Four of St. Croix Central’s wrestlers were able to advance through Saturday’s WIAA Division 2 Somerset Regional Tournament.
Seemingly of equal importance to the Panther coaches was the fact that three Panther seniors who didn’t advance had their hand raised in victory in their final varsity match.
Central sophomore Devin Wasley and junior Josh Bair advanced as regional champions, with senior Braeden Bloom and freshman Parker Shackleton were second place finishers.
The top two wrestlers in each class at the regional advanced. They will compete at the Osceola Division 2 sectional on Saturday, where the top three finishers in each class will qualify for the state meet.
Wasley (39-1) received a severe test in the 160-pound regional semifinals from Baldwin-Woodville senior Bode LaGrander. The previous week, Wasley beat LaGrander by technical fall in the Middle Border Conference finals. This time, LaGrander remained defensive and Wasley had to battle right to the end for a 1-0 victory. In the finals, Wasley topped Bloomer-Colfax senior Mitch Harmon, a state qualifier last year, 7-2. Wasley will open sectionals by facing Ellsworth sophomore Eli Rohl (13-21).
Bair rolled through the 220-pound class at the regional. He pinned his opponent in 36 seconds in the semifinals. That was followed by a pin against Amery’s Chance Schroeder nine seconds into the second period. Bair (24-13) faces a powerful opponent in the sectional opener, Medford senior Jake Rau (30-2).
Bloom quickly reached the finals at 170 pounds, with two early pins. Bloom ran into an old nemesis, Max Ramberg of Baldwin-Woodville. Just as in the MBC finals, Ramberg was able to pin Bloom. Bloom had a wrestleback, withstanding an early charge from Somerset’s Landon Anez to get a third period pin. Bloom (29-9) draws Neillsville senior Nathan Buchanan (30-6) in the first round at sectionals.
Shackleton continues to be one of the top upper weight freshmen in the area. He reached the 182-pound finals with a 6-3 win over Ryan Lucas of the Luck co-op team in the semifinals. Shackleton put up an excellent battle in the finals, losing to Baldwin-Woodville’s Blaine Guthrie, 6-4. Shackleton (29-10) will face Spooner’s Carter Melton (31-8) at sectionals.
It was something of a wistful day Saturday for the Panthers because of the seniors who had their careers end at the meet. Central coach Brad Holzer spoke proudly of Erik Collins, Logan Shackleton and Zavier Santanella, who earned wins in fifth place matches to conclude their careers with having their hands raised in victory one final time. He also included senior Logan Johnson, who missed most of the season due to injury and came back to compete at the regional.
Somerset seniors Tyler Hantsbarger and Sawyer Wilson will be returning to the WIAA wrestling sectional tournament level.
They both were sectional qualifiers in 2019 and they both advanced again during the 2020 WIAA Division 2 Somerset Wrestling Regional Tournament on Saturday, Feb. 15.
They advance to the sectional tournament, which will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 22, at Osceola High School.
Hantsbarger is looking for a return trip to the WIAA State Championships while Wilson is seeking his first trip to the state meet. They both move to the sectional tournament as second place finishers in their regional weight classes.
With only two wrestlers able to advance in each weight class, there were some top quality wrestlers unable to advance through Saturday’s regional. That was the case at 126 pounds, where Hantsbarger and Osceola’s Drew Willeman met in the semifinals. Both are 100-win wrestlers in their career. Hantsbarger was able to get an early lead and held on for the 8-3 victory.
That moved Hantsbarger to the finals against Baldwin-Woodville’s Jordan Bonte. This was a repeat of the Middle Border Conference championship match, which Bonte won 4-2. On Saturday, there was no scoring in the first two periods. Bonte was able to escape early in the third period. Bonte added a takedown late in the match as Hantsbarger tried to get a go-ahead score.
Hantsbarger (34-5) has a challenging opening draw at the sectional meet, facing Abbotsford-Colby junior River Halopka (28-5).
Wilson advanced to Saturday’s finals by pinning Osceola’s Tyler Johnson in the semifinals. Amery’s Robert Besse was the opponent in the finals. The Spartans tried to wear down Besse, but it didn’t happen. The match was scoreless until the third period, when Besse got an escape to win 1-0.
Wilson (29-12) will face Ashland’s Justin Weiss (34-7) in the opening round of the sectional meet.
Somerset coach Ali Peterson said both Spartans will compete in highly talented brackets at the sectional meet.
“We’ll have to have A-plus effort and A-plus focus to get out,” Peterson said.
Peterson said there were other bright spots for the Spartans in Saturday’s meet. One was Landon Anez, who nearly advanced at 170 pounds. Anez won the third place match, then had St. Croix Central’s Braeden Bloom on his back in the second place match, but couldn’t hang on for the pin.
“It was great growth for him,” Peterson said of Anez’s regional performance.
Somerset freshman Grant Manske earned his first career varsity win in the fifth place match at 220 pounds, with a pin against Osceola.