AMHERST – Through seven matches of the sectional final Tuesday night, things couldn’t have gone much better for the Stratford High School wrestling team.
The No. 1 Tigers won five of the first seven, including four by pin, and had a 22-point lead on second-ranked Coleman.
Then the Cougars started their comeback. Heading into the final match of the night, Stratford was clinging to a two-point lead. Coleman senior CJ Pillath recorded a pin in 3 minutes, 59 seconds to secure a 35-31 victory over Stratford, sending the Wildcats to the WIAA state team tournament for the 13th time. Coleman will take on unranked Fennimore in a Division 3 state semifinal on March 7 at the UW Fieldhouse in Madison.
In the semifinal matches, Straford beat Amherst 51-30 and Coleman downed Crandon 48-33.
Stratford’s David Marquardt and Coleman’s Marc Lansin compete at 145 pounds during the division 3 team sectional final dual meet at Amherst High School, Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015.
Coleman has won four of the past five D3 championships and was the runner-up in 2013. The Tigers were gunning for their first team tournament appearance since 2004.
“It’s tough to end your team season this way,” Stratford coach Joe Schwabe said. “We kind of figured whoever wins this was going to be state champs, so we knew what was on the line. A couple pivotal things happened, and they got the win.
“They did a good job pinning and got some major decisions, and they had six seniors wrestling tonight and we had just two.”
Past championship experience paid off for the Cougars, who overcame a 28-6 deficit. The draw weight of 285 played right into Stratford’s strength, their lightweights.
“Coming in we knew this would be a close match either way,” Coleman coach Kevin Casper said. “Stratford’s lightweights are dominant, and we knew they would get a big lead. We just had to weather the storm. We knew we’d get our points, but I was surprised we got as many pins as we did.”
Coleman started its run of five straight wins by getting major decisions from Marc Lansin (145) and Kevin Lansin (152). Josh Pillath (160) and Alex Stodola (170) notched pins to close the gap to 28-26 with three matches to go.
When CJ Pillath stepped onto the mat, all he had to do was win and his team would be state-bound. And his experience carried him through.
“My sophomore year against Edgar it came down to my match, so I had been in this position before,” Pillath said. “I don’t think the dual came down to my match. Alex (Stodola) and Collin (Kempka) had big wins that, if we didn’t get them, we don’t win the dual.”
Stratford, which lost a dual for the first time all season, finished at 20-1, while Coleman improved to 15-1.
“I’m proud of how we came out and fought tonight,” Stratford senior Hunter Kauffman said. “We showed a lot of heart, and I’m proud of the younger guys. The match didn’t come down to the last match. A lot of little things added up.”
285: Hunter Kauffman (ST) def. Donovan Salewski (C), 11-2. 106: Jake Drexler (ST) pinned Devin Schulte (C), 1:04. 113: AJ Schoenfuss (ST) pinned Derick Teteak (C), 2:31. 120: Jordan Blanchard (C) def. Jeremy Schoenherr (ST), 5-3. 126: Anthony Gliniecki (ST) pinned Conner Kasal (C), :46. 132: Jensyn Schall (C) def. Sam Wenzel (ST), 12-6. 138: Mason Kauffman (ST) pinned Brandon Champagne (C), :49. 145: Marc Lansin (C) def. David Marquardt (ST), 13-5. 152: Kevin Lansin (C) def. Kyle Giebel (ST), 17-5. 160: Josh Pillath (C) pinned Kyle Martin (ST), 1:14. 170: Alex Stodola (C) pinned Taylor Krall (ST), 1:50. 182: Collin Kempka (C) def. Aiden Hoffman (ST), 2-0. 195: Kam Bornbach (ST) def. Hunter Stodola (C), 9-3. 220: CJ Pillath (C) pinned Ethan Fabry (ST), 3:59.
220: Hunter Kauffman (ST) pinned Dylan Kearney (A), 2:52. 285: Jon Aguirre (ST) pinned Chris Thomas (A), 3:38. 106; Jake Drexler (ST) def. Davie Rieck (A), 8-2. 113: Dilan Dehlinger (ST) pinned Luke Wright (A), 1:30. 120: Anthony Gliniecki (ST) pinned Robert Johannes (A), :35. 126: Jordan Becker (ST) pinned Daniel Zachman (A), :53. 132: Mason Kauffman (ST) pinned Cole Mackenzie (A), :13. 138: Sam Wenzel (ST) pinned Grant Krogwold (A), 2:30. 145: Mark Handrick (ST) won by forfeit. 152: James Borgen (A) won by forfeit. 160: Bryce Holderman (A) won by forfeit.170: Gavin Sneller (A) won by forfeit. 182: Ethan Sneller (A) won by forfeit. 195: Max Villnow (A) won by forfeit.
Mark Massoglia can be reached at 715-423-7200, ext. 6736. Follow him on Twitter @markmazzy.