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Hilltoppers finish second; crown four regional champs

Knops gets 150th Win

CADOTT – The Hilltoppers’ entire wrestling season was geared for this one day; this one tournament – the WIAA Division 3 Regional.

The squad had put in months of hard work and preparation, all focused on winning the regional championship and advancing to the school’s first team wrestling sectional in 18 years – an event that Glenwood City would itself be hosting on Tuesday, February 12.

So when Glenwood City finished second in last Saturday’s (February 9) WIAA Division 3 Wrestling Regional in Cadott, there was hurt and heartbreak.

“I am not happy with second place and our kids are not either,” said Shane Strong, Glenwood City’s head coach. “Our goal was to win the championship and it was all year long.”

“We really were not focused on winning conference,” stated Strong. “It was all about regionals and sectionals for us.”

Glenwood City finished with 215.5 point in the six-team regional tournament. Spring Valley/Elmwood, last year’s Division 3 state runner-up and the three-time reigning Dunn-St. Croix Champs, captured its second straight regional crown with an impressive showing that netted them 246.5 points or a 31-point margin of victory and nine individual sectional qualifiers. Boyceville, this year’s conference co-champs with the Cardinals, finished one point and one place behind Glenwood City with 214.5 points in the final tally. Host Cadott was fourth with 184 followed by Mondovi with 69 and Durand at 49.5.

“It’s disappointing but a credit for Spring Valley,” added Strong. “They wrestled very well today and came through.”

“A lot of good things but, for us not good enough,” Strong stated succinctly. “We shouldn’t be satisfied with second place and we shouldn’t be happy about it.”

“We have to dig down deeper if we want to win these tournaments,” Strong stated.

“We found out last spring that we were going to be hosting (Team Sectionals) and that was our goal all along to wrestle in our home gym,” continued Strong. “Now it will not happen and that stings a little bit and hurts and will for some time.”

The disappointment and hurt were tempered by Glenwood City’s individual performances. The Hilltoppers had seven wrestlers – two more than the previous three years – qualify for the Individual WIAA Division 3 Wrestling Sectional hosted this Saturday, February 16 by Independence at Osseo-Fairchild High School.

Glenwood City saw four of its seven sectional qualifiers win regional championships as the Hammers – seniors Riley Knops (120), Adam Holmquist (138), and Austin Moe (145) – along with junior Isaac Tuttle (170) laid claim to gold. Juniors Jacob Carlson (126), Blayze Wood (182), and senior Kyle Peterson (285) also earned sectional berths with second place finishes at their respective weights.

As has been the case in recent years, the “Hammers” were instrumental in the Toppers’ run at the regional title.

All three put forth dominating regional performances.

Adam Holmquist secured his fourth regional title with a top finish at 138 pounds this year. Holmquist also holds a pair of regional titles at 125 pounds and last year’s 132-pound crown. He improved to 36-1 on the season.

Meanwhile, Riley Knops and Austin Moe, also 36-1, grappled up their third regional championships with victories at 120 and 145 pounds, respectively. Knops has a pair of 106-pound regional crowns while Moe won at his third different weight class after taking titles at 130 and 138 pounds the previous two years. Knops also picked up his 150th career win last Saturday and joined both Holmquist and Moe on this prestigious plateau.

“Everybody expects them to win everything,” noted Strong. “But they still have to go out and perform and they did that.”

K n o p s w a s t h e f i r s t t o strike gold in Cadott.

A s t h e top seeded wrestler in the 4-man, 120-pound b r a c k e t , Knops drew a first-round b y e . H e would face Boyceville’s James Lindo in the semifinals. Riley controlled the match throughout and posted an 8-2 win to make the finals. Riley’s championship opponent was another familiar conference foe, Logan Newton from Spring Valley/Elmwood. Knops kept Newton off the scoreboard and registered a 12-0 major decision to claim the title.

Holmquist wasted little time in proving that he was the top grappler at 138 pounds. Following a first-round bye for the top seed, Holmquist scored first-period pins in his next two matches for the gold medal. He stuck Spring Valley/Elmwood’s Ryan Berg in 1:05 of the semifinal’s match and then pinned Boyceville’s Jon Harnisch in the championship in 1:21.

“I was really happy with Adam going out and getting a pin in the finals,” Strong said.

Moe would follow Holmquist’s gold-medal performance with one of his own. Austin dominated the championship match at 145 pounds with a 15-0 technical fall over Zach Newton of Spring Valley/ Elmwood. Moe, the top seed, earned a spot in the finals with the day’s fastest pin – an 18-second fall against Cadott’s Bryan Helminski in the semifinals. He started the day with a first-round bye.

“Austin going out and getting a tech fall against a good opponent in Newton (Spring Valley/Elmwood) was impressive.” said his coach. “I would not be surprised if Newton makes a run at going to state. He is a good wrestler and Austin made it look easy.”

Isaac Tuttle, who spent much of the season sidelined with a broken hand suffered during the Toppers’ state championship run in football, returned to the lineup two weeks ago and earned his first regional championship as he took gold at 170 pounds. After losing in the regional finals the previous two years, Tuttle made sure this time he would stand on the top of the podium as he pinned Brayden Bowe of Cadott in 2:55 of the finals match. Isaac, now 11-2, advanced to the title match with a 8-2 decision over Kevin Fesenmaier of Spring Valley/ Elmwood. He drew a first-round bye as the top seed.

“Tuttle coming back and getting us a championship was big,” said Strong.

The Hilltoppers had three other wrestlers make the finals at Cadott. Jake Carlson (120), Blayze Wood (182) and Kyle Peterson (285) came up short in their bids for regional titles and settled for silvers.

Carlson advanced to the 126-pound title match with a first-round bye and an impressive 6-2 semifinals win over Dylan Lamm of Boyceville. Carlson, 22-16, lost on a pin to Tyler Berg of Spring Valley/ Elmwood in the finals.

Blayze Wood (20-10) scorched through the first-two regional rounds with a bye and a pin over Boyceville’s Zach Sutliff in the semifinals at 182 pounds. But Wood lost a tight 4-2 match to Ethan Hofacker of Spring Valley/Elmwood in the championship.

In his first year of high school wrestling, senior Kyle Peterson drew the top seed and easily made his way to the finals at 285 pounds. Peterson, after a first-round bye, took down DJ Wheeler of Spring Valley/Elmwood in 2:47. He would face Boyceville freshman Jake Lake in the finals. Peterson had pinned Lake a month earlier but last Saturday the pair dueled to a scoreless deadlock through two periods. In the third, Peterson slipped while trying for the takedown and Lake jumped on the opening for the takedown and an eventual 2-0 win for the heavyweight title.

“Kyle’s first year out and he is going to sectionals,” Strong noted. “He wrestled hard just inexperienced but his effort level is very good.”

Two of members of Glenwood City’s squad just missed sectional berths. Brandon Kessler and Donovan Fornal both finished third at 195 and 220 pounds respectively.

Kessler lost a semifinals showdown to Mondovi’s Austin Schwinefus but rebounded for the win by pin in the third place match. He was denied a wrestleback as Schwinefus finished second.

“Close at 195 match,” noted Strong. “Kessler had Schwinefus on his back but strength was a factor there, plus Brennan was giving up some weight.”

Fornal suffered a pair of devastating pins after making it through to the finals. After making it into the finals with a third-period pin of Boyceville’s Will Kraft in the semifinals, Fornal was pinned by Cadott’s Bo Amans in the championship and then lost his wrestleback and sectional berth against the Valley’s Mike Roesler via a fall to finish third.

“Donovan was in a tough spot at 220. He didn’t give up weight in his first two matches as those kids were lighter too but he gave up some weight in that last one and you could tell the difference. But he had opportunities to win this tournament. I was really happy with his effort.”

Hunter Chouinard (152) and Jeff Kopacz (160) placed fourth and Damain Hoitomt (113) and Billy Norenberg (132) finished fifth.

Sectional wrestling for the seven remaining Hilltoppers will get underway at 10 a.m. this Saturday, Feb. 16 at Osseo-Fairchild High School. The top three individuals at each weight class will advance to the State Individual tournament at the Kohl Center in Madison, February 21-23.