Last weekend, anger served as fuel for the Janesville Craig wrestlers.
After missing out on an opportunity to wrestle for the Big Eight Conference dual meet title, the Cougars took it out on their conference foes by winning the league tournament.
This weekend, history will serve as a motivator for the Cougars.
Head coach Mark Mullen said the team hasn’t won a regional title in more than 40 years. But Craig is expected to be in the mix at the top of the WIAA Division 1 Wilmot Regional set for Saturday.
“Last week, we were just more prepared mentally,” Mullen said. “There was some frustration there, so that was motivation. This week it’s the fact that we’ve been close at regionals but haven’t gotten it done. You know, 1975 is a long time.
“Last Saturday was the best we’ve wrestled as a team, top to bottom, so hopefully we can keep that going.”
Craig is receiving honorable mention in the latest Wisconsin Wrestling team rankings. No other teams in the Wilmot Regional are listed.
But the Elks have won regional titles each of the past two years, and Mullen said the host Panthers will give the Southern Lakes Conference a pair of programs looking to keep Craig’s drought going. Janesville Parker has had a bit of a breakout season but likely cannot contend for a regional title just yet, while Milton and Badger have annually been a factor.
Last year, it was a deep class of seniors that carried the Elks to the regional title.
“It’ll be a question of depth,” Mullen said. “Every team has some good kids at certain weights. But it’s those wrestleback points that will be important.”
If the Cougars can bring a performance like they had last week, they could be in good shape. They won five individual titles to run away with the Big Eight race.
But Mullen said Craig teams have had the firepower to win regional titles in the past and haven’t gotten it done.
“It’s certainly not because we haven’t had good teams,” Mullen said. “We knew Elkhorn was good last year, and we didn’t wrestle well and they did.
“Back in the day when I was an assistant, we had good teams, but we were on the Stoughton side of the sectional.”
Speaking of Stoughton, the winner of Saturday’s regional in Wilmot advances to team sectionals Tuesday. Almost certainly waiting there will be Stoughton, the top-ranked team in the state and a group receiving accolades nationally.
Stacking up with the defending champions will be a tall task for anyone.
But they can worry about that if they get there.
If it’s the Cougars, they’ll have put a 44-year drought to rest.
Can Evansville/Albany make it six straight trips to team sectionals?
The Blue Devils play host to a Division 2 regional tournament Saturday having won five in a row. They are ranked No. 9 in the state in D2 and are coming off a Rock Valley Conference tournament in title.
Edgerton was fourth at the RVC tournament but is ranked No. 12 in the state and will be in Evansville on Saturday. Other teams at that regional are: Brodhead/Juda, Clinton, Monroe, Turner and Belleville/Monticello/New Glarus.
Meanwhile, Whitewater, which finished second at the RVC tournament, could make its case for a regional crown. The Whippets are up against Big Foot/Williams Bay, Delavan-Darien, East Troy, Martin Luther, Shoreland Luther and Wisconsin Lutheran at the East Troy Regional.