The old gang returns to Division 2 state team tournament
Three traditional high school wrestling powers want to show last year's WIAA Division 2 State Team Tournament was an aberration, not a trend.
A fluke of happenstance.
Last season was the first in Division 2 which did not feature a state championship dual meet featuring either Lodi,Luxemburg-Casco or Ellsworth since 1997. In fact, L-C didn't even make the tournament at all.
But all three schools are back and back with a vengeance to claim a title they shared amongst themselves 16 times since 1980.
"We're all here to prove something," Ellsworth head coach Jack Radabaugh said. "Lodi lost in the final last season, we lost in the semis and L-C is back after two seasons. Everyone wants to make up for lost time."
And they're joined by an old traditional state wrestling power making its first trip back to team state since 2003.
No. 2 Ellsworth squares off with No. 4 Lodi in one semifinal while the state's top ranked team Luxemburg Casco- faces No. 6 Campbellsport, which is aiming for its first state title since 1980.
Of the three teams Lodi, 21-6 overall, perhaps lacks the star quality its had with its past teams, not to mention the fact they have the most losses in the field. For the first time since 1989 the Blue Devils came away with no place winners at the state individual meet.
But Lodi does have veteran state team wrestlers like 103 pounder John Jourtas (37-6), senior 125-pounder Getasew Shimshak (22-13), senior 140-pounder Clint Heimbecker (31-11), senior 145 pounder Justin Miller (34-5), junior 160-pounder Jesse Ziegler (37-4) junior Michael Watters (36-8) at 189.
This team state experience is important as it's like no other meet according to Ellsworth's Tanner Eggenberger.
"At individual state if you lose, you just go off by yourself away from everybody," Eggenberger said. "At team state if you lose you feel like you've let people down and have to go back to bench area. There's more pressure there I feel."
While lacking team state experience, there's no pressure on Campbellsport, no doubt just happy to be back on their old perch after a long absence. But the Cougars, 22-2 overall, aren't going to be pushovers as they have 30-plus match winners up and down the line-up, like sophomore Ryan Costello (39-1) at 112, junior Rashaun Sparks at 130 (31-7), senior Chet Floyd (34-6) at 135, senior Paden Salm (31-11) at 152, senior James Hawley (36-5) at 189 and senior heavyweight Eric Gonwa (33-9).
Luxemburg-Casco comes in with the No.1 ranking and school record 31-1 record, their only loss being to Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln 49-16. As per usual the Spartans not only have 30-plus match winners all over their line-up but several with 40 wins or more, including freshman Austin Worachek (41-6) at 135; senior Zeke Peters (41-4) at 160, and sophomore Newton Smerchek at heavyweight (41-4). However, team state experience may be an obstacle for the Spartans not just because they haven't been to the event in two years, but also due to the fact they have 11 freshman on their team in their two-deep line-up with three of them starters.