MADISON — The Fennimore wrestling team earned the right to represent Southwest Wisconsin at the WIAA Team State Tournament for the fourth straight year by winning the Division 3 Lancaster regional on Feb. 10 and the D3 Royall Team Sectional on Feb. 13.
The Golden Eagles closed out another successful season with a second place finish in Division 3 Saturday at the UW–Fieldhouse in Madison.
Second-ranked and second-seeded Fennimore (17–3) routed Random Lake 46–15 in the morning semifinal round, before falling to defending state champion and top-ranked Stratford 45–13 in the D3 state championship dual.
This is the first year the team state tournament was seeded. The coaches from Divisions 1 and 2 selected the Eagles as the second seed. To qualify for the Royall team sectional, Fennimore had to win the loaded Lancaster regional, which sent 24 of its 28 sectional qualifiers on to the WIAA individual state tournament.
VS. RANDOM LAKE
The semifinals would pit the Golden Eagles against Random Lake, which was making its seventh straight appearance with a roster featuring seven individual state qualifiers.
Action started at 160 pounds where sophomore Will Ahnen (38–19) used leg attacks and pinning combinations to score a 12–2 victory over Brock Upson.
Senior Connor Blaschke (3–3) had his number called at 170 as the Golden Eagles were battling injuries and requiring a team effort to get to the championship match. Blaschke would drop the match 1–0, but the Golden Eagles needed to get through 285 pounds with the match still in range.
The move bumped fellow senior Tyler Klaas (18–19) up to 182 pounds, where he faced state place winner Grayson Vendenbush. Klaas was banged up going into the match, after spraining his ankle and breaking one of the screws in his leg that holds a plate to his bone at a practice earlier this week. Klaas lost a close 3–0 decision, but again kept the Rams from scoring bonus points.
Klaas shared at the team’s welcome back celebration in the Fennimore High School gymnasium Saturday night that he appreciated the fans and all the supporters. “It really helps when all the people are cheering, it helps us to keep working hard in the matches,” said Klaas.
Fellow senior Trevor Neuroth (26–8) bumped up to 195 pounds where he reclaimed the momentum for Fennimore with a first-period pin of C.J. Richardson to give the Eagles a 10–6 lead.
Junior Brayden Leffler (32–14) kept things rolling with a 4:51 pin to push the lead to 16–6.
At 285, junior Dylan Kehoe (14–25) dropped a 5–3 decision to close the gap 16–9.
That match would swing from the “bigs” to the light weights, the Eagles’ strength.
Freshman Brody Lee (37–15) added near fall points at the end for 9–0 major decision over state qualifier Dylan Weiss to extend the Fennimore lead 20–9.
Sophomore Mason Lull (20–3), who finished a team-best third-place at the individual state tournament a week earlier, followed Lee’s victory with a pin over Parker Scholler extending the lead to 26–9.
The Rams tried to gain some last momentum when state placewinner Anthony Rautmann, scored a 5–3 decision over Fennimore sophomore Alex Birchman (17–9).
“Birchman wrestled well, but he just didn’t have his timing fully back,” said Fennimore head coach Chad Steldt. “A month ago we weren’t sure if he would even get to wrestle because of a broken hand. We battled injuries all year. It’s just been that kind of a season, but our depth allowed quality guys to step up all year.”
In addition to Klaas’ injury, sophomore Aidan Nutter (40–11) was injured last week in practice, but it certainly didn’t show as he earned his 40th win of the season with a 25-second pin over Samantha Guzman to push the lead to 32–12.
At 132, junior Trevor Wanek (47–8) pinned state qualifier Tristan Hammen in 3:48 to secure the Fennimore victory with just three matches remaining.
Sophomore Taggan Gommel (1–1) got in on the action with pin over Joey Bock at 138.
Sophomore Nick Blaschke (3–5) earned a 6–5 decision at 245 to push the lead to 46-12.
The dual concluded with Random Lake state qualifier Aiden Vanderbush getting the 5–3 decision over Fennimore state qualifier Maguire Fitzgerald (30–13) at 152 pounds.
With the dominating 46–15 win over Random Lake, Fennimore was guaranteed its third team state trophy in as many years, but would have to face top-ranked Stratford, who defeated Division 1 team state champion Stoughton, earlier in the year.
Somebody forgot to tell the Eagles they were underdogs. Fennimore fell 45–13 to bring home silver, but those who were present felt like the match was closer than the final score.
The D3 championship dual began at 170 pounds with Klaas battling state runner-up Trevor Dennee.
Coach Steldt said Klaas couldn’t give up a pin if the Eagles were going to have a shot at the upset and Klaas did his part.
Dennee would get a 12–1 major decision to win the match and give the Tigers an early 4–0, but Klaas’ six-minute fight saved Fennimore two bonus points.
At 182, Neuroth scored a 6–5 decision over Kade Ehrike to cut the lead to 4-3. Neuroth trailed for most of the match, but scored the takedown at the end to give the Eagles some hope.
“The last couple of years Trevor focused on getting better for baseball and football in the offseason, which unfortunately is during wrestling,” said Steldt. “But Saturday, he had a great day.”
Sophomore Logan Klaas (1–4)would entertain the crowd by nearly knocking off state runner-up Aiden Hoffmen.
“Coach Schwabe from Stratford told us he always hates wrestling us,” said Steldt. “Logan’s match was an example why.”
Despite the upset bid, Hoffman held on for an 11–6 victory to put Stratford up 7–3.
At 220, Fennimore would get the match up they were hoping with junior Cameron Allen against Hector Rojas. Allen (26–15) nearly got the pin that could have swung the momentum, but was reversed in the second period and gave up the pin in the third to make it 13–3.
“Cameron’s a strong kid, and he just about buried him,” said Steldt. “Looking at these two matches, they could have gone either way. Against a team like Stratford so many things have to fall in your favor. Should’ve, would’ve, could’ve. Those two matches go the way they were heading and the final score is within 12 just with those two alone.”
Leffler bumped up to 285 pound weight class against Dylan Schoenherr (51–4) who placed third at individual state. Leffler made a bid for the upset, but was overpowered in the battle for position and lost an 11–0 major decision to push the Stratford lead to 17–3.
At 106 pounds, Lee faced a big challenge with two-time state runner-up Manny Drexler (44–4). Lee had Drexler in a couple of uncomfortable positions to make it interesting, but dropped the match 4–2, as Stratford stretched the lead to 20–3.
“Brody gave a great effort, but fell a little short,” said Steldt.
Lull left little doubt at 113 pounds with a 15–3 major decision over Karter Stugen (38–7). Lull would utilize a series of pinning combinations, but was not able to get both shoulders connected long enough to get the fall. Lull’s win closed the gap to 20–7.
“Mason has been consistent for us since his return,” said Steldt. “Each guy had a job and he got his done.”
Birchman, a two-time state qualifier, dropped an 11–3 major decision to third-place state finisher Max Schwabe.
Nutter, who finished fifth a week ago, was asked to battle three-time state champion senior AJ Schoenfuss at 126.
If the Golden Eagles were going to have any chance, Nutter would need to get a pin. At one point Nutter put the Stratford wrestler toward his back, but ended up in a tight cradle and was pinned. That sealed any chances for a Fennimore team victory, as Stratford took charge at 30–4 with five matches left.
At 132 pounds, Wanek would continue his pinning ways with a 30-second pin over Derek Kraus. Stratford returned the favor with three-time state qualifier Derek Marten getting the pin over Taggan Gommel at 138 pounds making the score 36–10.
With the score out of reach the crowd would be entertained with Riley Blair and four-time state champion Jeremy Schoenherr battling at 145 pounds.
Blair (30–5), who placed fifth at 145 pounds at individual state, made some good attempts against Schoenherr, who will wrestle for the Wisconsin Badgers next year, but eventually fell to the D1 recruit 9–5. Even though the team dual was out of reach for the Eagles, all eyes were on Division 3 with two of the state’s best.
Blair finished his career with a third-place finish as a freshman, second-place as a sophomore, and fifth at individual state this year. He missed last year with concussion protocol.
“It was such a blessing to just be wrestling this year,” said Blair. “I gave it my all, so I am satisfied. Not a lot of guys can say they’ve been a part of a senior group that has had this much success, so I don’t take it for granted.”
The final two matches would see a pair of state place winners in Fitzgerald and Ahnen fall short to Stratford seniors Jake Drexler (48–3) and Jordan Becker (28–7) by identical scores of 5–3.
“With some more offseason work on the mat and in the weight room, they will be a tough combination next year,” said Steldt.
The Eagles will return 24 of the 29 wrestlers on their roster in 2018–19.
“We’ll take a week or so to reflect and enjoy what these seniors have accomplished, then we’ll start organizing the offseason to get ready for next year,” said Steldt.
Fennimore will lose Blair, Neuroth, Klaas, Conner Blaschke, and TJ Kenney.
This group of seniors finished their careers with four SWAL duals conference championships, four straight SWC/SWAL Clash conference tournament championships, four regional championships, four team sectional titles, four trips to the WIAA team state tournament, with a 2016 D3 championship and back-to-back state runner-up finishes the past two seasons.
“This group was great,” said Steldt. “Think about our conference and what we have to do just to win that, so for this group to win four conference, regional, and sectional titles with a state championship is awesome. Every group is a little different.”
“TJ Kenney is involved in everything in school and steps up to be a leader in everything he does,” added Steldt. “He’s going to serve our country after high school and be an engineer. Connor Blashke is a strong kid who stays calm in all situations and is confident. He works on a farm, takes college classes, and never misses practices. Anything that is asked of him he does.
“Trevor Neuroth is all-conference in three sports now and will play football at the next level. I often think about his winning pin when we were facing the top-ranked Iowa team at the time at the Denver Duals. Being able to come through in the clutch will be a skill that can transfer in life.
“Tyler Klaas has been an athlete we could count on. He has put in the time. He would have liked to done better individually, but he was a consistent performer which is so important in dual meets. Again dependability is a life skill that can be transferred.
“And what more can you say about Riley Blair? Anyone in the area will say he is one of the most exciting kids to watch on the mat. He’s done a lot for this program. He wants to become a teacher and will be a great teacher and coach someday.”
TJ Kenney said about his fellow seniors, “We had so many great times. I’m so glad my friends talked me into coming out my freshman year. These will be memories I’ll never forget.”
The team was escorted into town by the Fennimore Fire Department meeting the bus in Preston and a welcome back with the high school band and about 200 community members.
“In all honesty, I usually am not happy about losing, but I just know that these guys did everything they could,” said Steldt.
“I am so proud of you guys,” added bus driver Paul Helms. “The respect you show your coach, your parents, and your community makes us proud to be Golden Eagles!”
WIAA Division 3 Team State
(from Saturday, March 3 @ UW–Fieldhouse, Madison)
Championship: Stratford 45, Fennimore 13
Semifinals: Fennimore 46, Random Lake 15
Stratford 47, St. Croix Falls 12
Division 3 Semifinal #1
Fennimore 46, Random Lake 15
160: Will Ahnen (Fennimore) over Brock Upson (Random Lake) Maj 12-2
170: Allan Arendt (Random Lake) over Connor Blaschke (Fennimore) Dec 1-0
182: Grayson Vandenbush (Random Lake) over Tyler Klaas (Fennimore) Dec 3-0
195: Trevor Neuroth (Fennimore) over CJ Richardson (Random Lake) Fall 1:15
220: Brayden Leffler (Fennimore) over Tyler Kies (Random Lake) Fall 4:51
285: Charlie Ruege (Random Lake) over Dylan Kehoe (Fennimore) Dec 5-3
106: Brody Lee (Fennimore) over Dylan Weiss (Random Lake) Maj 9-0
113: Mason Lull (Fennimore) over Parker Scholler (Random Lake) Fall 1:44
120: Anthony Rautmann (Random Lake) over Alex Birchman (Fennimore) Dec 5-3
126: Aidan Nutter (Fennimore) over Samantha Guzman (Random Lake) Fall 0:25
132: Trevor Wanek (Fennimore) over Tristan Hammen (Random Lake) Fall 3:48
138: Taggan Gommel (Fennimore) over Joey Bock (Random Lake) Fall 2:46
145: Nick Blaschke (Fennimore) over Gerardo Mendoza Reyes (Random Lake) Dec 6-5
152: Aiden Vandenbush (Random Lake) over Maguire Fitzgerald (Fennimore) Dec 5-3
Fennimore’s team score was adjusted by -1 for UC on Coach
Division 3 Championship
Stratford 45, Fennimore 13
170: Trevor Dennee (Stratford) over Tyler Klaas (Fennimore) Maj 12-1
182: Trevor Neuroth (Fennimore) over Kade Ehrike (Stratford) Dec 6-5
195: Aiden Hoffman (Stratford) over Logan Klaas (Fennimore) Dec 11-6
220: Hector Rojas (Stratford) over Cameron Allen (Fennimore) Fall 4:29
285: Dylan Schoenherr (Stratford) over Brayden Leffler (Fennimore) Maj 11-0
106: Manny Drexler (Stratford) over Brody Lee (Fennimore) Dec 6-4
113: Mason Lull (Fennimore) over Karter Stuttgen (Stratford) Maj 15-3
120: Max Schwabe (Stratford) over Alex Birchman (Fennimore) Maj 11-3
126: A. J. Schoenfuss (Stratford) over Aidan Nutter (Fennimore) Fall 1:16
132: Trevor Wanek (Fennimore) over Derek Kraus (Stratford) Fall 0:30
138: Derek Marten (Stratford) over Taggan Gommel (Fennimore) Fall 1:22
145: Jeremy Schoenherr (Stratford) over Riley Blair (Fennimore) Dec 9-5
152: Jake Drexler (Stratford) over Maguire Fitzgerald (Fennimore) Dec 5-3
160: Jordan Becker (Stratford) over Will Ahnen (Fennimore) Dec 5-3