MADISON – After going 14-11 a year ago and finishing his sophomore season with a first-round loss in the sectional meet, Cassville’s Ben Wheeler put together a fine junior season for himself that ended on the medal stand this past Saturday night in the Kohl Center.
Wheeler, who qualified for last week’s WIAA State Individual Wrestling Meet with a division 3 sectional title, finished fifth of 12 competing wrestlers in Madison to earn a spot on the medal stand.
He concluded the season with a record of 37-12, which is whopping 23 more wins than he had last season as a sophomore.
Wheeler’s quest for a state tournament medal began last Friday afternoon against Ben Drenski of Random Lake.
With a nearly 50-pound weight advantage over Drenski, Wheeler had little trouble putting the Random Lake senior on his back early in the third period to collect a pin in a time of 4:56.
Waiting for Wheeler in his semifinal match was top-ranked Donovan Salewski (39-6) of Colman, who won his first match by pin in a time of 36-seconds.
Wheeler hung tough with the top seed, but wound up losing by a 4-2 decision, which wasn’t bad considering the Coleman senior went on to win the D3 heavyweight state title.
In his consolation semifinal match, Wheeler took the mat against Takoda Lee of Cornell/Gilman/Lake Holcombe, who pinned the Cassville junior in a time of 4:30.
Wrestling on Saturday morning for fifth place, Wheeler finished strong with a 5-2 decision over Noah Novotney of Boyceville.
“Ben performed very well at the state tournament,” said River Ridge/Cassville wrestling coach Kyle Johnstone. “I believe the state tournament was an excellent experience for Ben and will help prepare him for next season. I honestly believe Ben has a great chance to win it all next year.”
“Overall, Ben improved as the season progressed,” coach Johnstone added. “He has only been wrestling for two years now, and I believe he has not reached his peak potential yet. I am very excited to see how he will do next season. Words cannot express how proud I am of him and his hard work.”
The Lancaster Flying Arrow wrestling program had two sophomores competing at the state meet, both of which suffered first-round losses on Thursday night to end their season.
Wrestling at 138 pounds, sophomore Collin Lull suffered a 15-3 major decision loss to Weston Wichman of Johnson Creek. Lull concluded his season with an impressive record of 28-18.
At 182 pounds, Lancaster sophomore Troy Klein was handed a 13-9 loss from Marshall Westfall of Athens in his opening-round match. Marshall went on to place third in the D3 state bracket, while Klein concluded his season with a record of 25-18.
WIAA D3 Individual State Meet
(from Feb. 23-25, at Madison)
D3-138 - Collin Lull (28-18) place is unknown and scored 0.00 team points.
Champ. Round 1 - Weston Wichman (Johnson Creek) 40-5 won by major decision over Collin Lull (Lancaster) 28-18 (MD 15-3)
D3-182 - Troy Klein (25-18) place is unknown and scored 0.00 team points.
Champ. Round 1 - Marshall Westfall (Athens) 33-9 won by decision over Troy Klein (Lancaster) 25-18 (Dec 13-9)
River Ridge/Cassville participants
D3-285 - Ben Wheeler (37-12) placed 5th and scored 9.00 team points.
Quarterfinal - Ben Wheeler (River Ridge/Cassville) 37-12 won by fall over Ben Drenski (Random Lake) 22-9 (Fall 4:56)
Semifinal - Donovan Salewski (Coleman) 39-6 won by decision over Ben Wheeler (River Ridge/Cassville) 37-12 (Dec 4-2)
Cons. Semi - Takoda Lee (Cornell/Gilman/Lk. Holc.) 41-4 won by fall over Ben Wheeler (River Ridge/Cassville) 37-12 (Fall 4:30)
5th Place Match - Ben Wheeler (River Ridge/Cassville) 37-12 won by decision over Noah Novotney (Boyceville) 38-12 (Dec 5-2).