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Strong belief can carry SVE to state D-3 wrestling title

SVE's Cruze Hurlburt sets up Bruce's Jared Loomis for back points during individual sectionals.1 / 5
SVE's Ethan Hofacker pulls over Independence/Gilmanton's Aaron Gierok for a pinfall during individual sectionals.2 / 5
SVE's Jed Schlegel gets ready to roll-up Unity's Tevin Anderson during individual sectionals.3 / 5
SVE's Devon Johnson gets a takedown of Phillips's Tyler Grigsby at 152 pounds in the team sectional finals.4 / 5
SVE's Quinton Elliott with a clench around the waste of Phillips's Tristan Kurth. Photo by Ann Turner.5 / 5

There were several of matches between Spring Valley/Elmwood wrestlers and their potential WIAA Division 3 Team Wrestling State Tournament foes during the state individual tournament last weekend in Madison.

Thus, SVE wrestlers weren’t exactly showing their entire arsenals during such matches.

“I didn’t do as much on my feet as I would normally do,” SVE wrestler Zach Newton said after he wrestled Coleman’s Trevor Seewald in the quarterfinals, getting a dramatic overtime win. “I was trying to stick to the basics and I just outlasted him.”

But Newton’s win (although he lost to Seewald later in the tournament) was important not just for individual achievement but for team psychology as well. This will be SVE’s second trip to the state team tournament in three years. The Redbirds finished second in their very first berth in 2012 but the state finals dual meet against Coleman was not a pleasant experience. The Cougars walloped SVE 59-5 on their way to their eighth state championship.

“I didn’t think, at least on paper or just from watching, that they were that much better than we were,” SVE head coach Carter Turner commented. “But boy, they sure thought it and we believed it too. I think that’s what made the score so lopsided. We never gave ourselves a chance and so much of this sport is believing that you are as much a champion as the fellow across from you and that you belong in that championship match as much as he does.”

It’s a mental hurdle Turner believes SV/Elmwood needs to get over even with a No. 1 ranking. That’s because the top three teams in Division 3 will be at team state this year, making the polls a wash.  No. 2 Coleman will square off against No. 3 Random Lake in one state semifinal while SVE will face No. 10 Riverdale in the other state semifinal, which all begin at 10 a.m. at the University of Wisconsin Field House in Madison.

Coleman, the Marinette and Oconto Conference champion, comes into the tournament with just an 11-4 record but their losses have been to larger schools with very good wrestling teams like Wittenberg-Birnamwood and Two Rivers from Division 2 and Pulaski and Bay Port from Division 1. The Cougars won the prestigious Oshkosh on the Water Tournament and they beat a top-ranked Stratford squad 42-40 along with Crandon 54-27 in the team sectional to make their 12th team state appearance. Random Lake, the Central Lakeshore Conference champion, is making its fifth appearance at team state and has a solid overall 19-1 record, which includes a 49-13 win over Wausau West and easy team sectional wins over Kenosha Christian Life (68-3) and Lomira (48-13) . Their only loss was to Menomonie 31-25. Riverdale is making its sixth appearance at team state but just its first since 2001. The Chieftains have a 15-4 record, finishing second in their league. But they wrestle in the very competitive southwest part of the state for small and medium sized schools. The Chieftains beat Deerfield 55-17 and a Mineral Point squad they lost to earlier in the season by a 39-21 in the team sectionals to return to state.

SVE's individual wins over their state team tournament foes include Tyler Berg’s 4-2 defeat of Coleman’s Jensyn Schaal (30-6) at 126 pounds; Cruze Hurlburt’s 8-4 win over Random Lake’s Brandon Depies (46-4) at 120 and Berg's win over Jon Mudlaff (43-7) of Random Lake in overtime for third place.

However, SVE didn’t have any match-ups against Riverdale wrestlers and the Chieftains  were certainly will have confidence being led by two state individual champions in Riley Lull (49-0) at 106 and Jared Roen (48-3) at 145, along with state runner-up Bradon Roen (40-11) at 120. Riverdale also has another 40-plus match winner in Tyler Wanek at 220 (40-11).  Coleman placed six of its seven wrestlers in the state individual meet including Seewald, Schaal, Jordan Blanchard (38-8) at 113, Marc Lansin (38-5) at 132; Jackson Margis (42-3) at 138; Dexter Karban at 160 (39-6) and C.J. Pillath at 220 (41-11). Random Lake’s took nine wrestlers to the state individual meet and were led by champion Reed Anklam (45-4) at heavyweight; runner –up Nick Klein at 195 (40-11); Josh Depies (40-8), who also finished second at 106; and place winners Brandon Depies, Mudlaff, and Trent Gottsacker (45-8) at 138.

Where Spring Valley/Elmwood’s confidence should come from is the fact they are the only undefeated team in the field at 15-0, they came within a single of match of beating Ellsworth in the Ellsworth Invitational meet, they won the Northern Badger Tournament, won the tough Dunn-St. Croix Conference with a win over No. 5 Boyceville and beat other ranked opponents like Mineral Point, Wausau West, Amery and Menomonie during the regular season and Cumberland in the team sectionals, along with Phillips, to advance to state. Nine of their wrestlers have over 30 wins and less than 11 losses including Andrew Webb (33-9) at 106, Derek Huebel (30-6) at 113, Hurlburt (44-2) , Berg (44-5), Logan Newton (32-10) at 132, Zach Newton (40-9) at 145, Jed Schlegel (34-5) at 152, Trent Miller at 160 (32-10), Kevin Fesenmaier (35-8) at 170 and Ethan Hofacker (38-3) at 195.  Hurlburt, Berg, Newton and Hofacker all are state place winners.

“We are a classic dual meet team,” Turner said. “We have a lot of good wrestlers. We’re balanced throughout our line-up. We don’t have spots where teams can move wrestlers on us up or down.  We match up with anyone in the tournament and if our wrestlers know and believe this then we’ll do well.”