SPRING VALLEY — If there was one attribute that the current edition of the Glenwood City wrestling team has demonstrated time and again this season it would perseverance.
The Hilltoppers had to replace a strong senior class that featured a trio of state place winners as well as integrate several underclassmen into the program and make a quick transition to the mat following a second straight appearance in the state football championship.
Throughout the transition and this season, injuries have plagued the Toppers effort for a cohesive and consistent line-up.
So it came as no surprise that Glenwood City found itself short-handed for last Saturday’s WIAA Division 3 Wrestling Regional in Spring Valley.
But that did not keep those Toppers that competed from giving maximum effort and attaining remarkable results.
Without fielding wrestlers at 106, 113, and 120 pounds, Glenwood City still managed to place third in one of the strongest regional fields in the state and advanced five wrestlers to the sectional tournament in Osseo this Saturday, February 22 including four as champions.
“Four champs,” said Glenwood City head coach Shane Strong. “I don’t know if you would have said that after what we lost a year ago that we would be able to do that. To the kids credit, they came out and wrestled tough today.”
The Toppers 2014 regional performance was on par with its effort a year ago when it took second place and had four of its seven sectional qualifiers win titles.
Glenwood City’s championships all came in the upper weights were it has enjoyed much of its success this season.
Issac Tuttle won his second straight regional title at 170 pounds and was joined atop the podium by first-time regional winners Blayze Wood (182), Donovan Fornal (220) and Brennan Kessler (285). Wood, who was a runner-up at the same weight class last year, will be make his second trip to the sectional meet. Those four will be joined by Jeff Kopacz, who finished second at 195 pounds. All five of the Toppers’ sectional qualifiers are seniors.
“I thought it went pretty well, Strong added. “Our upper weights wrestled extremely well.”
Those finishes combined with points from the other six weight classes helped the Toppers to a solid third place showing with 174 points.
Host Spring Valley/Elmwood showed why they have had the state’s top-ranking in Division 3 all season as it wrapped up its third straight regional championship and berth in last night’s team sectional in Boyceville with 277.5 points. Boyceville finished a distant second with 229 points. Mondovi placed fourth in the seven-team regional tournament with 125 points followed by Cadott at 119, Durand with 102 and Eau Claire Regis finished last with 31 points.
“I thought our boys wrestled tough and got after it,” said Strong. “We knew that Spring Valley/Elmwood was the team that was going to win this tournament. They are well coached, they’re aggressive, they wrestle well. So with us having three holes and only having 11 guys out on the mat today, realistically our goal was to be in the top three and to push for second.”
A goal the Hilltoppers achieved thanks in large part to the performance and leadership of its seniors.
Isaac Tuttle set the stage as he picked up the first of four golds in the final five championship matches of the tournament.
Tuttle, 29-7, made his second title run at 170 pounds look almost effortless. The senior needed just a total of 2:03 to win the championship. After a first-round bye, Tuttle opened the tournament with a pin of Boyceville’s Logan McAbee-Thomas in the semifinals. Tuttle has enjoyed the upper hand against McAbee-Thomas this season and last Saturday was no different. Tuttle put the Boyceville junior on the mat in just 45 seconds to grab a spot in the finals. There he would meet up with Kevin Fesenmaier of Spring Valley/Elmwood. Tuttle used a quick lift to put the 33-8 senior on his back and score the gold medal win with a 1:18 pin.
“I was very pleased with how Tuttle came out,” stated Coach Strong. “Fesenmaier is a very good wrestler, a good mat wrestler so our game plan was to stay on our feet and have Isaac stick to his double and it worked out for him.”
Unlike Tuttle, Blayze Wood had to wrestle every second of regulation and then some before he donned the title of regional champ. Despite being the top seed at 182, Wood had to survive a pair of harrowing battles to earn the gold. In his semifinals match against Alex Lovett of Boyceville, Wood needed overtime to prevail 9-7 after Lovett overcame a 7-1 deficit at the end of regulation to force a one-minute overtime. The intensity of the match spilled over onto the sideline as coaches Shane Strong and Jamie Olson exchanged verbal barbs during the match that required a bit of official intervention.
Once the match was over and tensions soothed, Wood had to wrestle another match for the title. Wood again made it interesting but held off Chris Craft of Spring Valley/Elmwood for a slim 3-2 decision.
“I would like to see Blayze be a little more offensive,” said Strong. “He did have some nice shots today but needs to take those shots in the third period too and he might spread the gap a little bit more.”
Donovan Fornal found some regional revenge last Saturday. After making the finals at 220 pounds a year ago, Fornal’s season came to an abrupt end with loses in the championship and then a wrestle back.
Fornal made sure that would not happen in this his final go around a regional title and sectional berth. The senior wrestled less than two minutes on the day and came home with first place. After a first-round bye for the top seed, Fornal needed only 29 seconds of his semifinal match to pin Mondovi’s Devon Yarrington. In the finals, it took him a bit longer but not much as he stuck Mike Roesler of Spring Valley/Elmwood in 1:21 to claim the gold.
“Roesler is a dangerous wrestler, we know he likes to go to an “elevator” off his shots and to Donovan’s credit, he kept that head tight and was able to take him and got to his signature cradle.”
Brennan Kessler put a golden cap on Glenwood City’s regional tournament with a top finish at 285 pounds. Despite surrendering several pounds and some times inches to his opponents, Kessler proved that he was indeed the cream of the heavyweight crop. The Toppers’ senior pinned Jake Erickson of Boyceville in 1:21 to gain the finals where he then scored another fall, taking down Valley’s DJ Wheeler in only 2:42.
“Kessler continues to wrestle pretty well despite the huge weight difference,” Strong said. “He is wrestling tough.”
Jake Carlson came up short in his bid to return to the sectional tournament. The senior finished third at 138 pounds losing to eventual champion Micah Johnson of Boyceville on a fall in the semifinals and to Hunter Adler of Durand 8-2 in the wrestle back for second. Carlson won his third-place match with a 5:22 pin against Ryan Berg of SVE.
Senior Hunter Chouinard also finished third. He recorded a fast pin – a 19-second fall over Regis’ Reece Kaldor. Chouinard lost a heart-breaking 4-0 decision to Jon Harnisch in the semifinals but rebounded with a first-period pin against Durand’s Tristian Casey in the third-place match.
Spencer Peterson (126) and Hogan Chouinard (160) took fifth and Damain Hoitomt (132) and Austin Wannamacher (145) finished sixth.
“Unfortunately, we had three of our best freshmen that we lost during the season to injuries and were not able to wrestle in this tournament,” Strong added. “Jake O’Meara would have been successful for us, Marcus Ullom dislocated his elbow last week at conference and then Jake Logghe, those are three guys that would have been in the line up that would of helped out a lot.”
Sectional wrestling for the remaining Hilltoppers will get underway at 10 a.m. this Saturday, February 22 at Osseo-Fairchild High School. The top three individuals at each weight class will advance to the State Wrestling Championships at the Kohl Center in Madison February 27-March 1.