KAUKAUNA — “The boys showed up last weekend,” exclaimed Fennimore wrestling coach Chad Steldt.
Fighting through sickness and a few injuries, Steldt’s Golden Eagles racked up 402.5 team points to place sixth at the nationally recognized Cheesehead Tournament in Kaukauna over the weekend.
Simley (Minn.) won the team title with 614.5 points at the 33-team tournament that featured five nationally-ranked teams and teams from eight states.
Mount Carmel (Ill.) finished second with 545.5 points, followed by Southeast Polk (Iowa) (506.5), St. Paris Graham (Ohio) (452) and Mukwonago (427).
“This is rated as a top-10 tournament in America, meaning the difficulty and amount of talent present makes the Cheesehead extremely competitive,” explained Steldt. “An example of this was the finals round where we saw nationally top ranked kids, world team members, and numerous NCAA Div. I full scholarship athletes compete. Hats off to Kaukauna for building this tournament so that Wisconsin kids can wrestle the best in the nation.
“As for our team, Fennimore represented all small schools of Wisconsin and proved that we can compete with the best with the right amount of preparation and mental fortitude. We were by far the smallest school competing, but our boys fought there way to a sixth place finish and for the first time took home a trophy.”
Fennimore placed ahead of Wisconsin’s top-ranked teams in Division I (Stoughton) and D2 (Wrightstown).
Seniors Will Ahnen (20–8) and Aaron Ragels (12–3) wrestled to fourth place finishes at 195 and 220 pounds at the two-day tournament, that began with round robin group wrestling Friday, followed by a championship bracket format on Saturday.
After an opening round bye, Ahnen went 2–1 in Friday’s ground round to reach the 195-pound championship bracket. He suffered a quarterfinal loss Saturday morning, but battled back with a 3–0 win over Evan Lykins of St. Paris Graham and a 6–4 decision over Mukwonago’s Ryan Krimpelbein to reach the third-place match.
“Will is getting in better shape and getting used to wrestling in the bigger weights,” said Steldt. “His elbow control and ability to move his feet and attack on angles will start to separate him from the pack.
Ragels also opened with a first-round bye, then pinned all three of his group round opponents on Friday. He scored a quarterfinal pin over Aurora Christian’s Angel Jaimes before suffering a 2–0 semifinal loss to Stoughton’s Brooks Empey (29–1).
Ragels rebounded with a 12–3 win before suffering a 2–0 loss to Mukwonago’s Caleb Willman in the 220-pound fourth place match.
“Aaron’s legs are starting to strengthen and he is really attacking well on his feet,” said Steldt.
Fellow seniors Luke Blair (10–4) and Aidan Nutter (17–8) finished fifth at 120 and 138 pounds respectively. Blair and Nutter each finished 5–3.
Senior heavyweight Braxton Wilson (16–9) earned a spot in eight-man 285-pound championship bracket, but suffered a broken tibia an a torn tendon in his quarterfinal match against eventual third-place finisher Connor Brown of Southeast Polk and will miss the remainder of the season. Wilson finished eighth.
“This has been extremely hard for the coaching staff and Braxton to deal with given the season that was unfolding for this young man,” said Steldt. “Braxton has been with Fennimore wrestling program since he was a child. He often struggled through competition, going against physically advanced kids with natural athletic skills. But he never wavered in our plan for him.
“He always committed himself to the weight room, extra wrestling, even competing in Fargo this past July, the biggest wrestling event in the world. His constant struggles built a wrestler that was coming of age this winter, and he started to really earn success on the mat. He has been a testament to our team, our program, on what can be accomplished when you believe in the coaches and teammates. Braxton did everything we ever asked of him and more. It just does not seem right.”
Junior Brody Lee (17–8) finished 4–4 to place 10th at 126. Senior Logan Klaas (14–8) went 3–5 to place 10th at 182.
Freshman Brett Brichman (17–9) at 106, Jayden Glasbrenner (19–6) at 113 and senior Alex Birchman (17–9) at 132 all placed 11th.
Seniors Mason Lull (12–6) and Nick Blaschke (13–13) finished 16th at 145 and 160.
Senior Mason Miles (13–10) went 4–1 after dropping his opening round match Friday to placed 21st at 170.
Sophomore Kaden Hahn (13–12) also recovered after an opening round loss sent him to the consolation bracket and finished 3–3 to plae 22nd at 152.
NEXT: Fennimore will have this week off before hosting Cuba City/Southwestern/Benton in a SWAL dual Thursday, Jan. 16 at 7 p.m. before traveling to McGregor, Iowa on Saturday, Jan. 18 for the MFL MarMac Invitational.