By Paul Lecker
MADISON – There’s no feeling in sports better than becoming a champion.
Five local wrestlers earned that euphoria on Saturday night, winning their respective weight class title matches at the 2019 WIAA State Individual Wrestling Tournament at the Kohl Center.
Stratford juniors Max Schwabe and Trevor Dennee, and senior Dylan Schoenherr, along with Spencer/Columbus Catholic senior Logan Zschernitz, and Marshfield senior Sam Mitchell are now state champions after all won championship matches in front of a sellout crowd in Madison.
For Zschernitz, it is his second consecutive state title, and an undefeated one at that, as he finishes the year 46-0.
Zschernitz pinned Dom Meurett (41-5) of Mauston in 2:15 in a Division 2 285-pound bout. Zschernitz led 10-3 after a dominating first period, but what was an anxious moment early in the second period quickly turned into a victory.
Meurett pushed Zschernitz and it look like it would be a rare takedown of the SC senior, but Zschernitz used Meurett’s momentum against him, turning it around on the way to the ground. Just a few seconds later, Zschernitz earned the pin to take title No. 2.
“He caught me on my heels a little bit,” Zschernitz said. “I felt my momentum going back with his, so I just got an over-under and got him on his back using his momentum. It worked out good for me.”
Zschernitz joins former teammate Hunter Luepke, who won D-2 titles in 2017 and 2018, as the only two-time state champions in Spencer wrestling history.
“It means the world,” Zschernitz said. “Following in Hunter’s footsteps these last years, him setting the path for me to be a two-time state champ, I’m glad I could follow his path. He was a great example. I’m really excited I could get the state title again this year, undefeated.”
For Marshfield’s Mitchell, it was a grueling win in the Division 1 195-pound final, beating Brooks Empey (51-7) of Stoughton, 5-4.
Mitchell (46-1), who finished fifth last year after losing in the semifinals, trailed 4-3 after a late takedown by Empey in the first period.
After a scoreless second, Mitchell started on the bottom and earned a reversal with 1:41 remaining. Despite Empey fighting for his life and nearly reversing control again, Mitchell was able to hold on for the victory.
“It wasn’t the way I wanted to win, but I went out there and got the job done and I’m happy with it,” Mitchell said. “I wanted to be dominant. I wasn’t dominant out there, I didn’t move as well as I wanted to, I didn’t score as many points. It was a big environment, I was nervous, and I didn’t wrestle like I could, but I’m happy I came out on top.”
Mitchell is the first state champion for Marshfield since Brad Dolezal finished off back-to-back titles in 2011.
“(Empey) was so close to getting out, I’m just glad he didn’t,” Mitchell said.
“It’s great for Marshfield, we haven’t had one (a state champion) for a while, and it’s great for him,” Marshfield coach Cody See said. “He’s committed his life to wrestling. He’s wrestling in Division I in college (at the University of Buffalo), he’s fully made the commitment and it’s paid off for him.”
Stratford had four wrestlers in the finals, and three took home Division 3 championships.
Schwabe (47-2) earned a reversal 32 seconds into the second period, quickly put Tristan Hammen (44-7) of Random Lake on his back, and finished off a pin in 3:05 to win the 132-pound title.
“It feels pretty good,” Schwabe said. “Me and my teammates have our mindset on bigger things like team state, individual is kind of an afterthought for us, team is what matters to us.”
Schwabe, son of Stratford head coach Joe Schwabe, wanted to get this one for more than just selfish reasons.
“In high school, he didn’t quite win it and he regretted that, and said he wanted that for me,” Max Schwabe said. “I’ve had a few hiccups along the way once I got to high school, but I finally got it and it feels good.”
Dennee, who lost in the 170-pound finals last year, was able to be earn his state title with a workman-like 11-6 win over fellow Marawood Conference wrestler Hunter Grimm (40-8) of Pittsville in the 170-pound championship duel.
Dennee (47-1) built a 9-2 lead after an escape and takedown midway through the second period, earned another takedown 27 seconds into the third, and held control from there to snag the victory.
“To be able to pull it out in the finals here to win it, it feels good to take first instead of second like last year,” Dennee said. “Last year I went in probably a little out of shape, but this year I knew I was in the best shape I could be to push the pace in the third period and win the match.”
Schoenherr, who finished third a year ago, was back in the Division 3 285-pound field and used his strength to edge Leif Bredeson (37-5) of Darlington/Black Hawk, 2-1, in the final.
Schoenherr (48-3) earned a reversal 11 seconds into the second period and Bredeson eventually escaped to make it 2-1 heading into the third.
Schoenherr was able to elude every move Bredeson made throughout the third period to escape with the win.
“He was definitely and upper-body guy and I had to stay away from his throws,” Schoenherr said of his opponent. “I had to work at what I work best at, getting low, getting angles, and making my opportunities.
Stratford’s Manny Drexler finished second for the third year in a row, losing to unbeaten Cian Fischer (47-0) of Weyauwega-Fremont, 14-4.
Drexler finishes the season at 45-5 and ended up with a 128-13 record in the past three seasons, which includes the three state silver medals.
In all 10 local wrestlers walked away with state medals from the tournament. Click here to view the story of the consolation matches.
Medford’s Jake Rau and Neillsville/Greenwood/Loyal’s Stephen Buchanan also earned Division 2 state titles, and Edgar’s Ethan Heil settled for a Division 3 silver medal on Saturday night.
Buchanan won his second-straight state title, slipping past Tyler Hannan of Viroqua, 3-2, in the D-2 195-pound title bout.
Buchanan (48-0) earned a takedown with 25 seconds left in the match to break a 1-1 tie and held on for another title. He also won the 182-pound championship in 2018.
Rau (35-2) also won a tight match, edging Jackson Linsmeier (45-6) of Valders, 4-2, to take the 220-pound Division 2 championship.
Heil (34-1) suffered his first and only loss of the season in the Division 3 220-pound final, falling to Drew Hennessey (40-1) of Iowa-Grant/Highland, 6-5.
Both Stratford and Marshfield will participate in the 2019 WIAA State Team Wrestling Tournament next weekend at the University of Wisconsin Fieldhouse in Madison, and both learned their first-round matchups on Saturday.
Marshfield earned the No. 3 seed and will take on No. 6 Burlington in one of four Division 1 semifinals at 5:30 p.m. Friday, March 1. The winner will face the winner of the No. 2 Mukwonago-No. 7 Slinger match in a semifinal at 7:30 p.m.
Stratford, the two-time defending Division 3 state team champion, is the top seed in the D-3 field and will go up against No. 4 Random Lake in a semifinal dual at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 2. No. 2 Fennimore and No. 3 St. Croix Falls are in the other semifinal.
All three divisional championship matches will be at 3 p.m. Saturday.
2019 WIAA State Individual Wrestling Tournament
Feb. 21-23, at the Kohl Center, Madison
Saturday, Feb. 23
Division 1 consolation semifinals
103: Justin Groshek (44-1), jr., Stevens Point, won major dec. over Riley Nilo (40-7), fr., Milton, 13-2.
152: Alex Guardiola (43-3), sr., Waterford, def. Nolan Hertel (43-4), sr., Marshfield, 12-7.
182: Bentley Schwanebeck-Ostermann (46-2), sr., Marshfield, won major dec. over Zachary Marek (43-8), sr., Waunakee, 14-2.
Division 2 consolation semifinals
113: Blaze Thurber (41-7), jr., Nekoosa/Assumption/Port Edwards, pinned Markus Brown (36-5), so., Northwestern, 0:59.
132: Cole Bavery (39-4), jr., Edgerton, def. Dane Higgins (28-9), jr., Medford, 9-6.
Division 3 consolation semifinals
138: Kolbe Ubersox (38-5), so., Darlington/Black Hawk, won major dec. over Beau Merritt (38-11), sr., Pittsville, 12-2.
145: Mavrick Licciardi (43-7), sr., Stratford, def. Nelson Wahl (30-8), so., Cadott, 11-6.
152: Derek Marten (23-4), sr., Stratford, pinned Derek Moravec (40-7), sr., Wabeno Area/Laona, 1:12.
160: Devin Dennee (39-13), jr., Stratford, def. Tyler Blanchard (41-8), so. Coleman, 4-3.
195: William Raatz (18-2), sr., Edgar, pinned Aaron Ragels (37-12), jr., Fennimore, 0:38.
220: Cole Ebert (39-10), fr., Reedsville, pinned Connor Westfall (32-8), jr., Athens, 4:29.
285: Mitchell Gore (34-10), jr., Athens, pinned Ryan Jacobs (41-7), sr., Winnebago Lutheran Academy, 5:27.
106: Justin Groshek (45-1), jr., Stevens Point, def. Cooper Willis (47-4), fr., Union Grove, 5-0.
182: Bentley Schwanebeck-Ostermann (47-2), sr., Marshfield, def. Bryson Alsteen (48-6), sr., Kaukauna, 9-6.
113: Blaze Thurber (42-7), jr., Nekoosa/Assumption/Port Edwards, pinned Quitin Gehrmann (37-5), sr., Jefferson, 2:11.
145: Logan Schmitz (37-6), sr., Mineral Point, def. Mavrick Licciardi (43-7), sr., Stratford, 6-3.
152: Aiden Vandenbush (45-4), so., Random Lake, def. Derek Marten (23-5), sr., Stratford, 3-2.
160: Josh TeStroete (42-6), sr., Cedar Grove-Belgium, Devin Dennee (39-14), jr., Stratford, 6-0.
195: William Raatz (19-2), sr., Edgar, pinned Evan Grubbs (46-3), jr., Kenosha Christian Life, 2:44.
285: Brock Martinson (38-6), sr., Coleman, pinned Mitchell Gore (34-11), jr., Athens, 2:20.
152: Nolan Hertel (44-4), sr., Marshfield, def. Keagan Lazar (39-9), sr., Oconomowoc, 5-2.
132: Garrett Moll (42-7), sr., Lomira, won by technical fall over Dane Higgins (28-10), jr., Medford, 17-2.
138: Luke Pulvermacher (38-10), sr., Princeton, def. Beau Merritt (38-12), sr., Pittsville, 7-4.
220: Connor Westfall (33-8), jr., Athens, def. Spencer Karban (28-16), so., Coleman, 7-1.
Division 1 finals
195: Sam Mitchell (46-1), sr., Marshfield, def. Brooks Empey (51-7), so., Stoughton, 5-4.
Division 2 finals
195: Stephen Buchanan (48-0), sr., Neillsville/Greenwood/Loyal, def. Tyler Hannah (40-3), jr., Viroqua, 3-2.
220: Jake Rau (35-2), jr., Medford, def. Jackson Linsmeier (45-6), sr., Valders, 4-2.
285: Logan Zschernitz (46-0), sr., Spencer/Columbus Catholic, pinned Dom Meurett (41-5), sr., Mauston, 2:15.
Division 3 finals
120: Cian Fischer (47-0), sr., Weyauwega-Fremont, won major dec. over Manny Drexler (45-5), sr., Stratford, 14-4.
132: Max Schwabe (47-2), jr., Stratford, pinned Tristan Hammen (44-7), jr., Random Lake, 3:05.
170: Trevor Dennee (47-1), jr., Stratford, def. Hunter Grimm (40-8), sr., Pittsville, 11-4.
220: Drew Hennessey (40-1), sr., Iowa-Grant/Highland, def. Ethan Heil (34-1), jr., Edgar, 6-5.
285: Dylan Schoenherr (48-3), sr., Stratford, def. Leif Bredeson (37-5), jr., Darlington/Black Hawk, 2-1.
Paul Lecker is publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com, a contributor to OnFocus sports.