To sectionals with love
Broken hearts were few for the Ellsworth High School wrestling team on St. Valentine's Day.
The No. 2 ranked Panthers spread the love around in their own WIAA Division 2 regional Saturday, winning the team title for the 37th time in school history and sending 11 wrestlers on to the individual sectional Saturday at Osceola, seven of them regional champions.
Winning the team title put Ellsworth in the Division 2 team sectional for the fifth straight time. The Panthers will wrestle against Maple Northwestern in Somerset Tuesday at 6 p.m. in one semifinal dual. The other semifinal pits Amery against Chetek-Prairie Farm.
Good competition never hurts
If one may ask why Ellsworth will wrestle against schools like Apple Valley, Minn. (twice this season), head coach Jack Radabaugh can point a specific example as to how good competition makes for better wrestlers in the case of Hayden Hauschildt.
The Panthers' defending state champ had a tough regional field to get through at 145 pounds. Four of the wrestlers had over 20 wins and three were near or over 30 wins in West Salem-Bangor's Tyler Arentz, Black River Falls' Joey Reidel and Melrose-Mindoro/Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau's James Marker, who entered the regional with a 36-1 record.
But Hauschildt went through this field like a laser through concrete. He pinned Arentz in 2:29 in the semifinals and dominated Marker before pinning him in 5:05 in the finals.
"It makes a big difference because it helps your experience and it helps your confidence," Radabaugh said. "You know you're a solid wrestler because you've faced the best and learned from them and you don't look at other kids' good records and get nervous. Hayden had one heck of a meet today because of it."
Radabaugh also pointed to other EHS wrestlers who benefitted from the Panthers' tough schedule. Freshman Roarke Langer came back from a 4-3 loss to Durand's Andrew Hartmann in the Middle Border Conference meet the week before and beat Hartmann in the 125-pound finals 8-4. Taylor Boettcher, despite having 12 losses, was able to top the No. 1 seeded Ben Rodenberg of Mel-Min/G-E-T by a 2-0 decision in the 130-pound finals by blocking a reversal attempt in the final seconds and Joe Kormann, even though he lost to West Salem-Bangor's Steve Stark in the 140-pound finals, still gave Stark all he could handle despite losing 16-6.
Langer scored a key reversal late in the second period to take a 5-4 lead on Hartmann. He scored an escape and takedown in third to win an exciting match.
"A lot of hard work and lot of practice and pushing from my coaches helped me win today," Langer said. "I moved better and did better job of scoring takedowns today than I have all season."
Who is Tyler Thoen?
So just who is Tyler Thoen and what was he doing as a sudden addition to Ellsworth's line-up at 103 pounds?
When you have a program as deep as Ellsworth's, the loss of starter Brent Stockwell to a skin rash, is not going to be as damaging as it would be to other teams. Not that the loss of 19.5 team points would have affected the Purple's 100-point winning margin, 287 to 177 for Mel-Min/G-E-T, too greatly.
But not only do the Panthers find replacements, they find those who can place as in Thoen's case when he finished second at 103. He won a wrestleback over another last minute addition, Prescott's Trevor Lydie, by an 8-4 decision.
"Tyler's a sophomore and he's good wrestler, he's just been set back by injuries," Radabaugh said. "He cracked his wrist in a skateboard accident. But he just got the cast off and he was ready to go today."
Thoen was one of 11 individual qualifiers for the sectional meet. Obviously the regional champs go, like Langer, Boettcher and Hauschildt along with Sam Huppert at 112, D.J. Yarwood at 119, Shawn Helmueller at 152 and Alex Hoyer at 215.
"I was really pleased to see Shawn win a regional title in his final appearance in our gym,' Radabaugh said. "He deserved it given all the injuries and other setbacks he's fought through."
Also going are the runner ups like Kornmann and those who won wrestlebacks like Thoen, Noah McLay at 160 and Jordan Borst at 171.
Other placewinners for the Panthers, who still will be wrestler with team Tuesday include Spencer Beard, third at 135, Corey Deiss, fourth at 189 and Nick Oeltjen, fourth at 285.