Like many of the state’s top high school wrestlers, Janesville Craig’s Nate Ellis and Keeanu Benton found themselves in an interesting spot over the weekend.

The city’s two qualifiers for the WIAA individual state tournament both had to have been happy to see they wound up with what appear to be favorable draws in their brackets.

But, heading into the start of competition this afternoon at the Kohl Center in Madison, wrestlers must do their best to not focus on rankings or draws if they hope to succeed in competing for a state championship or spot on the podium.

“It’s not too bad a situation,” Craig coach Mark Mullen said of the draws of Ellis (132 pounds) and Benton (285). “But no matter who you’ve got at state, you’ve got to wrestle well.

“We’ve talked about goals and having the right mindset going in. Probably the biggest thing we’re talking about now is that you’re at the state tournament and everyone is 0-0. Nothing is going to be easy.”

Ellis, a senior, was ranked seventh in the Wisconsin Wrestling Online Division 1 state rankings heading into sectional last week, where he beat the sixth-ranked wrestler to help qualify for his first trip to state. Ellis (42-8) remained at No. 7 in the final rankings heading into the state tournament.

Of the other three wrestlers he could face in the preliminaries and quarterfinal matches today, none was listed in last week’s rankings, though now his first-round opponent, Oshkosh West senior Reese Thompson, is at No. 5.

Benton, a junior who is making his second appearance at state, heads to state ranked No. 3. If he can beat 14th-ranked Wyatt Hayes of Burlington in the prelims, his next opponent would be ranked 11th or 12th.

“One thing we’ve done is wrestled a tough schedule this year. So they know they belong and can compete with anybody, and that’s a big deal going in,” Mullen said. “I think both of them definitely plan to be on the podium. One big goal for both would be to have them wrestling in the semifinals Friday night.”

Elkhorn leads way with four qualifiers

Elsewhere in Division 1, Elkhorn set the pace for area programs by qualifying four wrestlers through to state.

Junior Daniel Stilling (40-5) was a sectional champ at 132 pounds, is ranked third and finished fifth at state a year ago. Senior Grant Truesdale (39-7) also found the podium last year, finishing sixth at 113 pounds. He’s ranked No. 10 at 126 this year. Teammates Payton Jacobson (106 pounds) and Colman Karl (138) are each making their state debuts.

Lake Geneva Badger had a pair of sectional champions at Fort Atkinson last week, and they’ll look to make their way through the lightest two divisions. It’s the second state appearance for senior Beau LaDu (fifth at 106) and first for sophomore Jake Stritesky (fourth at 113).

Milton junior Mason Dutcher (fifth at 113) rounds out area state qualifiers in Division 1. Dutcher takes a 39-9 record into the state meet.

A potential area finals rematch?

Many Rock Valley Conference eyes will be on the 152-pound Division 2 bracket over the next couple days.

Brodhead/Juda junior Jackson Hauri (ranked No. 1 with a 31-2 record) won the Richland Center Sectional last weekend to earn the bye into Friday’s quarterfinals. He beat Evansville/Albany junior Nolan Kicmol (fifth, 42-4) in the regional finals a week earlier.

Kicmol, making his fourth trip to state—including finishing third last year and in second place as a sophomore—had beaten Hauri at the conference tournament.

If Hauri and Kicmol are to meet once more, it wouldn’t be until the finals Saturday night.

The two are both joined at state by a teammate that won a sectional title.

Brodhead/Juda senior Trent Davis is ranked fifth with a 34-8 record in the 220-pound bracket.

Evansville/Albany junior Branden Lange is ranked third with a 41-5 mark at 285.

Whitewater also sends two

Whitewater senior Jimmy DuVal (sixth, 42-2) won a sectional title at 182 pounds last weekend, putting himself in position to compete for a state title.

Fellow senior and teammate Tyler Gamble (30-5) is ranked 10th at 106 pounds.

Elsewhere in Division 2, Edgerton sophomore Cole Bavery enters state ranked sixth with a 40-3 mark at 132 pounds. Bavery reached the podium as a freshman, taking fifth at 113.

Delavan-Darien senior Miguel Sanson is 39-8 at 126 pounds and has reached state for the second straight year.

WIAA state individual wrestling tournament


Kohl Center, Madison


Division 1

Preliminary matches at 3 p.m. Thursday, with quarterfinals immediately following

106—(5) Beau LaDu, 43-3, sr., Badger vs. (8) Alex Pellowski, 39-7, so., Holmen; (12) Payton Jacobson, 38-12, fr., Elkhorn vs. (6) Sam Lorenz, 44-4, fr., Waunakee

113—(5) Mason Dutcher, 39-9, jr., Milton vs. (8) Gabe Pugh, 37-5, fr., Marshfield; (4) Jake Stritesky, 42-5, so., Badger vs. (9) Reuben Guzik, 35-10, sr., Rhinelander

126—(10) Grant Truesdale, 39-7, sr., Elkhorn vs. (2) Fernando Coronado, 39-3, jr., Ashwaubenon

132—(7) Nate Ellis, 42-8, sr., Janesville Craig vs. (5) Reese Thompson, 39-8, sr., Oshkosh West; (3) Daniel Stilling, 40-5, jr., Elkhorn vs. (6) Isaac Riddle, 43-4, so., Germantown

138—Colman Karl, 36-9, so., Elkhorn vs. (6) Marshall Rushton, 33-2, sr., West Allis Hale

285—Keeanu Benton, 43-1, jr., Janesville Craig vs. (14) Wyatt Hayes, 15-7, jr., Burlington

Division 2

Preliminary matches 7:15 p.m. Thursday

106—(10) Tyler Gamble, 30-5, sr., Whitewater vs. (6) Walker Ingham, 40-2, fr., Amery

126—(11) Miguel Sanson, 39-8, sr., Delavan-Darien vs. (7) Alex McCray, 35-4, sr., Baldwin-Woodville

132—(6) Cole Bavery, 40-3, so., Edgerton vs. (11) Braden Maertz, 40-10, so., Kewaskum

152—(5) Nolan Kicmol, 42-4, sr., Evansville/Albany vs. (7) Alex Kleinhans, 40-5, fr., Kiel

Quarterfinal matches 11:15 a.m. Friday

152—(1) Jackson Hauri, 31-2, jr., Brodhead/Juda vs. winner of Cedric Kosnopfal, 26-13, jr., Ellsworth and Wyatt Wenningner, 35-9, jr., Tomahawk

182—(6) Jimmy DuVal, 42-2, sr., Whitewater vs. winner of Sean Holk, 37-4, jr., Marinette and Daniel Chuchwar, 30-4, sr., Chetek-Weyerhaeuser

220—(5) Trent Davis, 34-8, sr., Brodhead/Juda vs. winner of Brett Feind, 34-11, jr., Cedar Grove-Belgium and Justis Knutson, 28-7, jr., Chetek-Weyerhaeuser

285—(3) Branden Lange, 41-5, jr., Evansville/Albany vs. winner of Morgan Berggren, 28-6, sr., Northwestern and Dan Ausloos, 33-3, sr., Oconto Falls

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