hills :28. 195: Michael Hills H pinned John Heilman 3:50. 220: Mason VanAsten K dec. Jack Huebner 6-0. 285: Keaton Kluever K pinned Jacob Stein 1:28. 106: Eric Barnett H tech. fall over John Diener 16-0. 113: Brandon Micksh K won by forfeit. 120: Collin Schuler H dec. Jacob Schramm 2-0.
Tim Froberg: 920-993-1000, ext. 423, or firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @twfroberg