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No. 1 Panthers dominate opponents to win D-2 state title

Ellsworth's Josh Hines is trying to get around Pewaukee's Jacob Raschka.8 / 11
Ellsworth's Brodey Kemmerer ties up with Pewaukee's Giovanni Gurnero in the heavyweight match.9 / 11
Ellsworth co-captain Jens Lantz holds up the championship trophy. Photo by Jon Claesson.10 / 11
Ellsworth High school pep band.11 / 11

MADISON - If this high school state championship wrestling team at Ellsworth has a special place in Chad Steldt’s heart it won’t be just because it is the first for the third-year head coach. Or the fact it’s the first for the Panthers in three seasons -  erasing two previous frustrating days at the WIAA State Team Wrestling Tournament for Steldt and the Panthers.

It will be special because this year’s seniors were the first group Steldt got to work when he came to Ellsworth with while they were in middle school and the ones he turned to to lead the Panthers back to the top of Wisconsin high school wrestling.

“Seeing them rewarded for working so hard to get that trophy is the best part,” Steldt said. “After last year (EHS was beaten in the state semifinals by Luxemburg-Casco  35-25) we had a long heart-to-heart talk and the kids responded with a tremendous effort from that point onward until now, which is when they hoisted the gold trophy in the air.”

EHS won its sixth WIAA Division 2 State Team Wrestling Tournament title Saturday afternoon. The No. 1 ranked Panthers defeated No. 6 Pewaukee 41-12 at the University of Wisconsin Field House. Pewaukee had upset No. 2 Wittenberg-Birnamwood 28-19 in the semifinals.

EHS led from start to finish using Brad Cain's overtime time at 132 pounds to kick-off the dual meet.  He scored the winning takedown with a three-point nearfall  in overtime after a scoreless match in regulation against the Pirates’ Isaac Lodise.

“We were freshmen the last time we won state and we wanted to win this one bad,” Cain said. “We worked so hard, more than really had before, to win. It’s just perfect to me personally that I was able to do my part.”

Steldt say that Cain epitomizes the successful team wrestler.

“Brad always comes through for the team. No matter how he does, win or lose, you can count on it,” Steldt said. “When the pressure is on in a team situation he does his best.”

Cain’s OT victory, along with middleweight wins from sophomore Tristen Mueller 7-1 over Pewaukee’s Garrett Shibilski at 138 and a 12-5 win by senior Jacob Fuchs at 145 over the Pirates’ Jason Berg, set up the Panthers nicely for their power ally to build up a big lead and they did so. State champion Gabe Frandson won by fall at 1:41; state runner-up Logan Kemmerer won by major decision at 170; state champion Dennis Schutz also won by major decision at 189 and state place winner Brock Steldt downed Christian Dischler 8-4 for a 26-3 team score advantage.

Pewaukee, 21-6 overall, won the next three matches in a row but none by more than a decision, still leaving EHS in command. The state title clincher came from another senior who hadn’t been wrestling for long but was able to break into the starting line-up this season. Gabe Mancino put EHS over-the-top with his 1:26 pinfall at 113. It was one of two pins for him in the tournament, which he entered with a 26-22 record.

“I didn’t even expect to wrestle varsity this season,” Mancino said. “To be doing this is just amazing. I didn’t do anything special. I just went out and wrestled knowing it was my last time out there and I guess it worked.”

Speaking of last time, the last go around in high school wrestling for four-time state champion Jens Lantz ended with a pinfall in 2:40 at 126.  And Anders Lantz, wrapped up his freshman season with a 4-0 decision at 120 over Joe Porter.

“It feels really good to see hard work pay off,” Kemmerer, who was co-captain of the team with Jens Lantz, said afterwards. “We worked and worked and worked. When we beat Prior Lake, we knew all that work was going to take where we wanted to go.”