KAUKAUNA – Ian Laatsch had a short and not-so-sweet sectional in 2016.
He was a one-and-done wrestler, losing in the first round.
Much can change in a year and the Appleton North sophomore had a far more exhilarating sectional experience Saturday.
Laatsch qualified for the WIAA state individual tournament for the first time by winning the 138-pound weight class at the Kaukauna Division 1 sectional.
The top two finishers in each weight class advanced to state, which starts Thursday at the Kohl Center.
Laatsch (39-5) punched his ticket to Madison with a hard-earned 4-2 decision in the championship round over Hortonville’s Nathan Lichtfuss.
“It’s really special,” said Laatsch. “Losing in the first round last year kind of sucked. This feels great. I’ve worked so hard to get to state and I’ve finally made it.”
Laatsch is ranked fifth in the Wisconsin Wrestling Online Division 1 state rankings — one spot below Lichtfuss. The two have been battling it out all season. Laatsch had a 3-1 overtime win over Lichtfuss at the conference tournament, but Lichtfuss came back with a 4-3 victory over Laatsch in the finals of last Saturday’s Kaukauna regional.
“I just been practicing super hard with my coaches, working on all my shots, working on everything every day,” said Laatsch. “I try to be aggressive out there and take as many shots as I can, outsides, singles, doubles.”
Three-time defending state champion Kaukauna had seven state qualifiers, led by sectional champions Brandon Micksh (120), Trent Leon (132), Bryson Alsteen (170) and Keaton Kluever (285). John Diener (113), Zach Lee (152) and Mason VanAsten (220) also moved on to Madison with second-place showings.
Micksh (36-7) delivered a takedown in overtime to edge Ashwaubenon’s Fernando Coronado 6-4 in the championship round. Alsteen (40-7) also won a narrow decision in the finals, with a tight 3-2 victory over West De Pere’s Michael Milquet.
Leon (39-6) pinned Kimberly’s Drosianos Louvaris in the championship round. Leon is the state’s top-ranked wrestler at 132 after competing at 138 earlier this year. He took third at 126 at the 2016 state tournament.
“I feel a lot better at 132 — lighter on my feet and actually stronger,” said Leon. “I’m a lot faster. I felt a little small at 138 and I believe I’m a lot better wrestler at 132. It’s not a big weight cut going from 138 to 132. I feel great.”
Kluever (43-3) edged Ashwaubenon’s Daniel Cole in the championship round by a 3-1 decision.
“I didn’t get to my attacks enough, I kept it too close,” Kluever said. “I just have to get to my attacks and score.”
Hortonville had four state qualifiers and three sectional champions in Eric Barnett (106), Jacob Barnett (126) and Elliott Luker (160).
Eric Barnett, a sophomore, stayed unbeaten at 41-0 with three pins, including one over Pulaski’s Owen Heinz in the championship round. Eric Barnett is the state’s top-ranked Division 1 wrestler at 106. He placed third at 106 at last year’s state meet as a freshman.
“I feel pretty good about my day,” said Eric Barnett. “I got after it. I kind of stalked my kids and did what I had to do. The work isn’t done yet. I know who I have to beat at state and I just have to get my game plan ready and go after people.”
His brother, Jacob Barnett, earned his fourth trip to the state tournament by pinning Pulaski’s Logan Bellow in the championship round. Jacob Barnett (40-3) is ranked second in the WWO Division 1 state ratings at 126.
“Going into the match, I didn’t think that it (a pin) would be the outcome,” said Jacob Barnett, a senior. “So I’m very proud of how I won. I expected it to be a tighter match. I was very happy overall. I competed and had better matches than I thought I would.”
Neenah’s Beau Yineman is headed back to state for the second straight year after winning the title at 182 with a 7-1 decision over Appleton North’s Brock Danielski in the championship round.
Yineman is 41-1 overall and ranked third in the WWO’s Division 1 state rankings.
“I beat the same kid (Danielski) that I beat last year to make it to state,” said Yineman. “I thought I got to my leg attacks pretty good. It feels great. All the training is paying off. I work during the offseason all the time. I’m always on the mat.”
106: 1st – Eric Barnett H pinned Owen Heinz P 3:38. 2nd place wrestleback – Heinz dec. Cody Minor A 8-2. 113:1st – Cole Gille P dec. John Diener KA 9-4. 120:1st – Brandon Micksh KA dec. Fernando Coronado A 6-4. 2nd place wrestleback – Coronado pinned Austin Heim BP 3:11. 126:1st – Jacob Barnett H pinned Logan Bellow P 2:30. 2nd place wrestleback – Zak Nelson GBW/SW dec. Bellow 10-4. 132:1st – Trent Leon KA pinned Drosianos Louvaris KI 1:17. 2nd place wrestleback – Jarod Maes BP pinned Louvaris 4:19. 138:1st –Ian Laatsch AN dec. Nathan Lichtfuss H 4-2. 145:1st – Brady Shulfer BP pinned Keenan Graef WDP 2:00. 152:1st – Jake Gille P dec. Zach Lee KA 5-3 OT. 160:1st – Elliott Luker H pinned Weston Verhoff AN 1:11. 170:1st – Bryson Alsteen KA dec. Michael Milquet WDP 3-2. 2nd place wrestleback – Milquet WDP dec. Jared Walton GBW/SW 9-3. 182:1st – Beau Yineman N dec. Brock Danielski AN 7-1. 195:1st – Jake Flisakowski BP dec. Brandon King P 3-1. 220:1st – Ben Kitslaar BP pinned Mason VanAsten KA 2:45. 2nd place wrestleback – VanAsten major dec. over Connor Quick M 11-3. 285:1st – Keaton Kluever KA dec. Daniel Cole A 3-1.
Tim Froberg: 920-993-7183 or firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @twfroberg
Trent Leon, Eric Barnett, Jacob Barnett, Ian Laatsch and Beau Yineman talk about their sectional titles at postcrescent.com