Milton High wrestlers aim for a traditional farewell
For 15 years, Milton High’s wrestling program has been the one to beat when the late-season honors roll around.
But each of the last two seasons, the Red Hawks have painfully watched East Troy win the conference meet, forcing Milton to share the Southern Lakes season title last year. And this year, for the first time in years, Milton enters Saturday’s conference meet at Jefferson without a returning individual champion.
“I didn’t even think about that,” Milton co-coach Pat Jauch said.
The Red Hawks, 6-0 in conference duals, will try to add a 15th straight overall championship in what will be their final appearance in the Southern Lakes wrestling. Because of WIAA-mandated realignment, Milton will join the Badger Conference next fall.
“It would mean a lot to our program to go out on top in the last Southern Lakes conference meet,” Jauch said. “We’ve dominated the dual meet season the last two years, then things tighten up at tournament time.
“We’d really like to wrestle well in the tournament. We’re very much looking forward to this tournament.”
Elkhorn and East Troy are poised to snatch the tournament title if the Red Hawks should falter.
The Elks finished second in the dual season at 5-1 and will be led by Nick Nienas, a two-time defending conference champion, who won a 119 pounds last year. Nienas (31-2) will be 125 or 130 on Saturday.
East Troy, which struggled to a 3-3 dual record, has the only other three returning individual champions.
Junior Cheston Kesselhon figures to lead the Trojan charge. He was the conference champion at 160 last year and carried that momentum to a fourth-place finish in the WIAA Division 2 state meet.
Kesselhon has a 19-1 season record, with his only loss coming when he was disqualified for an illegal slam.
East Troy junior David Edwards (32-3), a champ at 130 last year, has moved up to 135. Edwards is seeking his third straight Southern Lakes title.
Sophomore Jake Zess (32-3), the 103-pound champ last year, has moved up to 119.
“They’re very good,” East Troy coach Mike Weygand said of his returning champions. “I’d be shocked if they didn’t repeat.
“As a team, our kids seem to hit another gear when we get to the tournament series. The opportunity to be a conference champ is important to them.
“We’re a much better tournament team than a dual meet team.”
Weygand said East Troy and other Southern Lakes teams are not about to roll over for the Red Hawks.
“I don’t think Milton will dominate. I think the conference is fairly even. The good teams aren’t as good as they’ve been in the past. The bottom teams are better than they’ve been.”
While the Red Hawks are without a returning conference champ, they have three returning runners-up and three who posted 6-0 records in league dual meets.
Milton junior Nick Karleski (18-8), second at 130 last year, will wrestle at 135, 140 or 145. He has a victory over Edwards in the teams’ dual meet.
Shawn Jensen (16-7), a Milton senior, has moved up from 145 to 152 as he tries to take one step up the podium. Red Hawk senior Seth Underwood, 171-pound champion two years ago and 160 runner-up last season, is coming off a knee injury and is just 4-4, but he went 3-0 in the conference.
Sophomore James Miller (21-5 at 160), senior Nick Gibson (23-3 at 285), junior Shaun O’Neill (21-5 at 140) and senior Derek Dixon (12-7 at 145) of the Red Hawks were unbeaten in Southern Lakes duals, while senior Nate Rodgers (171) is 22-4 overall, with only one conference loss.
Other returning runners-up to watch include Elkhorn’s Jeremiah Potter, who has moved up from 130 to 140; Whitewater’s Zach Edwards, still at 135; Whitewater’s Jason Stevenson, who remains at 171; and Delavan-Darien’s Travis Murphy, up from 103 to 125.
“Elkhorn has a solid team,” Jauch said. “East Troy and Delavan-Darien will be in the mix. Jefferson has some good individual kids.
“I think it’s going to be a good tournament.”