Full rosters may tighten Rock Valley meet
Just the facts
What: 2009 Rock Valley wrestling meet (11 schools, minus McFarland).
Where: Jefferson High School.
When: 10 a.m. Saturday; finals projected for between 4 and 5 p.m.
Format: This will determine conference tournament champion, based solely on what happens Saturday. The regular season determined division dual champions, and the results do not carry over.
Clinton won the six-school South Division with a 5-0 record. East Troy (3-0) at Jefferson (2-1) in a makeup match tonight will decide the five-school South, where Evansville (3-1) also is a contender.
East Troy wrestling coach Eddie Wiegman isn’t afraid to embrace his team’s status in the realigned Rock Valley Conference.
“I would think we’re the favorite,” Wiegman said as the Trojans gear up for Saturday’s conference meet at Jefferson. “We won all our conference dual meets.”
But Reynolds’ confidence only goes so far. The Trojans will most likely have no entrants at 103 and 112 pounds, and that could tighten things up.
“I think it’s going to be a tighter conference meet because other teams have full rosters,” Wiegman said. “I think Clinton, Evansville and Whitewater will be in the mix. Jefferson will have some champions in its lineup.
“I don’t think anybody is going to run away with it. It will come down to which team has the better depth.
“Any time you have that many schools coming together, anything can happen.”
East Troy, a perennial Southern Lakes Conference contender before joining the Rock Valley this schoo year, has four returning state qualifiers to anchor its title run.
Junior Jake Zess is 35-1 at 125 and ranked No. 5 in the state. He is a two-time state qualifier.
Senior Dave Edwards, gunning for a fourth straight conference title, is 34-2 at 140 and ranked No. 3 in the state. He was the state runnerup at 135 last year.
Senior Cheston Kesselhon, a three-time state qualifier, is 32-4 at 189. He finished third at state each of the last two years.
Zess, Edwards and Kesselhon are all returning conference champs.
Senior Jacob Stollenwerk (29-9) qualified for state last year after finishing second in the Southern Lakes Conference meet. He’s ranked No. 6 in the state.
“Those are our four horsemen, you betcha,” Wiegman said. “We’ve been riding them all year.”
Other returning conference champs in addition to Zess, Edwards and Kesselhon include Evansville-Albany’s J.J. Boley (103), Palmyra-Eagle’s Jake Porst (130), Evansville-Albany’s Nick Patchen (189) and Walworth Big Foot’s Ben Haberlin (215). All seven returning champs have moved up to different weight classes this season
Boley, a state qualifier last year, is at 112 where he is 25-6 and ranked No. 7 in Division 2. Zess, a two-time state qualifier, has moved to 125 while Porst has moved up to 145.
Edwards has moved up to 140.
Kesselhon will take his No. 3 state ranking up to 171 pounds. Patchen is 25-5 at 189. Haberlin has moved up to the 285-pound class.
“Between East Troy, Evansville, Whitewater, Clinton and even Jefferson, it could be anybody,” Evansville coach Rob Kostroun said. “East Troy is missing wrestlers at 103 and 112. When you get in a tournament, that can hurt you. It could be costly.
“Jefferson has as good a team as they have ever had. Whitewater is a solid team. We don’t have all the depth, but we have OK kids and we’ll do our best. It’s a toss up. Nobody’s going in there thinking they’ve got it wrapped up.”
Evansville-Albany’s only dual meet conference loss came against East Troy.
One of the meet’s featured bouts could come at 140 if East Troy’s Edwards collides with Whitewater’s Zach Edwards. The Whippet, who is 24-2, flexed his muscles Tuesday night by defeating Lake Geneva Badger’s previously unbeaten John Liebforth.
The Whippets, who took the team title at the Monroe Invitational, also have 215-pound state qualifier Andrew Mathison, ranked No. 8, in their lineup. He finished third in last year’s conference meet, and then came alive during regionals and sectionals to earn a trip to Madison.
The Whippets will be missing Emmanuel Valadez, sidelined by academic issues. He was the champ at 112 last year. Valadez is expected to be back for the regional meet.
Clinton, which posted the best record in the Rock Valley South, has no returning league champs. But the Cougars have a number of wrestlers to watch.
Sophomore Daniel Banh is 25-3 at 112. Junior Brandon Wixom is 22-7 at 119. Senior Bryan Banh is 16-6 at 125 and ranked No. 8. Senior Brad Hesebeck is 27-1 at 130.
“There are going to be some fantastic matches,” Clinton head coach Dan Wallace said. “The team that won the North (East Troy) and the team that won the South (Clinton) might not go away with the title. It’s going to be a real fight. The wrestleback matches are going to mean so much.”