SPRING VALLEY — Hilltoppers’ head coach Shane Strong likes to refer to it as “Pinstripe Pride!”
It is an aura that has radiated from this year’s Glenwood City wrestlers – an undermanned group that overflows with commitment and determination – and enveloped their parents and fans alike.
Never was that more evident than in the Spring Valley High School gymnasium during last Saturday’s regional tournament.
As Coach Strong wrote in a post on the Glenwood City Wrestling Facebook page following the competition “It was exciting to feel the energy in the gym! Pinstripe pride in full force today!”
It truly was.
Despite fielding just ten wrestlers for a second consecutive year, in arguably, Wisconsin’s strongest Division 3 regional grouping that featured a pair of state-ranked teams (Clear Lake and Boyceville) and highly rated wrestlers in all 14 weight classes, the Hilltoppers put six in the finals with two winning championships in the six-squad WIAA Division 3 Spring Valley wrestling regional held February 10.
“I felt our kids came to wrestle on Saturday,” said Coach Shane Strong. “Our goal was to have seven kids or more in the finals and we felt we could do it. We knew it would be tough to compete for the team crown with only ten guys entered in the tournament, but we felt we could still compete at a high level in all of our weight classes.”
All half dozen of Glenwood City’s finalists earned berths, doubling last year’s haul, to the 2018 WIAA Division 3 Individual Sectional to be held this Saturday, February 17 at Osceola High School. The event is hosted by St. Croix Falls.
State-ranked seniors Jacob Nadeau and Carson Strong copped the Toppers’ two individual titles. Nadeau qualified for his third straight sectional tournament with a second consecutive regional championship at 120 pounds while Strong earned a second trip to the sectional meet in as many years with a gold-medal performance at 126 pounds.
That duo will be joined at the sectional tournament by freshman Andy Grant, sophomore Aaron Holmquist, senior Brad Kessler and junior Bryce Fayerweather, all of whom finished as runners-up at their respective weight classes of 106, 113, 132 and 285 pounds.
The six sectional qualifiers tied Glenwood City with Boyceville, who had six champions, and Cadott for the most.
Three other Hilltoppers just missed the sectional cut, placing third. Only the top two finishers in each of the 14 weight classes advance to the sectional competition.
Seniors Austin Curvello (138) and Jacob Kopacz (182) capped their prep careers with bronze-medal finishes in Spring Valley. Tucker Lagerstrom (145) also ended his sophomore year finishing third. Curvello and Lagerstrom were afforded opportunities to wrestle back for second and earn a sectional berth but both were pinned.
“You feel bad for those kids that come up just short of their goals,” stated Strong.
Sophomore Harrison Chouinard rounded out the Toppers’ regional contingent by finishing sixth at 160 pounds.
Glenwood City, who had open weight classes at 152, 170, 195 and 220 pounds, improved a spot at this year’s regional tournament and scored an additional 36 points over its 2017 showing to finish fourth with 166 points.
Clear Lake, ranked sixth in the D3 poll, rallied past seventh-ranked Boyceville to claim the Warriors first regional championship since 2011 and the berth in last evening’s team sectional tournament in Cadott. Clear Lake won a pair of fifth-place matches by pinfalls to push past Boyceville for a 3.5 point victory – 208 to 204.5.
The Cadott Hornets finished third with 198 points followed by Glenwood City, host Spring Valley/Elmwood in fifth with 110 points and Cornell/Gilman/Lake Holcombe score 99 points to place sixth.
Clear Lake had five individual sectional qualifiers while Cornell/Gilman/Lake Holcombe had three and Spring Valley/Elmwood two.
Neither Jacob Nadeau nor Carson Strong had any issues making it to the top of the awards podium last Saturday in Spring Valley.
Nadeau, ranked second for much of the season at 126 pounds, dropped down a weight class for the start of WIAA tournament series last Saturday. The senior scored consecutive second-period pins, in nearly identical times following an opening-round bye to win the 120-pound regional title for the second year in a row.
“Jake Nadeau was on the attack in both matches,” stated his coach.
Afforded one of the first-round byes as the bracket’s top seed, Nadeau dispatched freshman Brayden Wolf of Spring Valley/Elmwood with a fall at the 3:07 mark of their semifinal bout.
In the championship match, Nadeau needed just one extra second to put the finishing touches on a second regional gold. Like he did a year ago, Nadeau beat Clear Lake senior Nick Elmer, a state honorable mention, by pin in 3:08 for the title and improved to 25-5 for the season.
“He earned a dominant victory in the finals against a quality kid,” said Strong of Nadeau’s victory over Elmer.
Like his classmate, Carson Strong came down a weight class for the regional tournament. Wrestling at 138 and 132 pounds for much of the regular season, Strong competed at 126 pounds in Spring Valley.
Strong, a runner-up at 132 pounds at last year’s regional meet in Clear Lake, scored two decisive wins to claim his first regional crown.
Strong, most recently ranked eighth in the state’s D3, 132-pound field, also earned a bye in the opening round as the weight’s top seed. In the semifinal match against number ten Nick Goodell, a junior from Boyceville, Strong dominated his rival posting a 13-2 major decision to move on to the championship match. There he faced a strong wrestler from Cornell/Gilman/Lake Holcombe, Sam Pickerign, a junior with a 34-6 record. Strong, who improved to 28-3, kept control of Pickerign throughout their six-minute bout and prevailed with an 8-2 decision for the title.
“Carson Strong wrestled very well despite an injury he is dealing with,” said his coach and father, Shane Strong. “He hasn’t been able to train at the same level and we have been forced to make adjustments to his training schedule.”
After finishing third at 126 pounds in last year’s regional and just missing out on a sectional berth, senior Brad Kessler wasn’t about to let this, his final opportunity, slip through his fingers.
Following a first-round bye as the second seed, Kessler squared off against Clear Lake sophomore Ivan Ruble in one of the 132-pound semifinal matches. Kessler, who has been receiving attention from the state pollsters all year and is currently listed as an honorable mention, dominated Ruble to the tune of 16-6 to advance to the finals. It was there that he wrestled Bailey Gillett of Cadott. Kessler found himself in a tied match late in the third period when the Hornet senior, ranked ninth, turned and pinned him at 5:29. Kessler’s finish, however, had a silver lining and allowed him to advance to Osceola with a 30-10 record.
“Brad Kessler continues to wrestle well,” noted Strong. “He had a chance with a tie match in the finals to win the title, but just (got) out of position for a second and got put on his back. He will work hard this week to prepare for that situation for sectionals.”
Andy Grant has made quite an impression in his first year of high school wrestling. Currently sporting a 27-8 record, the Glenwood City freshman added a sectional berth to his list of first-year accolades.
After a quarterfinal’s bye, Grant stepped on the mat for his first WIAA tournament match and pinned Cadott senior Shane Chady at the 5:32 mark of their 106-pound semifinal bout. That put Grant head-to-head against another senior, Ryan Anderson of Clear Lake, for the lightweight championship. Anderson, a two-time state wrestling participant and the 2016, 106-pound state titlist, was unbeaten coming into the match after pinning his semifinal in 29 seconds. Anderson remained that way, pinning Grant in 58 second to claim the regional crown.
“Andy Grant continues to win this year for us,” Strong stated. “He struggled in junior high, but he has really developed into a solid wrestler.”
One of the biggest surprises for Glenwood City had to be the regional performance of sophomore Aaron Holmquist. Just 10-8 coming into the tournament, Holmquist shocked state-ranked freshman Mathew Anderson of Clear Lake in the 113-pound semifinals. The Topper wrestler earned a spot in the finals by pinning Anderson at 5:18. The magical run was all too brief as second-ranked 113 pound freshman Walker Retz of Boyceville needed just 57 second to put Holmquist’s back to the mat to earn the championship.
Not to be outdone, junior Bryce Fayerweather electrified the Glenwood City faithful with a great semifinal match that boosted him into the finals and his first sectional berth in just his second year of wrestling. Fayerwether brought his coaches and the Hilltopper fans to their feet when he scored a third-period takedown and back points on Sam Dusek (26-12) of Clear Lake to break a three all tie in a semifinal match at 285 pounds en route to an 8-3 win.
Fayerweather gave a good accounting in the finals, competing hard against sixth-ranked senior Noah Novotney of Boyceville. Novotney was eventually able to get ahold of Fayerweather and threw him to the mat for the pin at 5:31.
“Bryce Fayerweather put together a solid tournament. He was able to win a close match in the semi-final against a kid that defeated him earlier in the year,” said Strong. “It was exciting to see him win that big match.”
Fayerweather will carry a 14-14 record into the sectional meet.
The seasons of three other Toppers ended all too quickly.
As did the careers of seniors Austin Curvello and Jacob Kopacz, who both finished third, as did sophomore Tucker Lagerstrom.
Following a opening-round bye, Curvello lost 9-5 to eventual 145-pound champion Nick Sempf of Clear Lake. Curvello rebounded for a win in the third-place match where he pinned Spring Valley/Elmwood’s Cross Hurlburt in 3:29. He did earn a wrestleback for second after Sempf, ranked #6, defeated fifth-ranked Andrew Gunderson of Cadott 7-5 in the finals. Gunderson, however, held on to his second-place finish by pinning Curvello in the second period.
Tucker Lagerstrom kicked of his regional tournament at 145 pounds by shutting out Boyceville senior Tanner Anderson in a 14-0 major decision. 11th ranked Gabe Colbeth returned the favor beating Lagerstrom by major decision, 17-4, in the semifinals. While Colbeth went on to win the title, Lagerstrom took advantage of the opportunity for a second-place wrestleback by winning his third-place match over Steven Pfeiffer on a first-period pin. Lagerstrom, unfortunately, missed out on the sectional berth and the silver medal when Spencer Kraus of Cornell/Gilman/Lake Holcombe pinned him late in the wrestleback.
Jacob Kopacz never got a chance to wrestleback to second.
After a heartbreaking 6-5 loss to Cadott sophomore Ethan Tegels in the 182-pounds finals, the Glenwood City senior had to win his third-place match and have Tegels win the title. While Kopacz scored a 14-7 win over Spring Valley/Elmwood senior Jaydon Nyeggen for the bronze, Tegels was beaten badly by Boyceville freshman Trett Joles, who took the title by fall at 4:33.
Sophomore Harrsion Chourinard lost both of his contested matches at 160 pounds to finish sixth.
“We wanted to wrestle with a chip on our shoulder and I felt we did that,” concluded Strong. “We take pride in our hometown and the colors we wear. These kids stand for something bigger than just a wrestling team.”
Six Hilltoppers will don the pinstripes for another week as they vie for sectional medals and a state berth in this coming Saturday’s WIAA Division 3 Individual Sectional meet at Osceola High School. The top three place winners in each weight class at the sectional meet will advance to the individual state championships to be held February 22-24 at the Kohl Center in Madison.