Delavan-Darien positioned for wrestling championship
Just the facts
What: Southern Lakes Conference wrestling meet.
Where: Waterford High School.
When: 10 a.m. Saturday.
Format: The season championship will be based on a combination of dual and conference meet results. Delavan-Darien went 6-0 in Southern Lakes duals.
Tickets: All-day admission—adults $5, students $3; finals only—adults $3, students $2.
Saturday might shape up as a historic day for Delavan-Darien High School sports.
The Comets have never won a conference wrestling title, but with longtime league powerhouse Milton now in the Badger South, Delavan-Darien has positioned itself to capture its first-ever league championship.
“I’ve had some good teams, but Milton was always in the way,” Delavan-Darien coach Craig Lodahl said. “From top to bottom we’ve got kids who are going to score points.”
Lodahl’s confidence comes from his team’s performance in conference dual meets. Its closest score in a Lakes meet was a 46-18 victory over Lake Geneva Badger. The Comets handed Elkhorn a 46-15 loss and crushed Wilmot, 46-12.
Delavan-Darien posted a 25-2 overall dual meet record, losing only to Kaukauna, the state’s third-ranked team in Division 1, and Ashwaubenon, a team receiving Division 1 honorable mention in the Crossface poll.
Both Comet defeats came early in the season at the Kaukauna Duals.
“We wanted to wrestle the best right away,” Lodahl said of his strategy to schedule a trip to Kaukauna and a shot at the some of the state’s big guns.
Will dual meet supremacy mean anything when the league’s teams gather in Waterford for Saturday’s conference meet?
“Tournaments are different than dual meets,” Lodahl said. “I like where we stand.”
So does Elkhorn coach Ken Reynolds.
“They will have the upper hand this weekend,” Reynolds said of the Comets. “They’re sitting pretty good.”
The league championship will be based on a combination of dual meet and conference meet results.
Delavan-Darien will build its title hopes around two returning Lakes champs. Travis Murphy, a winner at 125 last year, moves up to 135 where he brings a 28-7 record. Ben Lodahl, who won at 160 last year, will drop to 152.
The Comets also will lean on sophomore Jeff Myers (31-7 at 103), freshman Kiefer Bennett (31-6 at 130), junior John Benzon (30-5 at 145), senior Chris Dittner (26-7 at 152), and senior Michael Gonzalez (30-5) at 189. Gonzalez, who quaterbacked the Delavan-Darien football team, returned to the wrestling team after a two-year layoff from the sport.
Because of conference realignment, almost every weight class will feature a returning champ from last year’s Southern Lakes or Lakeshore conference meets.
The list of returning champs includes Westosha Central’s Craig Calzavara (103), Wilmot’s Adam Neal (112), Lake Geneva Badger’s John Liebforth (130), Waterford’s Mike Olson (145), Union Grove’s Cole Zimmerman (152) is a three-time state qualifier, Wilmot’s Kevin Clark (160), Elkhorn’s Richard Kessler (171) and Wilmot’s Andrew Vozel (189).
Liebforth takes a 35-1 record and No. 8 state ranking into the conference meet. He suffered his first loss of the season Tuesday night, moving up to 140 where he lost to Whitewater’s Zach Edwards. Liebforth will be back at 130 on Saturday.
Elkhorn’s Kessler is ranked No. 3 in the state and has accepted a scholarship offer from Stanford. He not only is 28-0, but he carries a 4.2 grade point average. He has moved up to 189 this season.
Vozel has also moved up. He’ll avoid Kessler at 189 and try to win another title at 215.
Also returning is Badger’s Jose Rodriguez (21-10 at 119), a state qualifier last season.
“Delavan has got to be favored,” Reynolds said. “They’ve got a very strong team. They’re tough in the middle weights. They’ve got seniors from 152 to heavyweight. They are very well coached.
“We feel we can give them a good run. As a tournament team, we have a few good horses.”
Elkhorn finished fifth at the Mid-States Classic at UW-Whitewater in December, while Delavan-Darien was 11th.
Besides Kessler, the Elks’ 119-pounder, Ryan Slack, might be one of the top wrestlers at any weight class. He takes a 32-0 record and No. 7 ranking into the weekend.
“It’s been exciting with this new group of teams in the conference,” Reynolds said. “All of the teams have good wrestlers. The semifinals and finals will be great wrestling to watch. There are a lot of state-ranked kids in this conference.”