The Golden Eagles are flying back to “The Barn.”
For the second time in school history (and second consecutive year) the Fennimore wrestling team has qualified for the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Division 3 team state tournament.
Fennimore dispatched Southwest Wisconsin Activities League foe Darlington/Black Hawk, 57-12, in a sectional semifinal, before topping Cashton, 37-22, to win its second straight sectional crown.
“The last two weeks the Fennimore boys really honed in on their individual techniques, bringing back to Fennimore a Regional title, Team Sectional title and moving seven on to state,” Fennimore coach Chad Steldt said. “The team is really making progress with every passing day, and it is showing on the mat. Above that, they are listening to the coaches and sticking to the plan of attacks for six to 10 minutes of a given match.
“For young athletes to be so in-tuned, so focused, and to bring an intensity to the mat which overwhelms their opponents is not only gratifying but also exciting for the team and community. It is always fun for the fans knowing when a Fennimore wrestler steps in the circle that a dogfight brawl will be at hand. It is exciting wrestling, and we need more of it.”
Fennimore will wrestle Random Lake at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 5 at the UW Fieldhouse. The winner of that match will wrestle Spring Valley/Elmwood or Stratford for the Division 3 title at 3 p.m.
Tickets for Saturday’s 10 a.m. March 5 session at the state team tournament are available at Fennimore High School. Call Sandy Scanlan (822-3245, ext. 3101) to learn more information. Tickets are $8 each.
Darlington/Black Hawk earned a 3-0 lead in last Tuesday’s sectional semifinal at Royall High School in Elroy, but Fennimore answered with pinfall wins by juniors Justin Tollefson (138 pounds) and Hunter Wardell (145 pounds).
Fennimore senior Alex Cleven (152 pounds) earned a 7-0 decision over Lance Ubersox and sophomore Tyler Klaas (160 pounds) rolled to a 14-0 major decision over Curtis Blosch. Fennimore junior Tavian Kaschub won a 4-0 decision over Tyler Mosley to extend the Golden Eagles’ lead to 22-3.
Following a forfeit at 182 pounds, Fennimore senior Louis Heberelin (195 pounds) and junior Cody McCollough (220 pounds) both earned pinfall wins.
Fennimore sophomore T.J. Kenney (106 pounds) won by forfeit and senior Riley Lull (113 pounds) won by technical fall (19-2). Sophomores Riley Blair (120 pounds) and Alston Nutter (126 pounds) won by pin to end the dual meet.
Cashton defeated New Lisbon, 40-30, to earn a rematch with Fennimore in the sectional final. Fennimore defeated Cashton to earn its first trip to state in 2015.
Tollefson pinned Henry Whitehead in 2:35 and Wardell pinned Ty Costello in just :35 to give Fennimore a 12-0 lead.
Four straight wins by Cashton later, the Eagles held a 13-12 advantage.
“True to team wrestling, and the strategic game plan that goes into each important dual, the best and most important matches were ones that we actually lost,” Steldt said. “Tyler Klaas, Brayden Leffler and Tavian Kashcub had remarkable performances, keeping Cashton’s best and more experienced wrestlers from scoring any bonus points (technical falls or pins).
“Brayden was given a standing ovation for keeping a state qualifier and state-ranked wrestler from scoring any back points, keeping his opponent’s win to a major decision instead of a six-point pin. Alex Cleven wrestled really well too. He lost a close 6-4 match to a 30+ winning wrestler. These moral victories really are momentum catchers.”
Heberlein put Fennimore back in front with a pin of Devon Hall in 3:56.
“Louis overwhelmed his opponent with this strength and speed to get a pin,” Steldt said.
After wins by Cashton at 220, 285 and 106 pounds, freshman Kohl Wardell (113 pounds) won by forfeit. Lull won a 15-5 major decision over Jestin Hemmersbach, Blair won a 11-6 decision over Ethan Leis and Nutter pinned Devon Olson in 1:23.
“Our lower weights did a great job closing out the dual, which was expected,” Steldt said. “The team performed as expected and at times exceeded expectations. This same performance, with more intensity, will have to be repeated in two weeks.
“If it is, we will set ourselves up for a nice ending.”
For the second time in as many seasons, the Golden Eagles will end their season at the UW Fieldhouse with a team state title within reach.
“I feel like we trained really hard and I feel like we deserve it,” McCollough said. “Things have gotten a little rough throughout the year, but I think that we will do well up there.”
“I am just excited to be going back to The Barn,” O’Brien said. “I hope we win it this year. I think our lineup is a lot stronger than it was last year so I hope we can pull out a win.”
Lull said a return to the team state tournament was Fennimore’s goal from day one.
“It was a day one goal,” he said. “Coach Steldt always preaches team, and when you have everyone working together as a team, good things happen. It is just a bond.
“From the wrestling room and in the classroom, it all counts, it adds up. That really helps and I would say that has helped us get back down there. It is awesome.”
For Blair, the hard work of he and his teammates has paid off.
“I feel like we worked way harder than anybody in our conference for sure and hopefully the state and we are going to keep working hard,” he said. “We have got a really good team and hopefully we make it to the finals. We might be the underdogs to Stratford, but we are going to come together as a team and rally and get the win.”