Up and Down Weekend
MADISON -- No more silver for us.
After finishing runner-ups four times in the WIAA State Team Wrestling Tournament compared to only two state titles, Lodi decided to close the sliver mine in Saturday's Division 2 final with Ellsworth.
Down 22-15 after the 135- pound match, the No. 2 ranked Blue Devils rallied to win the final six matches in a row to beat No. 3 ranked Ellsworth 36-22 and take away the defending champion's state title.
It's the Blue Devils first title since 2004 while Ellsworth has three second place finishes to go with three firsts.
Panther head coach Jack Radabaugh credited Lodi with winning crucial matches pitting their top wrestlers against Ellsworth's.
"Give Lodi a lot of credit. They didn't have too many holes in their line-up so we couldn't do a lot of moving up or down with our wrestlers to make us stronger," Radabaugh said. "They wrestled their best against our best and came out on top and that's how they won it."
Although the dual meet started ominously for EHS, trailing 10-0 after first two matches at 215 and 285 pounds, Ellsworth used its lower and middleweight wrestlers to gain the upper hand by 140.
The Purple's Sam Huppert won at 103 by a 9-0 major decision against Brock Miller; Chace Kinneman won at 119 by a 1:14 pinfall of Ryan Lehr; Dane Solyntjes won at 125 in a 12-6 decision over Dillon Schultz and Joe Kormann won with his second pin of the tournament in 2:43 over the Devils' Tyler Caldwell at 130.
Ellsworth's state individual champion Hayden Hauschildt gave his team its biggest lead with a 7-1 decision of Douglas Schultz at 135. But the lack of bonus points in some of these matches despite the wins was another ominous sign. "We needed to get bonus points where we could and we didn't do so," Radabaugh said. "Again, that goes back to how well Lodi wrestled tonight. They've been here plenty of times too and they know how to team wrestle as well as anyone and they weren't going to give up extra points easily."
One way street to victory
The rest of the dual meet was a one-way street to the state championship. Lodi won the next six matches in a row, some by very close scores.
The Blue Devils' Tony Zeman topped Reuben Huppert 8-5 at 140. Dakota Cable downed Noah McLay at 145 by a 9-5 decision. Logan Einerson beat Jordan Zimmer 5-0 at 152 and Troy Zeman won over Shawn Helmueller at 160 by an 8-6 score.
In nearly all of these matches, Lodi's wrestlers were able to get nearfall points to give themselves leads they could work with. So long as they didn't make glaring mistakes, they could wrestle to hold those leads despite furious comebacks from Panther wrestlers, especially McLay and Helmueller.
"Giving up those nearfall points really hurt us," Radabaugh said. "When you're far behind as we found ourselves in some of these matches, you have to take chances and risks to come back and that's hard to do against a team as skilled and well-coached as Lodi."
Still Ellsworth had a chance to win if they won the final two matches at 171 and 189. But Lodi clinched the title at 171 when Kyle McKearn won 6-5 over Jordan Borst when the former scored an escape in the sudden death third overtime period.
Lodi finished with 25-3 overall record while Ellsworth was 16-5. While the loss was a disappointment after the thrilling upset win over Luxemburg-Casco, finishing second was showed how far the Panthers had come since the start of the season.
"When you get one win down here at state it's very exciting," Radabaugh said. "It's shows how much our team grew from beginning of the season to the end and that's the mark of any successful season no matter where you end up."