If there was any question about who has the best wrestling program in the Big Eight Conference right now, Janesville Craig answered it emphatically Saturday.
The Cougars are in a league of their own.
Led by five individual champions, Craig won its second straight Big Eight Conference tournament title.
Craig finished with 262 points, with Middleton a distant second at 215. Madison Memorial was third and Janesville Parker fourth.
The Cougars got repeat conference titles from Mayson MacLennan and Keeanu Benton, along with first-time champions Juan Armas, Aiden Romack and Mitchell Schumann.
“We wrestled angry today,” Craig coach Mark Mullen said. “The guys were still ticked about the (dual meet) loss to Middleton and took out their aggression on the mat today.
“But five champions and another conference title, I couldn’t ask for much more. The guys wrestled great today.”
Armas got things going for Craig early in the championship round. The sophomore, who dropped down to 113 after wrestling at 120 all season, won by technical fall in his title bout.
“Cutting the weight down to 113 was difficult, especially since we had off from school most of the week, but I did it, and it paid off today,” Armas said.
“I had never wrestled the kid I faced in the finals, but I could tell by the way he was warming up and his body posture, that I could have success once I got out there.”
MacLennan won his second straight conference crown by dominating at 126. The junior, who improved to 38-3 and is ranked in the top 10 in the state in Division 1, won all three of his matches via a first-period pin. He pinned Parker’s Blake Krueger in the title match.
“I had wrestled him twice already this season, so I knew what would work against him,” MacLennan said of Krueger. “I caught him with a half-nelson and that was it.
“But I’m not satisfied yet. My goal is to make the podium at state.”
Romack pulled off the upset in winning at 145. The junior improved to 23-12 on the season by pinning top-seeded Dakota Kopplin of Beloit Memorial in the title match.
Schumann rolled to the title at 182. The junior won his first match by pin and then defeated Elliot Zanon of Middleton 11-3 in the finals. Schumann improved to 28-9 on the season.
Benton was his usual dominating self in winning the 285-pound title. The senior and University of Wisconsin football recruit improved to 31-1 with pins in the first period of both of his matches.
Craig’s Marshall Getchell and Brady Schenk lost in the finals.
Parker, which won an East Division dual meet title under first-year coach Shane Fleming, advanced three wrestlers into the finals. Ian Ramirez, Blake Krueger and Jakob Williams all lost title matches.
“Considering that we didn’t have a wrestler in the finals last year, to have three this year tells you the direction the program is headed,” Fleming said.
“I couldn’t be happier with the way the season has gone thus far. We’re very young and the future is bright.”
Craig and Parker will compete in a WIAA Division 1 regional next Saturday at Wilmot.
Big Eight Tournament
Janesville Craig 262, Middleton 215, Madison Memorial 146, Janesville Parker 139, Beloit Memorial 132, Madison La Follette 122, Sun Prairie 110.5, Madison East 104, Verona 52, Madison West 37
TITLE AND THIRD-PLACE MATCHES
106—Title: Guillermo Tellez-Guiron (MM) pinned Ian Ramirez (JP) :35; Third: Illia Nepomnyashchikh (ME) pinned Joey Coulter (JC) :44
113—Title: Juan Armas (JC) tech. fall over Dominic Flores (ML) 22-5; Third: Hunter Grimm (Mid) pinned Brody Weiler (MM) 5:51
120—Title: Edward Pazdziora (ML) dec. Yanzong Xiong (ME) 7-0; Third: Julian Garcia (JC) tech. fall over Lesley Neisius (Mid) 17-1
126—Title: Mayson MacLennan (JC) pinned Blake Krueger (JP) :44; Third: Ben Grandau (V) dec. Griffin Oberneder (BM) 17-11
132—Title: Dakarai Clay (ME) dec. Jakob Williams (JP) 10-7; Third Joey Bellomo (JC) dec. Carlos Lopez (BM) 4-0
138—Title: Kyle Smith (ML) pinned Jesus Quechel Ramirez (Mid) 1:07; Third: Cael Wozniak (V) dec. Sebastian Getchell (JC) 8-2
145—Title: Aiden Romack (JC) pinned Dakota Kopplin (BM) 1:28; Third: Quinn Hess (SP) pinned Joe Harris (MW) 4:46
152—Title: Kaden Reetz (MM) major dec. over Joseph Hoffman (Mid) 13-0; Third: Davon Serrano (JC) pinned Karson Sutton (SP) 2:54
160—Title: Kevin Meicher (Mid) pinned Marshall Getchell (JC) 1:27; Third: Fernando Badillo (BM) pinned Josh Porter (ME) 4:52
170—Title: Remington Lockwood (Mid) pinned Armon Myadze (ME) 1:14; Third: Harrison Schreiber (MW) dec. Jeremy Grim (V) 7-4
182—Title: Mitchell Schumann (JC) major dec. over Elliot Zanon (Mid) 11-3; Third: Jacobie Bonds (ML) dec. Salvador Acosta (JP) 4-3
195—Title: Tyler Sireci (BM) pinned Brendan Shannon (SP) 4:34; Third: Bryce Heerey (JP) pinned CJ Green (MM) 3:15
220—Title: Gavin Adler (Mid) won by injury default over Brady Schenk (JC) 3:02; Third: Gyurma Dakpa (MM) pinned Blaine Moore 5:15
285—Title: Keeanu Benton (JC) pinned Patrick McDonald (MM) 1:01; Third: Ryan Caudle (BM) pinned Nathan White (JP) 3:57