The 2015-16 wrestling season is one week old, and already a handful of teams are starting to show they mean business.
At the Schoenherr Duals in Stratford last Saturday, 10 — yes, 10 — wrestlers went 5-0 and another went 2-0 as the Tigers won all five matches to easily win their home dual tournament.
Over in Black River Falls, Nekoosa/Port Edwards had three individual champions and the won the team title in the field of eight, while third-place finisher Adams-Friendship had four winners, including a freshman.
The other big tournament of the opening weekend on the mat was the Kaukauna Duals, where Stevens Point Area Senior High finished second to defending Division 1 state champion Kaukauna. The Panthers had four wrestlers go 4-0 and won their duals leading up to the final with ease.
Though the season has just started, it’s clear some teams and individuals already are wrestling at mid-season form. Here are some things to watch in this year’s wrestling season in central Wisconsin:
1. Eye of the Tigers: Stratford rules in D3
Stratford was the talk of Kohl Center in the Division 3 competition during last year’s Championship Saturday. The Tigers had four champions, two freshmen and a pair of sophomores. At 106 pounds and 113 pounds, respectively, freshmen AJ Schoenfuss and Jeremy Schoenherr dominated their weight classes, as did sophomore Mason Kauffman, who happens to be the only undefeated returning state champion from the area, winning at 126 pounds a year ago. By the time fellow sophomore Kam Bornbach took to the mat at 182 pounds, there was just a little pressure to not be shown up by his lighter teammates. Bornbach didn’t disappoint, as he beat Shiocton’s Henry Fielding for the second straight week to cap Stratford’s most successful individual state tournament. The Tigers also reached the Division 3 team sectional championship before falling to perennial power Coleman in a very competitive dual meet. Keep an eye on Stratford; they’re certainly a team to watch.
2. Raiders’ return?: Wisconsin Rapids returns four state qualifiers
Wisconsin Rapids reclaimed the Wisconsin Valley Conference title last year after Merrill (2014) and Wausau West (2013) got their licks in. The Raiders return four state qualifiers, including state champion Brock Benitz, who won at 152 pounds last year. Rapids was pushed by SPASH, which also returns four state qualifiers. Twins Dylan Koontz and Brady Koontz both were medalists a year ago, finishing fifth and sixth, respectively. The Panthers competed in the Division 1 team sectional for the first time in program history a year ago and the Raiders returned to team state for the first time since 2012, falling in the semifinals.
3. The big boys:Heavyweights who win
August Peplinski and Alex Peplinski of Wittenberg-Birnamwood; Kaleb Kaminski and Dane Borchardt of Tomahawk; and Cole Warzynski of Almond-Bancroft/Pacelli all made a splash as underclassmen in tough weight classes. Despite being light for the 220-pound division, Borchardt was the class of the weight class, winning three straight matches including a 3-2 win in the Division 2 finals to claim the title. Warzynski won two matches by pin, including in the championship match. The Charger wrestlers gave their team a runner-up finish, August (195) was second and Alex (171) was fourth, while Kaminski placed fourth at 182.
4: In the mix: Other wrestlers to watch
Spencer won the dual meet portion of the Cloverbelt Conference title, but finished second to Stanley-Boyd/Owen-Withee in the tournament, missing out on winning the outright league title. Keep an eye on the Rockets as they return three state qualifiers Bryce Shaw (106), Tim Bauer (132) and Hunter Luepke (195), who is coming off an outstanding football season. Wittenberg-Birnamwood, a state team qualifier in 2014, lost to Freedom in the team sectional and will look to get back to the UW-Fieldhouse the first weekend in March.
RETURNING STATE MEDALISTS
(Weights, records, place from 2014-15)
106: Brady Koontz, SPASH, jr., 49-7, 6th D1; AJ Schoenfuss, Stratford, soph, 46-2, 1st D3
113: Dylan Koontz, SPASH, jr., 48-6, 5th D1; Trenton McManus, Adams-Friendship, sr., 16-3, 3rd D2; Jeremy Schoenherr, Stratford, soph, 42-2, 1st D3; Bryce Shaw, Spencer, soph., 28-21, 6th D3
120: Patrick Spray, Wis. Rapids, sr., 48-6, 4th D1; Jordan Server, Nekoosa/Port Edwards, jr., 42-5, 3rd D2
126: Mason Kauffman, Stratford, jr., 49-0, 1st D3
132: Stetson Rueth, Neillsville/Greenwood/Loyal, jr., 37-11, 6th D2
152: Brock Benitz, Wisconsin Rapids, sr., 48-5, 1st D1
170: Alex Peplinski, Wittenberg-Birnamwood, jr., 47-6, 5th D2
182: Kaleb Kaminski, Tomahawk, sr., 49-2, 4th D2; Kam Bornbach, Stratford, jr., 41-3, 1st D3
195: Josh Lang, Marshfield, sr., 32-7, 4th D1; August Peplinski, Wittenberg-Birnamwood, 51-2, 2nd D2
220: Dane Borchardt, Tomahawk, sr., 49-1, 1st D2
285: Cole Warzynski, Almond-Bacroft/Pacelli, sr., 47-3, 1st D3
Wisconsin Valley: Dual, Wisconsin Rapids; Tournament, Wisconsin Rapids
Marawood: Dual, Stratford; Tournament, Stratford
CWC: Dual, Wittenberg-Birnamwood; Tournament, Witt-Birn
South Central: Dual, Westfield; Tournament, Westfield
Cloverbelt: Dual, Spencer; Tournament, Stanley-Boyd/Owen-Withee
Great Northern: Rhinelander