MADISON – Lancaster wrestling coach Brad Sturmer has been left pondering the definition of success, following the WIAA Individual State Wrestling Tournament held last Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Kohl Center in Madison.
With three of his five state qualifying wrestlers finishing the season as state runners-up, he considers it a success for all three of those wrestlers, as well as for the two others who qualified for the big meet.
“There’s no line that defines what is a success. But after you sit back and look at the big picture, having three in the finals, it was a very successful tournament,” said coach Sturmer.
“We talk about it as a program that hard work equals success. But, what really constitutes a success?” Sturmer added. “We leave that tournament Saturday night with kind of a bad feeling in our gut, if we had won those three would that have been a success?”
“It just goes to show that if you put everything you have toward just being excellent, and successes will happen as a byproduct,” Sturmer concluded.
Finishing the season as division 3 state runners-up were 106-pound sophomore Remington Bontreger (47-2), 182-pound senior Troy Klein (39-8) and 195-pound junior Caden Straka (41-7).
Qualifying for the state meet, but losing their first-round matches on Thursday night were 113-pound sophomore Carter Lull (34-11) and 170-pound junior Dustin Wolf (12-5).
Bontreger, who was ranked first in the D3 106-pound weight class for most of the season, came into the state tournament with a record of 45-1.
After handily winning his first two state matches by scores of 7-0 and 10-0, Bontreger matched up against Tanner Gerber (49-2) of Cameron in his finals match last Saturday night.
Bontreger scored a take-down in the first period of the match to take a 2-0 lead, and scored an escape in the second period to take a 3-0 lead into the third.
Choosing the down position to start the third period, Bontreger was hoping to get an escape and take a 4-0 lead, but instead got tilted by Gerber to give up a couple back points.
The two then got in a scramble, in which Bontreger got caught in a gramby situation, giving up two more points on a near-fall late in the match.
Bontreger lost to Gerber, 6-3, having his dream of a state championship put on hold for another season.
“I still feel Remi is better than that kid, and I think he beats him the next time they wrestle if he had another shot,” said coach Sturmer.
“I really think, obviously, his goal next year is to win it, but again that’s chasing a target. I’m trying to teach these kids to just get better every day, and focus on getting better and being excellent. Instead of striving for success, strive for greatness and that success will happen,” Sturmer added.
For senior Troy Klein, coach Sturmer thinks of him as more than just a good wrestler, who made three trips to the state tournament and finished with a career record of 124-51 at LHS.
“The story that doesn’t get written about Troy, and very understandably, is how good of a kid he is, how great of a leader he is, and what he’s done for this program as a leader coming up through,” said coach Sturmer.
After winning his first-round match on Friday by the score of 7-0, Klein defeated Tyler Wetzel of Weyauwega-Freemont, 10-3, in his semifinal match.
During that match, coach Sturmer recalled a moment that defined what kind of a leader Klein is, and how he made an impact on one of his teammates.
Troy, who was comfortably in control of his semifinal match, had just executed a “dresser dump,” on his opponent. After doing so, he looked over to his coaches and gave them a little smile as if to say “That was pretty cool huh?”
Straka, who was at state for the first time and about to go on the matt for his semifinals match, saw this while waiting in the bull pen, and seemingly made him relax ever so slightly prior to his big match.
“I think that let Caden know that he can go out and have some fun,” said coach Sturmer. “You want to wrestle hard and give everything you’ve got, but you have to have some fun too. You can let the pressure of the moment get to you sometimes, and I think Troy was just a calming factor for him.”
Klein went on to face Trett Joles (50-0) of Boyceville in his championship match, whom he had a little history with one year earlier. The two had met two times before with each winning one match, and this being the third time.
Klein held a commanding 4-0 lead after the first period of his state finals match, then took a 5-0 lead early in the second period on an escape.
With 1:25 to go in the second period, Joles took Klein down for two points and picked up three more on a near-fall to tie the match at 5-5.
Klein got an escape with 22 seconds to go in the period, taking a 6-5 lead, but Joles followed with a takedown 16 second later to take a 7-6 lead into the third.
Joles then dominated the third period, taking an 11-6 lead over Klein with 1:37 to go, and shortly after put Klein on his back for a pin 18 seconds later.
“That kid is just really good and caught Troy in a couple things. Really, the move he pinned him in was pretty fantastic,” Sturmer said. “It was a great effort and a great tournament for Troy, and a great career.”
Straka closed out the state tournament with his finals match against Jacob Giese (44-2) of Bonduel after winning his first two state matches by scores of 8-3 and 6-5.
In his semifinal match against William Raatz (19-2) of Edgar, Straka had tied the match up at 4-4 with a take-down with just over a minute remaining in the third period.
“I remember looking at the clock and there was 1:02 left, and I was thinking we need to cut him, give him an escape, and then take him down,” said Sturmer.
“We started screaming at him to cut him, and he lets him go. Now you’ve just given him the lead back, but we wanted to do this because we could see that kid was tiring, and Caden is in very good shape. We’d rather give him the lead, and wrestle on our feet where we know we’re in better shape, and it worked out.”
Caden got a takedown and worked his leg offense, and then instinctly and very intelligently let Raatz go with four seconds left, giving up an escape, but winning, 6-5.
Against Giese in his finals match, the two wrestled on their feet for no score in the first period.
With Straka choosing down to start the second period, he quickly got an escape for a 1-0 lead, which held up going into the third.
With Straka in the up position to start the third, Giese got a reversal with 1:43 to go in the match, taking a 2-1 lead.
Then, with just 40 seconds remaining in the match, Straka scored an escape to tie it at 2-2.
With both wrestlers now on their feet, Giese scored on a takedown with 21 seconds showing on the clock, and road Straka out until the final second when he gave up the escape for a 4-3 victory.
Having five wrestlers advance to the state meet, and bringing home three state runner-up titles, is by all means a success in coach Sturmer’s book.
“I think Friday night was definitely a great night for the program,” Sturmer said. “It was one of the more exciting wrestling moments that we’ve had. It was great getting three to the finals, which represents our community and our program well.”
WIAA Individual State Wrestling Meet
(from Feb. 21-23, at Madison)
D3-106 Remington Bontreger (47-2) placed 2nd and scored 17.0 team points.
Quarterfinal - Remington Bontreger (Lancaster) 47-2 won by decision over Chance Gruber (Coleman) 39-14 (Dec 7-0)
Semifinal - Remington Bontreger (Lancaster) 47-2 won by major decision over Josiah Berg (Boyceville) 44-7 (MD 10-0)
1st Place Match - Tanner Gerber (Cameron) 49-2 won by decision over Remington Bontreger (Lancaster) 47-2 (Dec 6-3)
D3-113 Carter Lull (34-11) place is unknown and scored 0.0 team points.
Champ. Round 1 - Carter Greening (Weyauwega.-Frem.) 40-8 won by fall over Carter Lull (Lancaster) 34-11 (Fall 3:26)
D3-170 Dustin Wolf (12-5) place is unknown and scored 0.0 team points.
Champ. Round 1 - James Pfeiffer (Cadott) 45-3 won by major decision over Dustin Wolf (Lancaster) 12-5 (MD 9-1)
D3-182 Troy Klein (39-8) placed 2nd and scored 16.0 team points.
Quarterfinal - Troy Klein (Lancaster) 39-8 won by decision over Carter Lawrence (Shell Lake) 43-8 (Dec 7-0)
Semifinal - Troy Klein (Lancaster) 39-8 won by decision over Tyler Wetzel (Weyauwega.-Frem.) 43-7 (Dec 10-3)
1st Place Match - Trett Joles (Boyceville) 50-0 won by fall over Troy Klein (Lancaster) 39-8 (Fall 4:53)
D3-195 Caden Straka (41-7) placed 2nd and scored 16.0 team points.
Quarterfinal - Caden Straka (Lancaster) 41-7 won by decision over Bryce Best (Flambeau) 33-14 (Dec 8-3)
Semifinal - Caden Straka (Lancaster) 41-7 won by decision over William Raatz (Edgar) 19-2 (Dec 6-5)
1st Place Match - Jacob Giese (Bonduel) 44-2 won by decision over Caden Straka (Lancaster) 41-7 (Dec 4-3)