MADISON — Fennimore wrestling coach Chad Steldt summed up his team’s performance over the weekend at the 75th annual WIAA Individual Wrestling State Tournament perfectly.
“It was a roller coaster as always,” he explained. “We had some standout performances by Will Ahnen and Maguire Fitzgerald. We had some lows as well, but the guys picked up themselves on Saturday to finish strong.”
Sophomore Mason Lull, who missed much of the regular season with an injury, suffered a disappointing pin to Wittenberg–Birnamwood sophomore Chad Moegenburg (44–9) in Friday morning’s quarterfinal round, but battled all the way back with three straight wins to finish a team-best third place in Division 3 at 113 pounds. Moegenburg went on to place second.
Ahnen finished fourth at 160, Fitzgerald took fourth at 152 and junior Trevor Wanek placed fourth at 132 pounds.
Senior Riley Blair capped his individual wrestling career with a fifth-place finish at 145 pounds.
Sophomore Aidan Nutter finished fifth at 126, while sophomore Alex Birchman and freshman Brody Lee were state qualifiers at 120 and 106.
Lull (18–3) pinned Michicot’s Kolton Tesarik in Friday’s consolation round, then scored a tech fall over Cumberland’s Logan Steglich Saturday morning, before finishing with a 5–1 victory over Boyceville’s Walker Retz.
“Mason was leading [Moegenburg] when he was caught in a headlock that was pretty tight,” said Steldt. “Likewise for Trevor Wanek.”
Wanek also lost his opening match in Friday’s quarterfinals 11-6 in overtime to Cumberland junior Reid Olson (41–7). Olson went on to place second at 132 pounds, while Wanek wrestled his way back to finish fourth.
“Trevor just struggled on Friday getting his feet moving, and I think he was thinking of defending more than attacking,” said Steldt. “We live and learn though. I talked with both of these athletes that night, and we regrouped, refocused, and went to work on Saturday. In the big picture these losses were very important to both boys. It was a hard lesson, but it was learned, and when we do not come to fight, to score time and time again, we leave the opportunity open for others to capitalize.”
Wanek (45–8) bounced back with a pair of pin fall victories in the consolation bracket before he dropped a 7–6 decision to Darlington/Black Hawk senior Kolbe Ubersox in the 132-pound third-place match.
“Will took fourth beating seniors and juniors on his way to a state placement,” said Steldt. “Maguire finished fourth as well, wrestling within his capabilities. They both attacked the whole match, constantly looking to put themselves in situations that favored their skill set. These guys are at a pivotal point though in wrestling. To take the next step they both will have to commit to competition this spring and summer. The kids that do this, find titles.”
Ahnen (37–18) reached Friday night’s semifinals with major decision first round victory and an injury default win in Friday’s quarterfinals. He was sent to the consolation bracket with a 3–0 loss to eventual 160-pound runner-up Clay Carney of Saint Croix Falls. He then defeated Princeton’s Terry Myadze, but dropped an 8–1 decision to Cadott’s James Pfeiffer in the fourth-place match.
Fitzgerald (30–11) dropped his first match in Friday’s quarterfinals to Cadott’s Brady Spaeth, 12–3, but rebounded with back-to-back 8–4 wins. He finished fourth at 152 after a 6–2 loss to Bayfield/Washburn’s James LaPointe in Saturday’s third-place match.
Blair (30–4), a three-time state qualifier, notched a pair of victories after a quarterfinal loss to Horicon’s Bill Condon and finished fifth with a 6–3 victory over Ithaca/Weston’s Gavin Burch to finish fifth.
“Riley fell short of his goals, but he went out attacking, he just got caught in the quarterfinals which cost him the match,” said Steldt. “Blair is a talented kid, and he has always been a joy to watch and coach. The speed he has, the counter attacks and ability to scramble is very hard to perfect. He gained such skills from years and years of training, a lot of wrestling with his dad, and so forth. It will be hard to see him go. I hope he finds time to give back to our youth, he is great with kids, and a great mentor for our younger wrestlers.”
Nutter (39–10) won his opening match Friday morning to reach the 126-pound semifinals, but suffered a 5–2 loss to eventual champion Jordan Boldt of Bonduel. Nutter defeated Reedsville’s Landon Kasper 5–1 in the fifth-place match.
“Nutter had a real nice weekend as well,” said Steldt. “He won his first match which would pit him against the eventual state champ. He would end up losing 3–1, but he did a great job looking for opportunities to score, he just could not get past the defense of his opponents.
“His ability to wrestle a complete six minutes, and attack his Russian series moves has benefited him. Moving forward we just need to get him to open up more, shoot often and create scrambles. He is at his best when he scrambles. Likewise, Aidan has big long-term goals in the sport of wrestling. To accomplish these he will have to focus in on his skills of hand fighting and chain wrestling to shots.”
Birchman (17–7) won his opening round match Thursday night, but dropped back-to-back decisions at 120.
“With Alex, I just wish we had more time,” said Steldt. “We kept it quiet that he broke his hand, and it was devastating to his progress this year. He lost a lot of muscle tone and muscle memory which ended up being detrimental to state. True to our room though, and the spirit of Alex, it did not matter. We never really focused on things that hold us back or seem to not help our daily progress. We just kept moving forward. I would say making back to state, winning a match was an accomplishment in and of itself.
“As with Aidan, Mason, and others, Alex will rebound. We already talked about what needs to happen between April to June, and then beyond, to win a title. We need a lot more mat time, experience on the mat is irreplaceable.”
Lee (36–14) suffered an 8–0 loss to Javis Pinter in Friday’s quarterfinals and was then eliminated with a 6–4 overtime loss to Bayfield/Washburn’s Markus Brown.
“I think Brody Lee wrestled well, but he needed exceptional matches to place, and he just did not repeat what he did a week earlier against Remington Bontreger from Lancaster,” said Steldt. “In that match he attacked for seven minutes straight, and it was a remarkable display of the Lee that can be, but he did not have the same moxy at state. Maybe he was a little satisfied, or little star struck by the Kohl Center. Whatever the case, he let points slip away, and those points added up to matches getting away from us.
“Lee is a tough kid though, with big goals in the sport of wrestling. I am sure these losses will motivate him to re-evaluate his spring and summer time goals so that this weekend does not repeat itself.”
NEXT: Individual state is in the books, but the Fennimore wrestling season is not over.
The second-ranked Golden Eagles (16–3) will return to Madison this weekend for the WIAA Team State Tournament.
Fennimore will face Random Lake in the Division 3 semifinals at 10 a.m. at the UW Fieldhouse.
With a win they will advance to the D3 team state championship match against either top-ranked defending D3 champion Stratford or Saint Croix Falls. The championship match is set for 3 p.m.
Fennimore will be making its fourth straight appearance at the team state tournament. The Eagles won the 2016 Division 3 state title and finished second last year.