WIAA wrestling: Stuhl makes record books, Lansing finishes as runner-up
Sam Stuhl had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a Chobani strawberry banana yogurt and a little bit of Gatorade for breakfast on Saturday, Feb. 24, just like any other day.
But Feb. 24 wasn't a typical day for Stuhl. Feb. 24 was the day he won his fourth state title — something only 14 other Wisconsin high school wrestlers (one being 2014 Ellsworth graduate Jens Lantz) had done before 2018.
Stuhl (41-1) became the 16th wrestler in Wisconsin history to secure a perfect individual state tournament record by pinning Ethan Schwartz in the quarterfinals, defeating Aaron Bahr by a 3-1 decision in the semis, and finally pinning Prairie Du Chien's Traeton Saint five minutes and 50 seconds into the 138-pound championship match.
Division 3's Jeremey Schoenherr of Stratford became the 15th to win four straight titles seconds before Stuhl made his mark in Wisconsin wrestling history.
"Fifteen is a cooler number, but that's OK," Stuhl said after his championship match. "It feels incredible to be a part of that elite group. I don't think it's hit me yet."
Stuhl got off to an 8-0 lead over Saint, but was called for an illegal hold in the second period that left the Prairie Du Chien slow to get up.
"I have done that move multiple times and have never been called for it. Coach was kind of amazed, but I mean, I didn't intentionally try to hurt him," Stuhl said. "I don't know if he just wanted to take a breather, but I was ready to go."
After some wait, Saint returned to his feet, only to become Stuhl's third victim of the tournament.
"There was a lot of pressure on[Sam]," Stuhl's head coach Mark Matzek said. "Honestly, I was a little bit nervous myself because of the pressure that's put on a kid to win a fourth state title."
The Kohl Center's scoreboard played highlights of former four-time state champions while Stuhl warmed up for his finals match, making the moment more special, yet nerve-wracking.
"I was starting to freak out," Matzek said, "but he held it all together and just did what I preach: shake hands, get out there, get the first points, then just continue to score points."
Feb. 24, the day Stuhl had been waiting for all season, ended just as he had hoped. But as it came to a conclusion, so did his unforgettable high school individual career.
"Another thing that's hit me is knowing that that was my last high school individual tournament," Stuhl said. "It's sad knowing I won't be able to compete anymore in high school individually, but then again, I get to look forward to next week at team state."
Getting to compete at the WIAA Team State Tournament on Saturday, March 3 will also be a solace for Stuhl's teammate Jared Lansing who was defeated by Teagen Miller of Mauston, in the Division 2 145-pound championship match. Miller claimed a 4-3 decision over Lansing.
"It could have been better, it could have been worse," Lansing said. "I beat one state champion yesterday, but couldn't get it done against [Miller]."
Lansing qualified for the 2017 state tournament as a sophomore, but was beat out in his first two matches on the biggest stage he'd ever performed on.
"It's humbling," Lansing said of the Kohl Center's atmosphere. "I felt really good yesterday, especially when the crowd got behind me. Today they were behind me too, and it felt good being there."
"I'm really impressed with his improvements," Matzek said. "I remember at the Christmas Tournament this year, that's where I really saw the growth he'd made."
Lansing pinned Matthew Maitland of Wrightstown in his quarterfinal match, then pulled off a thrilling 2-1 decision win over the previously-ranked No. 2 145-pound wrestler, Ryan Hannah of Viroqua, in the semifinals before losing to Miller. Lansing finished his junior season with a 41-6 record, a record that most high school wrestlers would be thrilled to own, but Lansing's sixth loss of the season will stick with him for a while.
"It's going to be hard for [Jared] for the next couple of days, but he gets to wrestle in the team state tournament," Matzek said. "He's probably not thinking about that right now, but once we get back, we'll start getting to work on Monday, and that's going to help heal his wounds."
"I could be reacting worse than I am, but I did what I could," Lansing said. "It just didn't end up how I would have liked it to. It frustrated me, but I've got a chance at a team state title to make up for it."
After claiming a state champion, a state runner-up, fifth- and sixth-place finishers and two state participants this year at the Kohl Center, the Panthers are now onto their next mission — strengthening the legacy of Ellsworth wrestling at this year's WIAA Team State Tournament.
Matzek's No. 2-ranked team will face Chilton/Hilbert in the semifinals at 10 a.m. on March 3, while the No. 1-ranked Luxemburg-Casco team takes on GET/Melrose-Mindoro in their semifinal match. Team state finals will follow at 3 p.m. at the UW Field House.
Hold on, Wisconsin. The Panthers have more plans for the 2018 wrestling season.