Elkhorn Area High’s wrestling program won’t have a defending state champion in the lineup.

But that isn’t keeping head coach Ken Reynolds from expecting his Elks to contend for another Southern Lakes Conference championship.

Behind WIAA Division 1 126-pound state champion Benji Peak, Elkhorn won conference and sectional titles last year and had nearly a full handful of medalists at the state individual meet.

Senior Grant Truesdale (sixth at 113 pounds) and junior Daniel Stilling (fifth, 132) return to anchor another formidable Elkhorn lineup that will be tested from the jump tonight in an SLC opening dual at Waterford.

“We feel very good about our team this year, even with losing a couple kids,” Reynolds said. “We lost three really quality seniors and our returning state champion, so we’ve got some shoes to fill but like where we’re at.”

Peak chose to forego his senior year of high school and is at the Olympic Training Center at Northern Michigan, completing his high school credits there while focusing on his Greco-Roman wrestling.

Stilling lost a second-round match at state last year but wrestled his way back to fifth place, finishing with a 42-4 record. Truesdale reached the state semifinals and finished 40-12.

Senior Hunter Hummel won a Southern Lakes tournament title at 285 pounds last year. Sophomore Coleman Karl went 30-17 and advanced to sectionals at 120 pounds last season. And Reynolds said freshman Payton Jacobson is an experienced wrestler who will contribute right away.

Reynolds pegged Burlington as the favorite in the SLC, while the Elks, Waterford and Badger are likely the other top contenders. After facing Waterford, Elkhorn also wrestles at Burlington on Dec. 7.

“We’ve got to be up and running,” Reynolds said. “But that’s OK. We’re typically a team that does get off to good starts. So I think this is more in our favor.”

Battle at The Barn this week

Speaking of big early-season matchups, one of the most-anticipated annual regular-season duals pits Milton and Stoughton against each other in Badger South action.

This year’s version has a special twist, with the teams meeting at the University of Wisconsin Field House on Dec. 7. The match begins at 5:30 p.m. ahead of UW’s Big Ten dual against Maryland.

Stoughton was the runner-up at the WIAA Division 1 state team tournament last spring and will be a favorite to reach the finals once again this year.

Milton graduated state champion Dalton Shea and has some holes to fill throughout its lineup.

“I’ve got a good group of young kids, as well as some kids that haven’t wrestled before,” Milton coach Pat Jauch said. “But I’m excited, because I think our numbers might be better than they have been in a long time. So we’ll see.”

Will Blue Devils’ reign continue?

Evansville/Albany has been the class of the Rock Valley Conference and has qualified for team sectionals four straight years.

Senior Nolan Kicmol returns, coming off a third-place finish in Division 2 at 145 pounds last year.

The Blue Devils also return junior Branden Lange, who made state at 285 pounds.

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