St. Croix Central sophomore Devin Wasley and Somerset senior Tyler Hantsbarger both gave outstanding performances at the 2020 WIAA Division 2 State Wrestling Championships over the weekend.
Wasley was the second place finisher in at 160 pounds and Hantsbarger was the fourth place finisher at 126 pounds.
Wasley got to experience one of the true spectacles in Wisconsin high school sports on Saturday.
As a finalist in the 2020 WIAA Division 2 State Championships, Wasley was part of the Walk of Champions festivities that precede the state finals. Wasley wasn’t able to win in the state title match, losing to Grafton senior Ellis Pfleger, 17-9. Wasley finished the season with a 45-2 record.
Wasley’s season ranks as one of the best ever for a Central sophomore, with his 45 wins being a sophomore class record. As the sectional champion, he had a bye in Thursday’s opening round at state. His first opponent was Preston Morgan of Berlin. Morgan was a physically imposing opponent, but Wasley managed to earn a 3-2 win.
Wasley was ranked fourth in the state among Division 2 160-pounders. In the semifinals he faced Jefferson senior Dean Neff, who was the top-ranked wrestler. Neff built a 4-1 lead in the first period. Wasley didn’t panic. He got an escape and in the final seconds of the period, he got a takedown at the edge of the mat to tie the score.
Wasley’s non-stop motor paid off in the final two periods. He was on top in the third period and putting on a hard ride. Neff was warned for stalling early in the period and with 30 seconds left, there was another stalling call, giving Wasley the deciding point in the 5-4 final score.
Central coach Brad Holzer said Neff was probably the physically strongest opponent Wasley has ever faced.
Holzer said style-wise, Pfleger was the worst possible draw for Wasley, because they use quite similar styles.
“We knew it would be a match-up nightmare,” Holzer said, saying they both use low-level shots and lots of scrambling as main pieces in their plan. Pfleger was in his fourth year at state and has medaled once before.
Pfleger got ahead of Wasley and the Panther sophomore could only get one takedown in the 17-9 loss.
Holzer said Wasley has grown a great deal during the season, showing maturity in not giving up points at the edge of the mat in difficult situations. He said his arsenal of moves has also grown. Instead of relying mainly on cradles to get his back point and pins, Wasley now has several other options where he can earn his points.
As a sophomore, Wasley has room to grow, according to Holzer. He said Wasley can added upper body strength and he can work to get better from the bottom position.
For the second straight season, Hantsbarger is a WIAA Division 2 state wrestling medalist.
Hantsbarger made his way onto the podium at the 2020 WIAA State Wrestling Championships by placing fourth in the Division 2 126-pound bracket. Last year, Hantsbarger took sixth place at 126 pounds. Hantsbarger finished his senior season with a 40-8 record. He finished his career with a 120-39 record. The 120 wins ranks fourth all-time in Somerset school records.
Hantsbarger was the second place finisher at the Osceola sectional, which put him in the opening round of action at state on Thursday. Hantsbarger faced Port Washington freshman Kaiden Schumacher and this looked like a match between a senior and freshman. Hantsbarger has been using arm bars more in recent matches and they worked well against Schumacher, with Hantsbarger getting the pin in 3 minutes, 21 seconds.
In the quarterfinals, Hantsbarger drew Jack Severin of Kewaunee, who would go on to win the state championship. Severin effectively blocked Hantsbarger’s scoring efforts. The score was 2-0 entering the third period. Severin got an escape, then a late takedown as Hantsbarger pushed to try scoring, making the final 5-0.
That moved Hantsbarger to Friday’s wrestlebacks, where he faced Austin Schofield of Evansville/Albany, an opponent Hantsbarger beat last year. Hantsbarger went on the offensive, building up an 8-0 lead before pinning Schofield 12 seconds into the third period. That win assured Hantsbarger a place among the top six wrestlers in the bracket.
In the first action Saturday, Hantsbarger faced Chad Moegenburg of Wittenberg-Birnamwood, who had beaten Baldwin-Woodville’s Jordan Bonte on Friday. Somerset coach Ali Peterson said Hantsbarger wrestled an almost flawless tactical match, beating Moegenburg 4-1.
“In his first, third and fourth matches, he did as perfectly as he’s wrestled. They were pure, sharp. He was controlling the action and beating them up physically,” Peterson said.
In the match for third place, Chilton-Hilbert senior Joe Boehnlein was Hantsbarger’s opponent. For the first time all season, Hantsbarger gave up three back points when he stumbled trying to stand up and was caught in a cradle. The match was close to the finish, with Hantsbarger vainly trying for the tying takedown. Instead, he lost 8-6.
Peterson said he witnessed give everything he had in every match.
“It was one million percent effort the whole weekend,” Peterson said.
Hantsbarger became the first two-time state medalist for the Spartans since Max Praschak medaled in 2014 and 2015.