It wasn’t the outcome they were looking for, but two Waupaca wrestlers still made it to the medal podium at the State Individual Wrestling Meet.
Freshman Logan Bernhardt and senior Levi Petroske finished fourth at 106 and 160 pounds, respectively, after making it to the Division 3 semifinals.
Both wrestlers lost those semifinal matches, but came back in the wrestleback rounds at the tournament, held Feb. 27 to March 1 at the Kohl Center in Madison.
Two other area wrestlers – Weyauwega-Fremont junior Oliver Radtke and senior Brandon Loehrke – competed in Division 2 at 132 and 170 pounds, but lost their preliminary round matches and did not advance.
Bernhardt won his first two matches in his first trip to state. He opened the tournament with a 7-3 win over Mauston’s Chris Ruf and followed that up with an 8-5 win over Amery’s Andrew Smith in the quarterfinals.
“The first match is really important to win because if you lose your first match in D2 or D3, you’re out,” Bernhardt said. “(Smith’s) a pretty good kid, he only had three losses. I’d never wrestled him, but I’ve heard of him. If you hear of a kid, he’s probably pretty good.
“I’m in the semifinals and even the (freshmen) that do make it down here don’t usually make it that far,” he added. “It feels like a dream right now.”
Those wins placed Bernhardt in the semifinals against eventual state runner-up Michael Bannach of Wrightstown, but he came out on the short end of a 4-2 score. The wrestlers were tied 2-2 after three periods, but Bannach came up with a takedown in overtime to advance to the finals.
Bernhardt, on the other hand, advanced to the third-place match with a 3-0 win over Pewaukee’s Rajiv Geffert. Adams-Friendship’s Trenton McManus then pinned him in 2:57.
“I’ve been wrestling my entire life, since I could stand,” Bernhardt said. “High school is a whole different mindset. It’s a lot more tough mentally. You’re wrestling against kids sometimes that are four years older than you. You think about a freshman wrestling a senior, but then you go out there and you remember that you’re just human.”
Bernhardt went on to finish 50-3 in his first season of high school wrestling.
“I was really surprised,” he said. “I thought I was pretty good, but I didn’t know how good I was.”
Petroske earned a bye in the first round and opened the tournament with a 4-2 win over Luck/Frederic/Grantsburg’s Tony Britton in the quarterfinals. He advanced to the semifinal round, but fell 4-3 to eventual state runner-up Mitchell Lambrecht of Sheboygan Falls.
Petroske rebounded by pinning Jeremy Dedick of East Troy in the wrestleback round, but fell to Stanley-Boyd/Owen-Withee/Thorp’s Ronny Ponick 3-1 in the third-place match.
Petroske came to state with a 44-2 record and ended up 46-4.
“It’s been a pretty good season, but unfortunately, I lost to the same kid twice,” he said. “That stinks, but he’s D3 and I’m D2, so I won’t see him. It was pretty important (to get back to state). I worked hard for it all year: getting up early in the morning, go lift, run and wrestle. Everything kind of leads up to this point.”
“Both wrestlers had incredible seasons and did a great job this past weekend,” Waupaca coach Tom Reif said. “Levi and Logan lost very close matches in the semifinals and were able to wrestle back and take fourth place. I’m very proud of both of them for the amount of work they have put in to become great wrestlers.”
Unlike Bernhardt and Petroske, Radtke and Loerhke didn’t make it to the wrestleback round.
Radtke fell to Jordan Corcoran of La Crosse Aquinas 6-0 in the preliminaries, who went on to place fourth.
“Oliver wrestled great at the sectional to earn his trip to state,” W-F coach Tim Potratz said. “He wrestled tough at state, but ran into a senior who placed high at the tournament and we just could not get anything going offensively in the match. Oliver will take this state experience into the offseason and be back ready for a big senior year.”
Loehrke dropped a 6-4 overtime decision to eventual sixth-place finisher Brian Halverson of Iowa-Grant/Highland.
“Brandon had an absolutely great senior season, posting a 31-10 record, a team-high 56 takedowns, making the finals of five tournaments and going to state,” Potratz said. “He really stepped up his mental toughness as a senior and wrestled well in his match at state. It was a tight match all the way through, but we just came up short in the overtime period. Brandon had a great season and should be proud of his accomplishments.”