Elkhorn’s wrestlers had started hearing the murmurs. There were some folks believing the Elks simply weren’t as strong as they’d been in recent memory.
And with Janesville Craig coming off a Big Eight Conference tournament title and wrestling the Elks to a tie in a dual earlier this year, a heated battle was expected at Saturday’s WIAA Division 1 regional at Elkhorn.
The Elks showed they’ve still got plenty of fight. And that they weren’t interested in setting up their home mats Tuesday night for a team sectional for two visiting programs.
Elkhorn had five team champions and sent wrestlers through to sectionals at 12 of 14 weight classes, running away to a regional title. The Elks scored 240 points. Lake Geneva Badger (195.5) was second and Craig (168) was third.
“I’m not going to kid you, I was worried about it,” Elkhorn coach Ken Reynolds said. “We planned on a pretty good catfight, but our boys responded very well, and I’m really proud of them.
“A lot of talk about this team not being what Elkhorn has been in the past. We’re still a state-ranked team, still have six guys ranked in the state. We’re still a regional champ. Yes, we are good, we are formidable.”
Elkhorn pulled away by winning three straight titles at 126 (Grant Truesdale), 132 (Daniel Stilling) and 138 pounds (Colman Karl).
Aaron Taylor also got a win at 160, and the Elks had five second-place finishers.
The highlight of the day for the team might have come at 220 pounds when Dakota Biefeld fought his way back from a two-point, third-period deficit to force overtime, where he scored a takedown for a sudden victory in the title bout.
“Dakota is a kid I got out of the hallway this year, a first-year wrestler who won a regional title, and I think that’s always special,” Reynolds said. “I love coaching him. He’s a great athlete. And it just shows that athletes can compete in wrestling. There’s so many of them afraid to wrestle, but they can compete.
“It’s out there for those guys, and I wish we could get more of them. And I mean that as a whole (wrestling community).”
Craig had hoped to compete for a regional title. It didn’t happen, but the Cougars got wrestlers through to sectionals at 12 weight classes.
Junior Keeanu Benton pinned his two opponents in a combined 1 minute, 18 seconds, to win a regional title at 285 pounds.
Nate Ellis (132) and Ethan Smith (138) each finished second.
“Overall, we competed really well and were happy to get 12 guys through. That’s the most we’ve had in a long time,” Cougars coach Mark Mullen said. “We expected it to be a little bit closer. We wrestled pretty well, but Elkhorn was really good today.”
Janesville Parker senior Brett Perkins took second at 126 pounds and was the Vikings lone sectional qualifier.
Lake Geneva Badger had two regional champions and will have 10 wrestlers competing at Fort Atkinson.
Milton junior Mason Dutcher knocked off third-ranked Jake Stritesky of Badger 16-11 in the finals at 113 pounds and was joined by senior teammate Jerry Lipke as a regional champion. Seven Milton wrestlers qualified for sectionals.
“I thought we wrestled pretty well and was real proud of Mason and Jerry,” Milton coach Pat Jauch said. “Most of our guys, if they didn’t win it, were third, and that gives them a chance next week if we have a good week of practice.
“I’m excited about the rest of the year, and I’ll be over here rooting for Elkhorn on Tuesday night.”
The Elks, ranked 10th in last week’s Division 1 poll, will host third-ranked Stoughton—which finished runner-up at the state team tournament in 2017—at 7 p.m. Tuesday night.
“We know what Stoughton is and what they’re about, and it’s a long shot,” Reynolds said. “But the opportunity to wrestle in a team sectional final is exciting. And we host it, so it couldn’t be more exciting for our seniors to wrestle a dual of that caliber in front of a home crowd.”
WIAA Division 1 Elkhorn Regional
Elkhorn 240, Badger 195.5, Janesville Craig 168, Milton 141.5, Wilmot 140, Beloit Memorial 87, Westosha Central 68, Janesville Parker 67.5
TITLE MATCHES AND TOP-FOUR WRESTLEBACKS
(Top four finishers advance to Saturday’s Fort Atkinson Sectional)
106—Beau LaDu (Bad) dec. Payton Jacobson (Elk), 5-1. Third: Evan Schoen (Mil) pinned Joey Coulter (JC), 0:43
113—Mason Dutcher (Mil) dec. Jake Stitesky (Bad), 16-11. Second: Stritesky over Benson Du Chemin (Wil), inj. def. Third: DuChemin dec. Mayson Maclennan (JC), 13-6.
120—Joey Graham (Wil) by for. over Andrew Wells (Mil). Second: Teddy Woyak (Elk) by forf. over Wells. Third: Woyak dec. Juan Armas (JC), 6-2. Fourth: Armas dec. Nicolas Lux (JP), 7-6.
126—Grant Truesdale (Elk) dec. Brett Perkins (JP), 4-2. Third: Tyler Kersten (Mil) maj. dec. Joey Bellomo (JC), 11-3. Fourth: Bellomo dec. Clayton Larson (Bad), 10-4.
132—Daniel Stilling (Elk) maj. dec. Nate Ellis (Elk), 15-7. Third: Steven Kraus (Bad) maj. dec. Drew Hebior (Wil), 12-4. Fourth: Hebior pinned Lucas Jessie (Mil), 0:28.
138—Colman Karl (Elk) pinned Ethan Smith (JC), 1:22. Second: Smith dec. Brandon Martinez (Bad), 2-1 (OT). Third: Martinez ded. Mason Diedrich (Bad), 6-5 (OT).
145—Michael Sanders (Bad) maj. dec. Dennis Grubb (WC), 15-4. Second: Brandan Constable (Elk) maj. dec. Grubb, 11-2. Third: Constable maj. dec. Aiden Romack (JC), 10-1. Fourth: Romack dec. AJ Miller (JP), 17-10.
152—Logan Pye (Wil) maj. dec. Austin Pack (Bad), 10-2. Third: Jordan Stivarius (Mil) maj. dec. Charlie Schweiner (Elk), 9-1. Fourth: Schweiner dec. Damian Quaerna (JP), 6-1.
160—Aaron Taylor (Elk) pinned Alec Linn (Bad), 3:07. Third: Marshall Getchell (JC) dec. Larz Gough (Wil), 10-3.
170—Hunter Valach (Wil) dec. Mylse Schmaker (Elk), 5-4. Second: Schumacker dec. Killian Jauch (Mil), 7-0. Third: Jauch dec. Zach Bell (Wes), 5-3. Fourth: Bell pinned John Lininger (Bad), 3:47.
182—Reid McNeill (Wes) dec. Mitchell Schumann (JC), 6-2. Second: Nathan Welsh (Elk) dec. Schumann, 8-3. Third: Welsh dec. Tyler Sireci (Bel), 10-9. Fourth: Sireci maj. dec. Dalton Creighton (Bad), 12-4.
195—Jerry Lipke (Mil) tech. fall Linzell Burks (Bel), 17-1, 4:57. Second: Burks pinned Patrick Keplar (Bad), 0:28. Third: Keplar pinned Alex Thompson (JC), 0:36.
220—Dakota Biefeld (Elk) dec. Matthew Lindley, Jr. (Bel), 4-2 (OT). Second: Lindley by forf. over Brady Schenk (JC). Third: Schenk pinned Jimmy Stackpool (Bad), 1:34. Fourth: Stackpool dec. Jordan Hergert (Mil), 7-1.
285—Keeanu Benton (JC) pinned Amaurii Grosskopf (Bel), 0:29. Third: Hunter Hummel (Elk) pinned Andrew Tucknott (Wil), 0:48. Fourth: Kyle Freund (Bad) maj. dec. Tucknott, 12-1.