Local high school wrestling teams hoping for success at regionals

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Top 2 wrestlers in each weight class advance

Greg Bates, Times Herald correspondent

Oconto Falls’ Clayton Whiting, left, holds down Elkhorn Area’s Colman Karl at the Pulaski Invitational on Jan. 26. Whiting and the Panthers will compete in the Division 2 Marinette Regional this coming Saturday. (Times Herald photo by Morgan Rode)

When the calendar turns to January every year, wrestlers around the state know it is crunch time.

The date signifies the postseason stretch is about five weeks away, and every wrestler needs to be at their peak on the mat. WIAA regionals take place this coming Saturday, with team sectionals on Feb. 12, individual sectionals on Feb. 16 and state the weekend after that (Feb. 21-23).

Three area teams will have their hands full competing in tough regionals. Oconto Falls will take part in the Division 2 Marinette Regional. Panthers that place in the top two in their weight class move on to sectionals at Wrightstown.

In Division 3, Lena/St. Thomas Aquinas Academy and Gillett/Suring will both wrestle in Coleman Regional. Individuals who advance will compete in sectionals in the Bonduel Sectional, which will be hosted by Shawano Community High School.

Oconto Falls

Depending on how things shake out this week, Oconto Falls’ shot at a team regional title could greatly increase.

According to Oconto Falls tri-head coach Marc Kinziger, Freedom as a team, which is ranked No. 2 in Division 2 by wiwrestling.com, has had some skin issues and hasn’t been able to wrestle in over a week. However, Oconto Falls might also be down when regionals come around as a few unspecified wrestlers are dealing with off the mat issues.

“Right now, we’re looking at getting healthy and have as full of a lineup as we can,” Kinziger said. “We’d like to beat Freedom as a team.”

Oconto Falls freshman Clayton Whiting is expecting big things out of the team.

“After how our team did at Pulaski, I feel like we’re coming in with great confidence because I feel everybody did really good at Pulaski,” Whiting said. “I feel like they’re all going to do great at regionals.”

Even if Freedom is undermanned for regionals, there are plenty of other teams that will give Oconto Falls a run for its money.

“Seymour’s got a couple of boys that we ran into over at Pulaski, and Marinette is, of course, coming on a little bit more than they have been,” Kinziger said.

Whiting, who is ranked No. 2 in the state at 152, is having a fabulous first season. He’s excited for his shot at a regional crown, but he’s looking ahead to bigger and better competition.

“I’m expecting to push myself at regionals and make a statement there showing how hard I train in the wrestling room every day,” Whiting said.

Kinziger is looking at a number of guys to do well at regionals, including Whiting, Aidan Stary (ranked No. 9 at 170), Collin Schindel (No. 12 at 120) and Trevor Pankratz (160).

“Some years you think you’re going to put 10, 11, 12 through,” Kinziger said. “I don’t think that’s going to be the case this year. I don’t know how Freedom’s going to come back.”

Freedom has seven state-ranked wrestlers this season, but they won’t be the only guys to watch at regionals. Kinziger believes Seymour’s Wyatt Kaczrowski (ranked No. 4 at 113) and Brady Eick (No. 8 at 182) along with Marinette’s Reece Holder (220) will be strong competitors.

Lena/STAA and Gillett/Suring

Whatever regional Coleman is in every year is guaranteed to be a tough out.

Lena/STAA and Gillett/Suring are stuck in the regional with the Cougars, a team that rosters 12 ranked wrestlers, three of whom are ranked No. 1 in their respective weight classes.

“I look for Coleman obviously to take first,” Lena/STAA coach Chad Misco said. “This year they definitely have a shot to beat Stratford.”

“It’s always going to be hard when Coleman’s there, but sectionals is going to be the hardest part this year,” Gillett/Suring senior Sam Lemens said.

Misco is looking at having eight wrestlers compete in regionals, but only one of those guys is a senior and four are freshmen.

“I just look for them to get the experience and what it takes to get them through,” Misco said.

Lena/STAA didn’t have any wrestlers advance to sectionals last season, which is a big goal to get a couple through this year. The team’s best chances are from sophomore Robert Feick (285) and junior Alex Decoursin (132).

Misco said Feick is having a great season and has beaten everyone in the regional bracket except Coleman’s Brock Martinson, who is ranked No. 2 in the state.

Decoursin will probably need to pull off an upset or two in order to punch his ticket to sectionals. Top-ranked Caleb Gross from Coleman could shuffle weight classes at regionals and give Decoursin a better shot to advance, noted Misco.

Coleman’s top-ranked wrestlers include Koltin Grzybowski (113; defending state champion), Gross (defending state champion) and Jake Baldwin (145). Bonduel also has a pair of strong wrestlers in Jacob Giese (ranked No. 1 at 195) and Isaac Banker (No. 5 at 182).

Lemens will be competing in his third and final regional. Ranked No. 9 at 138, Lemens has big expectations with No. 4-ranked Karson Casper in his weight class.

“This year it’s my goal to take first at regionals,” Lemens said.

Lemens (26-5) knows what is at stake this season.

“It’s a big deal for me,” Lemens said. “It’s my last year, my senior, and I’ve been putting in a lot of time and doing extra practices and wrestling on weekends and stuff. I just hope it all pays off.”

Lemens believes Gillett/Suring will have four competitors in regionals. His three teammates don’t have a lot of experience in big meets.

“Hopefully they just wrestle well and try their best,” Lemens said.