Ellsworth wrestling: 'We're not done yet.'
It's official. The Ellsworth Panthers wrestling team is headed to the WIAA State Team Tournament for the 17th time in program history. Ellsworth sealed a state spot after defeating Somerset and Spencer/Columbus Catholic at the Division 2 Sectional-A tournament in Hayward on Tuesday, Feb. 13.
The Panthers defeated their conference opponents, 67-12, in their first dual of the night. Ellsworth head coach Mark Matzek said the 152-pound match against the Spartans stuck out to him the most.
"Cedric Kosnopfal pinned, arguably, their best wrestler, and going into [individual] sectionals, that's a big confidence boost for Cedric," Matzek said.
Kosnopfal pinned Somerset's Preston Anez in 2 minutes, 41 seconds, then claimed a 7-0 decision win against Spencer/Columbus Catholic's No. 9-ranked Bryce Shaw.
"They bumped up their ranked 145-pounder to bump him away from (Jared) Lansing, and thought that they could get a win at 152, but that did not happen for them," Matzek said. "Cedric took care of business. Cedric had a great night."
Kosnopfal's win over Shaw was followed by pins from Conner Ekholm and Ryan McGregor and a Dalton George 10-4 decision, which solidified Ellsworth's 47-21 sectional championship win.
The Panthers' achievement was anticipated, but shouldn't be overlooked.
"People forget that only four teams in Division 2 in the state of Wisconsin get to qualify for team state," Matzek said. "People take that for granted."
It's easy to expect greatness from a program that has now qualified for state 17 times and claimed eight team state titles, but hardly anyone from the outside looking in knows exactly how hard the 2017-18 Panthers squad has worked to carry on the distinguished legacy of Ellsworth wrestling.
"I'm just proud of our whole entire team," Matzek said. "I've been saying it all year that we need to come together at the end, and that I can't compare this team to last year's team. These guys, as a team, have come a long way."
Matzek said he remembered telling his coaching staff at the beginning of the season how different the team was without the 2017 senior class.
"We had a lot of work to do," Matzek said, "and to see how far they've come in a season is satisfying. And we're not done yet."
The Panthers will join Chilton/Hilbert, Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau and Luxemburg-Casco — the team Ellsworth defeated 27-26 for the 2017 team title — at the Division 2 State Team Tournament on Saturday, March 3. The semifinal duals are scheduled for 10 a.m. and the finals will follow at 3 p.m.
"We still have two and a half weeks to get better, and that's what we need to do," Matzek said. "We can't just sit back and pat ourselves on the back and be happy that we're going to the state tournament. We have to continue to improve in order to bring back hardware for our town and our community."
Ellsworth 67, Somerset 12
285: Caleb Linder (Ellsworth) received a forfeit.
106: Bailey Poellinger (Ellsworth) over Brody Shipe (Somerset) (Fall 0:07).
113: Carter Huppert (Ellsworth) received a forfeit.
120: Charlie Stuhl (Ellsworth) over Tyler Hantsbarger (Somerset) (Maj 11-1).
126: Owen Matzek (Ellsworth) received a forfeit.
132: Wyatt Hines (Ellsworth) over Nick Kearns (Somerset) (Maj 13-3).
138: Sam Stuhl (Ellsworth) over Jared Grahovac (Somerset) (Fall 1:19).
145: Jared Lansing (Ellsworth) over Zach Maitrejean (Somerset) (Fall 0:59).
152: Cedric Kosnopfal (Ellsworth) over Preston Anez (Somerset) (Fall 2:41).
160: Logan Melstrom (Ellsworth) over Nicholas Bushinger (Somerset) (TF 17-1).
170: Dalton George (Ellsworth) received a forfeit.
182: Garrett Hecht (Somerset) over Connor Ekholm (Ellsworth) (Fall 1:41) .
195: Peter Lepper (Somerset) over Ryan McGregor (Ellsworth) (Fall 3:11).
220: Logan Peterson (Ellsworth) over Brett Vetterkind (Somerset) (Fall 1:05).
Ellsworth 47, Spencer/Columbus Catholic 21
106: Ashton Ackman (Spencer/Columbus Catholic) over Bailey Poellinger (Ellsworth) (Dec 8-3).
113: Dominick Wichlacz (Spencer/Columbus Catholic) over Carter Huppert (Ellsworth) (Dec 5-2).
120: Charlie Stuhl (Ellsworth) over Leo Rodriguez (Spencer/Columbus Catholic) (Fall 5:12).
126: Owen Matzek (Ellsworth) over Jake Dick (Spencer/Columbus Catholic) (TF 17-0).
132: Wyatt Hines (Ellsworth) over Colten Schillinger (Spencer/Columbus Catholic) (Fall 1:18).
138: Sam Stuhl (Ellsworth) over Andres Rodriguez (Spencer/Columbus Catholic) (Fall 1:32).
145: Jared Lansing (Ellsworth) over Dylan Bohlinger (Spencer/Columbus Catholic) (Fall 1:00).
152: Cedric Kosnopfal (Ellsworth) over Bryce Shaw (Spencer/Columbus Catholic) (Dec 7-0).
160: Caden Schillinger (Spencer/Columbus Catholic) over Logan Melstrom (Ellsworth) (Dec 4-3).
170: Connor Ekholm (Ellsworth) over Tanner Kleinschmidt (Spencer/Columbus Catholic) (Fall 2:51).
182: Dalton George (Ellsworth) over Carson Hildebrandt (Spencer/Columbus Catholic) (Dec 10-4).
195: Ryan McGregor (Ellsworth) over Daniel Richmond (Spencer/Columbus Catholic) (Fall 0:48).
220: Hunter Luepke (Spencer/Columbus Catholic) over Logan Peterson (Ellsworth) (Fall 1:25).
285: Logan Zschernitz (Spencer/Columbus Catholic) over Caleb Linder (Ellsworth) (Fall 2:29).
Six qualify as individuals
After Ellsworth qualified its entire team for the Division 2 Team State Tournament, six Panther wrestlers earned spots in their weight classes' individual state tournaments by finishing as a runner-up or champion at the Division 2 Sectional Tournament at Amery High School on Saturday, Feb. 17.
"It was a solid day," Matzek said after seven hours of wrestling on Saturday. "I was proud of the way the guys competed today."
Just four days after their team sectional tournament, Matzek said he felt as though his wrestlers showed improvements at Amery compared to their Hayward performances.
"We made some progress," Matzek said. "At this level, it's a lot of grit and willpower, and some guys just fell short today."
Matzek said he was pleased with the way his wrestlers whose individual seasons were completed on Saturday performed.
"The nice thing for those guys is that they still get to wrestle at the team state tournament," Matzek said. "Tonight is going to suck, tomorrow is going to suck, when they're at the (individual) state tournament watching their weight classes, it's going to suck. But they have two weeks to train and help us win a team state championship."
As for his four champions—Owen Matzek, Sam Stuhl, Lansing and George—Matzek said they all had great tournaments. "I don't see a reason why all six of those guys can't be on the podium at state," Matzek said.
Sam Stuhl will be competing for his fourth state title at the Kohl Center at the upcoming state tournament, but as he has all season long, Matzek said Stuhl will just focus on each match as they come.
"He'll take everything point by point, and he can't be thinking too much," Matzek said. "He'll shake hands, wrestle, and focus on his performance goals rather than his outcome goals."
Stuhl will enter the state tournament as the No. 1-ranked 138-pounder, but he knows his top ranking won't matter once he's on the mat.
"Once you get to the state tournament, it doesn't matter what your ranking is," Stuhl said. "One move and you can get pinned. (Rankings) do not matter at all."
Stuhl said he doesn't feel pressure to claim his fourth state title; he'll wrestle at state as if it's just another typical tournament.
"I've wrestled at this tournament three times, and I've been lucky enough to win it the last three times, but I've just got to go out there and give it all I have," Stuhl said. "That's all I can do."
Charlie Stuhl and Kosnopfal were Ellsworth's two runner-ups. Stuhl was defeated by Jacek Nickowski of Baldwin-Woodville — who he lost to in regionals — in the 120-pound championship match by a 1-0 decision.
"I think Charlie closed the gap with Nickowski a little bit," Matzek said. "He still made some mistakes, but I saw some progress from him throughout the day."
Stuhl said he's looking forward to wrestling different opponents at the state tournament.
"I've wrestled (Nickowski) three weeks in a row," Stuhl said. "I'm just excited to wrestle."
Kosnopfal fell to Preston Anez in the championship match of the 152-pound bracket after defeating Anez at team sectionals earlier in the week.
"Cedric has honestly come out of nowhere this season, and he's made some great adjustments as well," Matzek said.
Stuhl and Kosnopfal will both wrestle on Thursday, Feb. 22 in the state tournament's preliminary round. Stuhl (32-7) will face Caleb Radtke of River Valley (36-11) at 7:15 p.m. on Thursday, and Kosnopfal (26-13) will wrestle Tomahawk's Wyatt Wenninger (35-9) the same night.
Matzek, Sam Stuhl, Lansing and George will all begin their state tournament journeys on Friday, Feb. 23 at 11:15 a.m.
• Matzek (33-7) will face the winner of Joey Bianchi (Two Rivers, 37-6) vs. Gabe Kingsley (Wisconsin Dells, 28-9).
• Stuhl (38-1) will face the winner of Taylor Helternes (Campbellsport, 22-10) vs. Ethan Schwartz (Denmark, 35-8).
• Lansing (39-5) will face the winner of Matthew Maitland (Wrightstown, 34-10) vs. Blake Garcia (Prairie Du Chien, 33-12).
• George (29-7) will face the winner of Bryce Schumacher (Little Chute, 34-4) vs. Dillon Martin (Wautoma/Wild Rose, 41-4).