Milton wrestlers still have it
After all, no team has kept the Red Hawks from at least sharing the Southern Lakes Conference championship since 1994.
Buoyed by an unbeaten conference record, including a key win over East Troy and a first-place finish in the Janesville Craig Invitational, the Elks came to Milton hoping to steal a little of the home team’s karma and stand in the way of the Red Hawks’ bid for a 15th consecutive conference title.
But after Milton’s 140-pounder, Shaun O’Neill, opened the match with a pin over Jeremiah Potter, the Red Hawks won the next nine bouts and rolled to a 45-0 lead.
By grabbing a 48-12 decision over the Elks (4-1), the Red Hawks (4-0) can take an unbeaten dual record to the Feb. 2 conference tournament with wins over Jefferson and Delavan-Darien and have the upper hand in their hopes of capturing another Southern Lakes title.
“In order to come in here and win, we had to break the mystique,” Elkhorn coach Ken Reynolds said. “We have as good of wrestlers as they have in spots, but it’s tough to win in this place.”
No matter the venue, the Red Hawks made a strong statement that they still are the team to beat in the conference. They did it by getting pins in key places and winning close matches.
That fact wasn’t lost on Milton co-coach Pat Jauch.
“Make no mistake about it. Elkhorn is a tough team,” Jauch said. “But our kids often feel disrespected by people in the area and conference.
“Every year, people from other schools talk about how bad we are,’’ he said. “Our kids feed off that. Our kids work real hard, and that’s how you win matches like this.”
The match couldn’t have begun any better for Milton than when O’Neill scored six big points by pinning a tough opponent in Potter.
“I was talking to coach Reynolds, and we were both expecting a one-point match there,” Jauch said. “Those two kids know each other so well, and that’s what happens a lot of times. You never know which way it will go.”
But O’Neill, a junior who wrestled the last two seasons for Janesville Craig, turned Potter on his back with 23 seconds remaining in the second period to get the pin.
“He’s been a huge asset to our program,” Jauch said of O’Neill. “He’s fit in well and has become a leader. He solidified that tonight.”
After O’Neill’s pin, the Red Hawks kept it rolling. Senior Derek Dixon pinned Zach Mogensen at 145. Shawn Jensen rode out a hard-fought 2-0 win over Tyler French, and James Miller won another close match, 4-3, over Richard Kessler to give the Red Hawks an 18-0 advantage.
Nate Rogers secured a second-period pin at 171. Seth Underwood, wrestling his first match of the season, beat Lee Hoskins, 12-6. A 7-0 win by 215-pound Matt Fredrick gave the Red Hawks a 30-0 lead, and Nate Gibson followed with a pin at 285.
Ben Rolon won a wild 12-11 match at 103, and Devon Dixon closed out Milton’s run with a pin at 112.
However, Jauch noted the Red Hawks still have a lot of wrestling to do to secure their final conference title before trying to ride their mystique into the Badger Conference next season.
“There’s a lot ahead of us, and we’re just happy to have this opportunity,” Jauch said. “We feel fortunate to be in this position to take this to a higher level.”
MILTON 48, ELKHORN 12
103—Ben Rolon (M) dec. Seth Schmidt, 12-11. 112—Devon Dixon (M) pinned Peter Stephan, 5:30. 119—Ryan Slack (E) dec. Cris Hernandez, 7-3. 125—Zach Miller (E) major dec. over Adam Johnson, 13-2. 130—Nick Nienas (E) pinned Logan Brown, 1:08. 135—Nick Karleski (M) dec. Tim Durkin, 5-2. 140—Shaun O’Neill (M) dec. Jeremiah Potter, 3:23.
145—Derek Dixon (M) pinned Zach Mogensen, 5:30. 152—Shawn Jensen (M) dec. Tyler French, 2-1. 160—James Miller (M) dec. Richard Kessler, 4-3. 171—Nate Rogers (M) pinned Cole Hjelmberg, 2:37. 189—Seth Underwood (M) dec. Lee Hoskins, 12-6. 215—Matt Fredrick (M) dec. Eric Kujawa, 7-0. 285—Nick Gibson (M) pinned Jim Regnier, 3:36.
Elkhorn was penalized one team point.
n Starting weight: 140.