Milton sends three to championship matches

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Craig Henquinet
Saturday, February 25, 2012
— Pat Jauch had an idea it was going to be a good night for his contingent of state wrestlers.

“They were like caged animals today at the hotel,” the Milton coach said. “They wanted to wrestle at noon.”

After witnessing all three of his semifinalists post convincing decisions by a combined score of 44-5, Jauch has no plans of changing the routine for tonight’s state finals.

“We’ll just rattle their cage all day long and go from there,” Jauch said.

That technique certainly worked for seniors John Wells, Garrett Whitehead and Landon Shea. The three teammates earned a berth in the Division 1 WIAA state wrestling finals tonight at the Kohl Center, marking the first-time in school history Milton has placed three wrestlers in the finals.

Wells started the onslaught with a 12-0 decision in the 112-pound weight class over Quinn Miracle (32-3) of Chippewa Falls.

“It feels good,” Wells said. “I did what I expected to do.”

Wells pulled away in the second period, increasing his 2-0 lead to 8-0 after a near fall and controlled the match the rest of the way.

“A lot of it is just that two-minute burst that every kid has got,” Wells said of tight first period. “After that, you just control him and just break him. You make sure that he thinks he can’t win. You turn his points into your points, and that’s just a shut down for kids mentally.”

Wells, who is gunning for his second state title after earning the 103 title in 2010, will face freshman Robert Lee (45-6) of Kaukauna in the finals.

Whitehead also earned a return trip to the state finals after finishing second last year at 130. He earned a 14-4 decision against Charles Mulnix of Racine Horlick despite over-training before the match.

“I think I did too much stuff warming up,” Whitehead said, “My legs are just dead.”

Whitehead (40-7) will face Nate Hennes (45-6) of Hartford Union in the finals.

At 126, Shea posted an 8-1 decision over Alex Spatz of D.C. Everest to complete the trifecta. Neither wrestler scored in the opening period, but Shea (40-5) pulled away with a takedown on the edge of the mat in the second period before gaining a near fall in the third to gain the advantage.

“The fact that I didn’t stop on the edge of the mat, that’s what I think actually broke him,” said Shea, who will meet Joe Umlauf (49-2) of Wausau West for the state title.

The fourth member of the Milton squad to reach the state tournament, defending state champion Ian Johnson, rebounded from his defeat in the quarterfinals, with two victories Friday to stay alive in the consolation round.

“It (stinks) not to see all of us in the finals,” Wells said. “But, we know Ian had a good match, and he is working his butt off to place as high as he can.”

Elkhorn’s Jake Stilling also reached the state finals with a 6-2 decision over Bryar Harper of DeForest. After leading 1-0 through two periods, Stilling (43-2) controlled the final period for the win.

“I think I was in better shape,” Stilling said. “I have been working all season for this, so I really pushed the pace at the end.”

Stilling will face defending 152-pound state champion Zak Benitz (38-1) of Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln in the finals.

Craig’s Zak Kurtz split two consolation matches Friday at 195. He won his first match, 8-1, over Tyson Bystrom of River Falls, but lost and was eliminated by Nick Wall of Waukesha West, 4-3.

Kurtz finished the season with a 36-9.

In Division 2, Delavan-Darien’s Kiefer Bennet (145) and Marcus Hudson (182) lost decisions, as did Brodhead-Juda’s Hunter Colden and Garrett Cary from Williams Bay/Big Foot.

Last updated: 7:39 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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