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Five teams have chance at wrestling title

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KENNETH M. VELOSKEY
February 4, 2011

The squeeze is on again in Southern Lakes Conference wrestling.


Elkhorn High School coach Ken Reynolds thinks Saturday’s 10 a.m. conference meet at Delavan-Darien will be a barnburner.


“Any one of five teams can win this thing,” Reynolds said. “I’ve never seen that before. It’s unbelievable. The Southern Lakes is up for grabs.’’


Things haven’t changed much since last year’s tight meet won by Wilmot. Of the 14 championship matches, just one was decided by pin and one by major decision.


Just about every other match, except for two injury defaults, remained in doubt into the third round. Reynolds firmly believes more of that is on the way.


“I have this feeling it’s coming down to the heavyweight match to win it for the championship,” Reynolds said.


Nine individual conference champs are returning, including defending co-champion Wilmot’s Matt Gray (140), James Huey (171), Ryan Gartner (145) and Adam Neal (130). Burlington’s Matt Eulen (103), Waterford’s Matt Christenson (112) and Kody Azarian (119) and Delavan-Darien’s Lukus Dittner (125) are returning champs.


The Panthers won six individual titles last season, scoring 245.5 points to win the conference meet and tie Burlington for the season championship with 26 points each.


The Demons placed second at the conference meet, and Elkhorn finished third at the meet and third in the final season standings.


Elkhorn’s Donte Blackburn won the 215 title, but he has graduated. This time, the Elks are counting on Jake Stilling, Dakota Johnson, Connor Selvey and Ryan Nelson to lead the charge.


Stilling, a sophomore, is 32-1 at 160 pounds and No. 5 in the Division 1 state rankings. Johnson, also a sophomore, is 7-0 in the Lakes at 189, while Selvey is 6-1 at heavyweight, and Nelson is 6-1 at 103.


Delavan-Darien won the 2009 league meet but finished fifth last season and fourth in the season standings. This season, the Comets will have four state-ranked wrestlers in their lineup.


Dittner, last season’s 125-pound conference champ as a sophomore, has received honorable mention in the 135-pound state rankings. Junior Kiefer Bennett is ranked No. 9 in the state at 145; junior Kyndle Bennett is ranked No. 3 at 152, and junior Marcus Hudson at 171.


Delavan-Darien coach Craig Lodahl is right with Elkhorn’s Reynolds when it comes to predicting Saturday’s champion.


“It’s unbelievable the amount of parity we have in the conference,” said Lodahl, whose team isNo. 5 in the Division 2 Crossface ratings.


Badger coach Shane Koehl said Delavan-Darien deserves respect.


“They’ve got a really strong team,’ Koehl said. “They’ve got everybody down to weight.’’


Koehl looks to Brad Nugent (30-2) at heavyweight, John Leibforth (23-2) at 140, Randy Shine (29-4) at 135, and Dylan Peter 29-6), the defending champ at 160, to boost the Badgers.


“For anybody who likes wrestling, this conference tournament is the one to come to,” Reynolds said. “It’s going to be a great show.’’



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