Andrew Hanlon photo
Wrightstown’s Ethan Vande Hey, even sans headgear at one point, was able to beat Kaukauna’s Clay Wendzicki with a 9-4 decision at 160 pounds.
By Andrew Hanlon
Now that the WIAA has decided to allow more than one dual match per week, the Wrightstown wrestling team was looking to add another squad to its matchup with Xavier last week.
Enter Kaukauna — the No. 2 team in the state in Division 1 (a good argument can be made it should be No. 1) — a perennial powerhouse in Wisconsin under head coach Jeff Matczak. It was a chance for the Tigers to show they’re not only one of the best teams in the state in Division 2, but one of the best teams in the state in general.
Despite a 47-17 loss to the Ghosts, Wrightstown was able to do something no other team has accomplished thus far this season, including two teams ranked inside the top five in D1; the Tigers took four matches from Kaukauna.
In a quad at Neenah Jan. 7, Kimberly won three matches against the Ghosts, while Neenah and Mukwonago — ranked No. 5 and No. 3 in Division 1, respectively, at the time — won twice.
“I thought we competed pretty well, I thought we battled pretty well (against Kaukauna),” Wrightstown Head Coach Matt Verbeten said. “There’s even some mistakes that you see that you can correct, but that’s why you wrestle the best teams because they bring out the mistakes, you see what you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong.
“We (got) out there and fought as best we could and gave them the matches that we could, we don’t worry about the score, we worry about scoring the next point and fighting through every situation. I thought, for the most part, that was pretty good, and then we did learn things that we did wrong, and that’s what matches like that are for.
“It was great to wrestle them, they’re right next door, we see them all the time,” Verbeten added.
After the dual with Kaukauna, Wrightstown went on to route Xavier 66-15.
The Ghosts took the first four matches of the night’s opening dual, winning at 285 pounds, 106 pounds, 113 pounds and 120 pounds, on their way to grabbing a 22-0 lead.
Wrightstown then got on the board at 126 as Jacob Durocher beat Kaukauna’s Chase VanderLinden with a 15-0 technical fall.
The Ghosts responded with four more wins, however, — from four state qualifiers at 132, 138, 145 and 152.
The Tigers were victorious in three of the final five matches, though, beginning with Ethan Vande Hey’s 9-4 decision over Kaukauna’s Clay Wendzicki at 160 pounds.
“Ethan’s just that unorthodox kid that’s fun to watch,” Verbeten explained.
“He drives the coaches a little crazy, but he’s fun to watch because he can score from just about anywhere.
“He’s comfortable being uncomfortable a lot of times.”
Two matches later, at 182 pounds, Logan Koel won a 10-7 decision over the Ghosts’ Drew Wendzicki, and two matches after that, Quincy Klister made quick work of Ben Krueger, winning by pin in just 1 minute, 6 seconds.
With duals against Random Lake (No. 2 in the state in D3) and Denmark two weeks ago, the Tigers have been able to find some solid competition after the WIAA relaxed its rules.
“We’ve been looking for that competition since the (WIAA) opened it up,” Verbeten said. “Kaukauna had something open up because they dropped their conference stuff and why not wrestle one of the, if not the best teams in the state, when they’re right next door five miles away when we can get the competition that we need to see, because we’re going to see that competition at regionals and sectionals coming up. Why not test yourself when you can a couple weeks before that.”
The Tigers finished the night with an easy 66-15 win over Xavier, winning 11 of the dual’s 14 matches.
Wrightstown began the dual with four straight pins and six pins in the first eight matches.
Everett Koltz got things started at 113 pounds with a pin of Xavier’s Jack Biesterveld in 1:45. Owen Krueger followed with a pin over Beau Andree in 1:26 at 120 pounds.
Durocher then took care of Gavin Andree in 1:38 at 126 pounds and Kaden Verbeten beat the Hawks’ Julian Vajda in 1:34 at 132 pounds.
Three matches later, Isaiah Pennenberg pinned Carter Hietpas in 3:34 at 152, and Vande Hey followed with a pin of Will Wanty in 2:22 at 160.
Wrightstown closed out the dual with wins in four of the final five matches, including pins from Austin Koltz (195), Klister, Koel and Riley Verbeten (106).
The Tigers now face their biggest dual of the 2020-21 season tomorrow in a quad. Wrightstown’s first dual of the night is against Lux-Casco; the winner will be crowned North Eastern Conference Champion.
Verbeten explained that competing against teams the level of Kaukauna, as the Tigers did last week, certainly helps prepare for key duals like the one coming up tomorrow night.
“It definitely helps when you can wrestle that good of competition,” Verbeten said.
“We didn’t have the tournaments to sharpen up and find out what’s going on for big matches like this. … You have to find ways to see how you’re doing, so when you wrestle them you see the mistakes and hopefully correct them for when you get to that (important) match.
“It’s always a great battle against Luxemburg-Casco, so you have to have (that competition), you need that.”
The Tigers face Ashwaubenon and Pulaski in the final two duals of the evening tomorrow night.