The Somerset and St. Croix Central wrestling teams both have qualified one wrestler for the WIAA State Championships, which will be held this Thursday through Saturday at the Kohl Center in Madison.
St. Croix Central
Sophomore Devin Wasley dominated his opposition in the 160-pound weight class, earning the bracket championship at the WIAA Division 2 Osceola Sectional Tournament on Saturday, Feb. 22.
By winning the sectional championship, Wasley receives a bye in the opening round of the WIAA State Wrestling Championships. His first match will be wrestled in the Friday morning session, facing the winner of Thursday’s match between Berlin senior Preston Morgan (41-3) and Oconto Falls junior Aidan Stary (28-18).
Central also had senior Braeden Bloom, junior Josh Bair and freshman Parker Shackleton competing at the sectional meet, but they weren’t able to qualify for the state meet.
Wasley (42-1) was an offensive force on Saturday. He opened the tournament by swarming over Ellsworth’s Eli Rohl, winning by a technical fall. Wasley stayed on the offensive in the semifinals, beating Barron’s Chase Peltier, 13-7. This was the third time they’ve met this season. Central coach Brad Holzer said Wasley did a good job of recognizing what Peltier was trying to take away, going to his other moves to continue scoring points.
In the finals, Wasley faced Stanley-Boyd senior Preston Potaczek. It was no contest. Wasley achieved a technical fall win before the second period was completed.
Holzer said he thinks Wasley has an opportunity to do some damage at state. He said they aren’t setting goals on where he’ll place, preferring to focus on one opponent at a time. Holzer said Wasley’s arsenal of moves makes him difficult to scout.
“From what I’ve seen, it’s pretty wide open. He has the ability to score in bunches, with his motor,” Holzer said. Holzer said Wasley has several “go-to shots” that they will use, based on the scouting report of their opponent.
Bloom, Bair and Shackleton were all defeated in their opening matches. All three matches ended in pins, but those results are deceptive. Bair faced defending state champion Jake Rau of Medford and nearly had him thrown in the first minute of the match. Shackleton had his opponent on his back for most of the first period but couldn’t complete the pin.
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.”