SPRING GREEN – With both teams entering last Thursday night’s SWC wrestling dual with identical records of 4-0, it was no surprise that Lancaster and River Valley finished in a 39-39 tie after five forfeits and nine exciting matches.
But after taking into consideration the first eight criteria for breaking a tie, it was the Flying Arrows who took home the conference championship title and finished with an SWC dual-meet record of 5-0.
For the Lancaster wrestling program, it is the third-straight conference dual-meet championship.
While the Arrows went 5-0 this season, River Valley finished at 4-1, Richland Center 3-2, Prairie du Chien 2-3, Dodgeville 1-4 and Belmont/Platteville 0-5.
For Lancaster coach Brad Sturmer, this year’s title was a little more special.
Throughout the season, a few members left the team for one reason or another, but the ones that remained gave it all they had to win this year’s title last Thursday night.
“This is probably the most gratifying one because of the fact that these guys stuck together through adversity, and had to just keep raising their level, and doing more things on their own,” Sturmer said.
Going into Thursday night’s dual meet, coach Sturmer was prepared to forfeit four weight classes, and was going to be without junior Tyson Wolf, who was recovering from a concussion.
Starting off at 106 pounds, the Arrows gave up a forfeit, and followed up with another forfeit at 113 pounds.
Senior Lizzy Austin weighed in at 113 pounds, but was bumped up to 120 pounds, where she faced Gavin Wipperfurth, a sixth-place finisher at the Bi-State Classic earlier this season.
Austin avoided the pin and ended up losing a 6-2 decision, giving the Blackhawks three points and a 15-0 lead.
“For her to move up to 120 against a kid that got sixth at Bi-State, and not only not get pinned, but she was in the match,” said Sturmer.
Lancaster senior Kyle Mezera was next to take the mat, and picked up a pin and Lancaster’s first points of the meet.
Making the move up to 132 pounds was sophomore Owen Austin, who came up big with a pin of his own, and six more points for the Arrows.
“Owen Austin was a huge part of the night. He is just such a hard worker in the practice room. For him to get that pin was huge, obviously,” Sturmer said.
With Lancaster’s Cole Martin taking the mat at 138 pounds, River Valley wisely gave up a forfeit, sending their 138 pounder up to wrestle sophomore Dustin Reynolds.
Reynolds picked up a 6-5 decision over Elijah Alt, which gave Lancaster a 21-15 lead.
At 152 pounds, Valley moved Cole Mahoney up from 145, and picked up a pin against Lancaster’s Mitchell Taylor.
Unknown at the time, Taylor had actually won a small victory for his team by scoring the first points in the match, which came back to benefit the Flying Arrows in the tie-breaker.
“Mitchell Taylor, even though he got beat, played a huge role because he got the first takedown in his match,” Sturmer explained.
Immediately after Taylor got pinned, coach Sturmer started crunching the numbers and plotting his strategy for the remaining six matches.
The tough decisions began at 160 pounds.
With both Trenton Cornell and Jay Mezera weighing in heavy that night, one had to face Bi-State champion Joe Crook at 160 pounds, while the other would have to move up two weight classes to 170.
In some respects, Mezera drew the short straw and took the mat against Crook, hoping to avoid a pin.
Despite his efforts though, Mezera was pinned in 45 seconds, giving up six points, and River Valley a 27-21 lead.
“When I made the decision at 152, I knew we’d have to get pins out of Trenton (Cornell), Ethan (Soderstrom) and David (Chadd), just to tie the dual,” Sturmer said.
“I was about 95-percent confident when I made that decision that if we did end up tying it, we’d win the tie-breaker.”
Sturmer knew that Taylor had gotten the first takedown in his match, and that Mezera, Austin and Reynolds all did the same in theirs. He was also confident Cornell, Soderstrom and Chadd would pick up the first points in their matches as well.
But there was still the small detail where Lancaster needed three pins to tie the meet, knowing they were going to give up forfeits at 195 and 285 pounds.
At 170 pounds, Cornell matched up against Jacob Heiser, who was River Valley’s best hope of the three remaining wrestlers to avoid getting pinned.
“T.J. was just giving it everything he had, but you could tell he was starting to get frustrated,” Sturmer said.
In the third period though, Cornell forced a head throw and threw Heiser on his back to pick up a pin in 4:56.
“With a minute left, I was starting to get worried, because if he doesn’t get this pin, we’re done,” Sturmer explained.
Soderstrom moved up to 182 and picked up a pin with just one second remaining in the first period of his match.
At 195, Lancaster showed first, and showed forfeit, knowing that Zach Koch of River Valley was a decent wrestler, and that Lancaster needed a sure pin.
Coach Sturmer figured Chadd’s best chance at pick up a pin was at 220, where Chadd obliged by putting River Valley’s Tennessee Hatfield on his back in just 1:46.
Tied at 39-39 at the end of the meet, the tie-breaker criteria came down to the team having the greater number of first points, which Lancaster won, 7-4.
“It’s ironic, because the night before in practice we were emphasizing several things, but one thing we emphasized was getting that first takedown,” Sturmer said.
“It wasn’t because we thought we’d tie, it’s because River Valley is a fairly aggressive team on their feet, and we wanted to match it, if not beat it.”
In his eight years of coaching at Lancaster, Sturmer has been involved in three tie-breakers, all three of which came down to the team having the greater number of first points.
Thursday night’s exciting meet ended on an emotional note, when Lancaster’s Cole Martin took the mat with Sean Nolan, a River Valley manager diagnosed with down’s syndrome.
“That was a pretty uplifting experience for the whole crowd,” Sturmer said.
River Valley 39
(from Thursday, Jan. 30, at Spring Green)
* Lancaster won on criteria of most first points scored.
*106 - Dillon Brummer (RV) received a forfeit. 113 - Dustin Hatfield (RV) received a forfeit. 120 - Gavis Wipperfurth (RV) def. Lizzy Austin, 6-2. 126 - Kyle Mezera (L) pinned Mason Wipperfurth, 1:31. 132 - Owen Austin (L) pinned Ethyn Johnson, 2:35. 138 - Cole Martin (L) received a forfeit. 145 - Dustin Reynolds (L) def. Elijah Alt, 6-5. 152 - Cole Mahoney (RV) pinned Mitchell Taylor, 3:47. 160 - Joe Crook (RV) pinned Jay Mezera, :45. 170 - Trenton Cornell (L) pinned Jacob Heiser, 4:56. 182 - Ethan Soderstrom (L) pinned Wyatt Schauf, 1:59. 195 - Zach Koch (RV) received a forfeit. 220 - David Chadd (L) pinned Tennessee Hatfield, 1:46. 285 - Kaleb Crooks (RV) received a forfeit.