Season ends on high note
Manawa, Wega-Fremont wrestlers compete at state meet
By Greg Seubert
Five Manawa and Weyauwega-Fremont wrestlers competed Feb. 13 at the WIAA Division 3 Individual Wrestling State Tournament in Wausau.
Four of them eventually ended up on the medal podium and one – Manawa’s Colten Klemm – made it to the 120-pound championship match.
Meanwhile, Manawa’s Kevin Klemm and Weyauwega-Fremont’s Ben Strehlow finished third at 113 and 182, respectively; Manawa’s Andrew Elmhorst placed 285; and Manawa’s Bryan Griffin competed at 138.
Colten Klemm’s undefeated season ended with a 7-0 loss to Cadott’s Brayden Sonnentag in the title match at 120.
He opened the tournament by pinning Ladysmith’s Clayton Roscoe in 3:51 and advanced to the final with a 3-0 win over eventual third-place finisher Brett Birchman of Fennimore.
“It’s been a fun four years,” Klemm said. “It didn’t come out exactly how I wanted it to, but I’m proud of what I’ve done.”
Kevin Klemm lost his opening match 10-8 to Mineral Point’s Lucas Sullivan, but made it to the third-place match with an 8-2 win over Random Lake’s Tanner Birenbaum and a 7-2 decision over Spring Valley/Elmwood’s Kaleb Casey. That win placed Klemm in the third-place match with Cameron’s Kayne Johnson and he ended his high school career with his 100th win, a 5-3 decision.
Meeting challenges of pandemic
COVID-19 made the 2020-21 season a challenge for wrestlers and coaches, Colten Klemm said.
“For the most part, we tried to make it the same: come into the wrestling room and battle as hard as we can,” he said. “Not being able to (have the state meet) at the Kohl Center, that was big. I really wanted to be there. I was very happy that we were able to do this and still have the Walk of Champions. I’ve always wanted to be a part of that and this year, I finally got there.”
Strehlow, a senior, came into the tournament with a 13-1 record. He pinned Parkview/Albany’s Luke Schwengels in 3:53 in the quarterfinals, but dropped a 10-4 decision to eventual champion Mason Hughes of Mineral Point. He then handed Shell Lake’s Blake Flach a 6-1 decision before wrapping up third place with an 8-4 win over Auburndale’s Sloan Welch.
Strehlow said it wasn’t hard to stay focused during the season.
“You still have opportunities and when you have an opportunity, you need to capitalize on it,” he said. “If something comes up, it’s easy to focus because it’s all we’ve got.”
Strehlow made it to state for a second time after placing sixth last year.
“We got quarantined twice during football, so I wasn’t even sure that we were going to have this,” he said. “I found out it was going to happen and it was a good opportunity.”
Elmhorst advanced to the semifinal round by pinning Blair-Taylor’s Chris Rogstad in 5:22, but then fell 6-0 to eventual champion Tanner Gaffney of St. Croix Falls. He ended up in the fifth-place match after Whitehall’s Wylie Dunn pinned him in 3:26 and placed fifth by pinning Rogstad in 3:25.
Griffin lost his first two matches and did not place. He dropped a 4-1 decision to Kenosha Christian Life’s Javis Pinter and fell 9-4 to Clear Lake’s Tyler Sunday.
No major covid outbreaks
Weyauwega-Fremont coach Tim Potratz said the season took a toll on wrestlers and coaches.
“It always felt like we were walking on eggshells waiting for the other shoe to drop and they’d come along and say, ‘OK, everything’s canceled,’” he said. “We’re glad that never happened. Our kids did a really good job of being there and working hard in practice. The kids seemed to roll with it easier than the adults.”
In the past, the WIAA would hold a three-day individual tournament at the Kohl Center in Madison with hundreds of wrestlers in three divisions.
This year, Division 3 wrestlers headed to Wausau East High School, Division 2 wrestlers competed at Adams-Friendship High School and Kaukauna High School hosted a Division 1 meet.
“In one day, you can watch the best wrestlers in the state in your division go at it,” Potratz said. “With multiple matches in one day, you find out who’s got a motor, who’s tough, who can recover. (Strehlow) just took a touch loss. He has a motor and he’s got a lot of pride. He’ll come back, but you don’t know if everybody’s going to do that.”
Wisconsin’s wrestling season wrapped up without any major covid-related outbreaks.
“In a basketball game, you’re guarding a kid for 30 minutes one-on-one, leaning over their shoulder, pushing and shoving,” Potratz said. “Most wrestling matches don’t last more than three minutes. There’s usually a pin. During a match, that’s the easy part. In practice, they’re pushing and shoving for 1 1/2, two hours.
“The kids wore masks and we disinfected and did what we could,” he added. “They’re healthy, strong kids and we kept them as safe as we could with the covid recommendations they gave us. I tried not to worry about the science of it too much. We just came to practice and did our thing every day. They said we could go, so we would go.”