Evansville/Albany, Turner top Rock Valley wrestling contenders
Evansville/Albany coach Rob Kostroun only has to look at his team’s dual meet with Beloit Turner to know the Blue Devils will be in for a fight as they try to win their third straight Rock Valley Conference wrestling title.
The Blue Devils scored a 37-22 victory over the Trojans to go 7-0 in duals, but the meet was far closer than the score as five Evansville/Albany wrestlers won matches in the final 10 seconds. That means fans at Walworth Big Foot could be in for real fireworks as the two teams chase the final Rock Valley title before WIAA-mandated realignment turns the conference into a two-division, 12-school league next fall.
“When you look at what Turner and us did in the dual meet, I think it sets things up for a great conference meet,” Kostroun said. “We’ve got some kids seeded No. 1, but it doesn’t mean they’re going to get there. I don’t think it will be a runaway blowout. Every team has their studs.
“I think the most exciting thing is that it’s not locked up. We have to be on our ‘A’ game,” he said of the showdown that will combine with the dual records to determine the season champion.
If Kostroun is right, the Blue Devils aren’t likely to duplicate last year’s 64-point margin of victory in the conference meet.
“It’s nice he recognizes that it’s going to be a war,” Turner coach Matt Ries said of Kostroun’s prediction. “It’s going to be close with us and Evansville. I’m hoping we have a great day.”
One of the featured bouts could pair two defending champions at 160 pounds. Evansville/Albany senior Nick Patchen, the 2007 champ at 152, is 23-6. Barring any upsets, he will collide with Turner’s Lucas Clark, the defending champion at 160. Clark, a senior, is 30-4 and owns a 2-0 overtime victory over Patchen in the teams’ dual meet.
“They’re pretty evenly matched,” Kostroun said.
Turner’s other top wrestlers include senior Eli Shallenberger, who is 29-1 this season after taking second at 189 last year, and senior Matt Santas, the 2007 runner-up at 125, who is 19-11 at 130. The Trojans have nine seniors.
Turner also will count on senior Cody Andrews (29-4 at 125), senior Jeff Grunder (26-5 at 140) and senior Kyle Decker (23-7 at 215).
The Blue Devils, who have reloaded after losing eight wrestlers to graduation, are bolstered by five entrants with 7-0 conference records.
That group includes senior Sam Reed, 21-8 at 285; senior Travis Ardisson, 15-9 at 145; Travis Schnabel, 28-3 at 112; junior Eddie Schmoldt, 18-6 at 181; and junior Barry Badeau, 17-12 at 140.
Evansville/Albany also is expecting freshman J.J. Boley (18-1) to have an impact at 103. He didn’t crack the varsity lineup until after Christmas.
Meanwhile, the competition at 112 could be especially spirited. In addition to Schnabel, Clinton’s Brandon Wixom went 6-1 in the conference, Brodhead/Juda’s Mitch Wiesenberg was 5-0, Turner’s Austin Andrews went 4-3, and Parkview’s Robert Dimery, a runner-up at 103 last year, also was 4-3.
“Any one of those five could win the conference title,” Ries said.
Besides Patchen and Clark, the only other returning champions are Edgerton’s Ty Thronson at 119 and Brodhead/Juda’s Tyler Lincoln at 135.
Another loaded weight class could be 145, with Parkview’s Ben Neal and Turner’s T.J. Huffman in position to challenge Evansville/Albany’s Ardisson.
Clinton’s Brad Hesebeck, second at 112 last year, has moved up to 125 pounds.
One big gun fans won’t see is Big Foot junior Travis Frederick. The champ at 215 last year is concentrating on football.
Meanwhile, Kostroun is making it clear to his wrestlers how important Saturday’s meet is for them.
“Our kids are prepared and ready,” he said. “It’s the last year of the Rock as it currently stands.
“It means a little something to us to get this done. We have the last two titles. It would be nice to win the last one.”