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Two sets of hungry Panthers square off in state team wrestling tourney

When asked size up the Oconto Falls his Ellsworth High School wrestling team will face at the WIAA Division 2 State Team Tournament, head coach Jack Radabaugh says he can sense that they are a hungry team.

"They're a program that hasn't had a lot of statewide success but it's a team that's been together for years and building and this is a meet they're pointing too," Radabaugh said. "They're going to be hungry for this opportunity."

Indeed, the Panthers' core is around seniors Cullan Morrissey at 130 pounds, Aaron Heiderscheid at 135 and Josh Zeitler at 171. Combined their records are 102-15.

OF also has a strong group of underclassmen wrestlers led by Cullan's younger brother Jacob, a freshman at 160 and sophomore state participants Matt Damp at 103, Matt Sasma at 171 and Riley Delzer at heavyweight. Also with over 30 wins is freshman Mitch Friedman.

Radabaugh thinks his squad Panthers are going to be equally hungry.

"They're kids with something to prove," Radabaugh said. "They've been wrestling behind other guys and now they have their chance to show what they can do together."

And what they can do is make history in becoming the first Ellsworth squad to repeat as state champions. The Purple has had that opportunity before. In 2001, EHS was the defending champs and got back to the finals to face rival Luxemburg-Casco. But the Spartans' line-up was simply too strong, bolstered by transfer of the Pell brothers from Washington state and the result was 30-19 defeat.

Ellsworth had an even better chance to repeat in 2008. EHS edged L-C in the semifinals to show their finals win over the Spartans in the 2007 finals was no fluke. But they forgot they had another match to wrestle that night and lost to Lodi 36-22. Radabaugh wants to make sure that situation never happens again.

"Our focus has to be consistent," Radabaugh said. "It's got to be the see for every match from every wrestler. As I said, they have to prove they can do so on this big stage but I feel that challenge is going to motivate them to do so."

No team in the Division 2 field will have an edge in experience since the exact same teams from last season will be in the tournament.

Lodi will be its ninth straight state team tournament. While the Einerson brothers will be wrestling for Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln instead of Lodi in the same meet, the Blue Devils will still have a solid line-up led by state finalist Cody Endres at 215 along with 30-plus match winners Ryan Quick at heavyweight, Dakota Cable at 171, Tony Zeman at 152, Justin Miller at 140, Clint Heinbecker at 135, Ryan Lehr at 130 and Getasew Shimshak at 125.

Like Oconto Falls, Pewaukee is back at state for the second time in a row. The Pirates bring back individual state qualifiers like Max Nonnamaker at 112, Mitch Teeters at 119, Josh Berg at 125, Chris Czech at 135, Mike Dusel at 145, Nathan Knutson at 160, Travis Decker at 171 and Kent Girmscheid at 215.