Somerset only had two wrestlers competing at the WIAA Division 2 sectional tournament, but seniors Tyler Hantsbarger and Sawyer Wilson supplied plenty of excitement on Saturday.
Hantsbarger earned a return trip to the WIAA State Championships with his second place finish in the 126-pound class at the Osceola Division 2 sectional tournament. Wilson just missed advancing to state, placing fourth in the 285-pound class.
Hantsbarger wrestled at 126 pounds in the state tournament last season, earning two wins to finish in sixth place.
Hantsbarger (37-6) will open the 2020 state tournament in the 7:15 p.m. session Thursday. His first opponent will be Port Washington freshman Kaiden Schumacher (39-11). The winner of that match will draw one of the top-ranked wrestlers in the class, Kewaunee junior Jack Severin (44-3).
Hantsbarger won three of his four matches on Saturday to qualify for state. He opened the sectional tournament by convincingly defeating River Halopka of Abbotsford-Colby, 7-2. In the semifinals, Hantsbarger drew Black River Falls sophomore Jackson McCormick. This was a decidedly defensive match. McCormick rode Hantsbarger throughout the second period and Hantsbarger did the same in the third, ending regulation scoreless. In the overtime, Hantsbarger was able to come out of a scramble on top, getting the winning takedown.
In the finals, Hantsbarger faced Baldwin-Woodville’s Jordan Bonte, who was also the opponent in the title match at the WIAA regionals and the Middle Border Conference meet. This again was decided by one or two moments. Hantsbarger got a first period takedown, and in the final moments of the period, Bonte escaped. Bonte got an escape early in the second period, then came out of a flurry late in the period to take a 4-2 lead. Hantsbarger tried in vain to get a tying takedown in the third period.
In the third place match, Hantsbarger faced West Salem-Bangor sophomore Evan Wolfe. Hantsbarger dominated, winning 9-3.
Hantsbarger is approaching the state tournament with a practical attitude.
“My goal is to wrestle every match relentlessly; always on the offensive and constantly pushing the action, no matter the outcome,” he said.
Hantsbarger said having experienced state once will be a major advantage.
“Last year I was extremely nervous for what felt like almost every minute,” he said. “Now that I’ve been there, I know what to expect. I feel more prepared.”
The Spartans were hoping to get both of their seniors to state and Wilson nearly made it happen. Wilson (30-14) opened the tournament by pinning Ashland senior Justin Weiss (34-8) with 12 seconds left in the first period.
In the semifinals, Wilson ran up against Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau’s Gavin Affinson and was pinned. In the third period match, Wilson again was pinned, ending his season.
Wilson began wrestling in December, 2018. In his 14 months of wrestling, he twice was able to advance to the WIAA sectional meet.
“It’s amazing what he’s accomplished,” said Somerset coach Ali Peterson. “He never missed an opportunity to practice or attend a camp, any opportunity to learn.”