Three area wrestlers competed at the WIAA Individual State Wrestling Tournament in Madison.
Jake Reiter represented Clintonville in Division 2 at 195 pounds; Casey Johnson represented Manawa in Division 3 at 182 pounds; and Brett Handschke represented New London in Division 1 at 170 pounds.
Reiter, a junior, had the best finish at state, taking fifth place.
He won his first match on Thursday evening by a 13-2 major decision over Jack Nelson, a senior from Belleville/Monticello/New Glarus.
In the quarterfinals, Reiter faced the #1 ranked wrestler in the bracket – Joey Dedick from East Troy, a senior with a season record of 43-0. Dedick beat Reiter by a 4-1 score.
On Friday afternoon, Reiter faced Hayward’s Austin Egge, a senior with a season record of 36-10. Reiter defeated him with an 8-1 decision.
On Saturday morning, Reiter wrestled Scott Skornicka of Two Rivers, a junior with a season record of 39-9. Skornicka pinned Reiter in 4:29.
On Saturday afternoon, Reiter wrestled for fifth place against Zach Koch from River Valley, a junior with a season record of 37-12. Reiter defeated Koch with a 10-5 decision, ending his junior season with the fifth place medal.
Reiter’s career record is now 92-38. Clintonville Trucker season award winners and statistics will be published in March.
“I am happy with Jake’s performance at State,” said Coach Justin Mc Auly. “Our goal was to medal, and we did this. He was so close to making the finals.
“I am also happy with his performance during the season,” said Mc Auly. “Jake has improved in many areas. An example would be on his feet. He is much more comfortable with his takedowns. This would be his biggest improvement from his sophomore year.
“Jake also spent extra time in the off season to improve on his strength,” added Mc Auly. “He was a lot stronger physically this year than he was last year. I believe with more effort this off season, we can reach the top of the podium next year.”
Reiter said his first trip to state was quite an experience.
“The atmosphere at state is pretty sweet,” said Reiter. “I was a little nervous at first, but once you’re on the mat, it’s just you and your opponent.
“I think it was a good accomplishment to take fifth place, although it’s not exactly what I wanted,” he added. “I wrestled in a tough weight class, but it was a very exciting season. I am thankful for all the support I received from my family, friends, school, coaches, and teammates. The last few weeks have been pretty crazy, but it’s been a great experience.”
Junior Casey Johnson represented Manawa. At the conclusion of the tournament, Manawa’s 182 pound wrestler wrestled five matches and placed sixth at the tournament.
“This is the pinnacle of wrestling in high school,” said Head Coach Scott Hahn. “To not only represent your community, but place as a junior is an awesome feat.”
Johnson started the tournament with a pin over Dustin Deich from Laconia. Johnson was taken down, but recovered quickly to tie the score at 2-2 at the end of the first period. After that, it was all Johnson. He reversed and turned Diech in the second, followed by another cradle which led to a pin in 3:22.
“The first match is the most important in the tournament,” Johnson said. “If you don’t win this round you are done. I got the nerves out and wrestled well to move on.”
In quarterfinal action, Johnson squared off against Cambridge’s Jack Nett. Nett took Johnson off the whistle, but Johnson battled back to tie it 2-2 with a reversal in the first period. He then reversed Nett again, going up 4-2 into the third. Nett battled back in the third, escaping, then taking Johnson down to win 5-4. Nett eventually advanced to the State finals.
“Casey wrestled hard this round, just came up short. He knows he belongs at this level and showed it this match,” said Coach Dan Kundinger.
The consolation round was up next for Johnson.
“We needed to win this round to get on the podium. Coming this far, you just do not want to go home empty handed,” said Coach Brad Johnson.
Jesse Verbanac of Random Lake had the same idea, but Johnson would not be denied a trip to the podium. Johnson scored early and often in all areas to win 14-2 and advance to the placement round.
“Casey knew he had to go out and get this match to place, and he looked very good. It is not easy to beat an opponent by this margin at State,” Hahn said.
Casey ran into Mike Scharenbock of Flambeau in the placement round and lost 7-0, which put him in the fifth place match against Jaylin Lansen of Cumberland. Lansen went up 2-0 in the first period and held Johnson scoreless in the second. Lansen chose top in the third period, but Johnson escaped to pull within 2-1. Needing a takedown to go ahead, Johnson slipped on a head throw and lost 4-1 at the end of the period.
“Casey stepped up his level of competition the past three weeks. He now knows where he wants to be and the steps he needs to take to get there,” said Hahn. “Qualifying for State as a junior means you get to understand the atmosphere and have another shot. He is already looking forward to it.”
New London junior Brett Handschke represented New London in Division 1 at 170 pounds.
In his first match, he faced senior Myles Devine, of Franklin. Devine pinned Handschke at the 5:56 mark. Handschke didn’t get a wrestleback opportunity, as Devine lost in the second round.
“Brett had a really nice year. Unfortunately, we couldn’t hold off the kid from Franklin in the first round,” said Coach Bryon Prey. “We were up 7-3 with about 12 seconds left in the second period and got rolled for five points. Brett tied it in the third period at nine but got caught again at the end of the match. It was a tough loss but he gained a lot of experience.
“He worked really hard to get to state, and accomplished many of his goals along the way. Overall, I am very impressed with his performance this year,” said Prey. “I believe he has the potential to make a run at a state medal next year, if not a state championship.”
“I started off slow this year. At one point, my record was 8-9,” said Handschke. “After the Merrill Tournament, I got it turned around and went on a 24-match winning streak. At regionals, I was able to take first place. At sectionals, I beat a Bay Port wrestler that had beaten me earlier in the year. I took second at sectionals, losing by one point to a kid who was ranked sixth in the state.
“I will need 22 more wins to reach 100 for my career, and I’m going to go for that next year,” he stated. “I am thankful for all the support from my coaches and family this year.”