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County wrestling teams try to qualify for state in sectionals this evening

In 2012, half of the stands of the University of Wisconsin Fieldhouse in Madison were filled with Pierce County wrestling fans.

They were watching both the Ellsworth and Spring Valley/Elmwood prep wrestling teams compete together on the same Fieldhouse floor at the same time in both the state semifinals and finals of the WIAA State Team Tournament.

This scene may well repeat itself two years later as both Ellsworth and Spring Valley/Elmwood, both ranked No.1 in the state in their respective divisions, will try to qualify for state from team sectional meets being held this evening beginning at 6 p.m.

The Division 2 meet will be at Ellsworth and will feature the Panthers taking on Rice Lake in one semifinal dual while No. 5 Amery faces Stanley-Boyd/Owen-Withee/Thorp in the other semifinal.

The Division 3 competition is at Boyceville this year and the match-ups are SVE vs. No. 9 Cumberland and La Crosse Aquinas vs. Phillips.

Rice Lake finished 2-4 in the Big Rivers Conference and 6-7 overall. The Warriors made the team sectional when they upset Heart O’North Conference co-champ Spooner to win their own regional meet. RL’s top wrestler is state ranked Jake Roberts (33-2) at 220 pounds but Rice Lake had five other regional champs led by Brode Asperter (24-8) at 106; Cole Paulson at 120 (20-14); Chase Schmidt (28-12) at 138; Logan Hille (28-14) at 145; Dylan Roberts (23-16) at 152 and Tyler Fleming (30-12) at 160.

Of course, the Panthers know Amery, 15-3 overall, quite well, having wrestled and beat them in a dual 33-29 at Amery last month, and their personnel of top-ranked wrestlers from Andrew Smith at 106; Austen Connor at 113, Hunter Marko at 120, Johnny Benitez at 138, Bennett Paulson at 152, Broden Schock at 182, Kenny Gates at 195 and Eli Newton at 220.  Ellsworth’s line-up is more settled now than it was back on Jan. 30 when the dual meet took place, so look for the Warriors to perhaps shake-up their line-up here to give them the best possible match-ups. But it won’t be easy against an EHS line head coach Chad Steldt feels is solid enough to make moot such maneuvering.

Ellsworth doesn’t know Stanley-Boyd/Owen-Withee/Thorp to well because they haven’t wrestled since Stanely-Boyd beat Ellsworth in the sectional finals of 2002 in Ladysmith. This is S-B’s first time back in team sectionals since 2003 and has co-op partners in tow with them. Like Rice Lake, S-B/O-W/Thorp, 10-4 overall, finished second in the Cloverbelt Conference to Neillsville/Loyal/Greenwood but beat the Warriors in the regional meet at Neillsville. S-B/O-W/Thorp has few state ranked wrestlers of their own to give Amery trouble including D-2’s top 138 pounder Robert Csukker (42-1), Ronny Ponick (40-1) at 160; Sam Burzynski at 113 and Brett Benson (32-10) at 126.

Speaking of state ranked, SVE will be facing a ranked foe right off the bat in their team sectional semifinal. No. 9 ranked Cumberland, 12-6 overall, comes in as Heart O’North co-champs led by top 10 ranked Jim Springsteen at 106; Trey Lundequam at 126, Trystin Adams at 145; Jaylen Lansin at 182 and Ben Stone at 220.

“They have some very good wrestlers at certain spots but we match-up with them very well,” SVE head coach Carter Turner said. “We have a solid team from top to bottom that you can’t move kids around on to gain an advantage.”

The other semi will pit Phillips against La Crosse Aquinas. Both teams took advantage of strong competition in their respective conferences (Phillips competes in the Marawood with Stratford and Edgar while Aquinas is in the Mississippi Valley with Holmen and Sparta) to win their respective D-3 regionals.