One match at a time: The dominant Stratford Tigers refuse to look past any opponent
By Paul Lecker
STRATFORD — The Stratford wrestling team clinched its third Marawood Conference regular-season title with a win last week against Marathon and hopes to nail down its third-straight conference tournament championship Saturday at Pittsville.
After the Marawood meet comes the WIAA tournament, where the Tigers enjoyed unprecedented success last season. Stratford had four individual Division 3 state champions a year ago, a school record, and all four returned to the team this year and are continuing their dominance.
The hope is to have everything rolling come postseason time, and if the regular season has been any indication, the Tigers are right where they want to be.
“These kids practice hard, and I know everybody does, but we happen to have a lot of good kids all at one time,” Stratford coach Joe Schwabe said. “They’re wrestling well with their ‘A’ games right now. They have some big, high hopes that we haven’t achieved before, so it’s one match at a time, and they have been taking it one match at a time. We don’t look past anybody.”
The accomplishment the Tigers are shooting for is the WIAA state team title.
Stratford was stymied by Coleman in the team sectional last season as the Cougars went on to the state meet for the eighth-straight season. After winning titles in four of five years — 2010-12, 2014 — Coleman finished second last season.
The Tigers, ranked No. 1 in the wiwrestling.com Division 3 state team poll, do not want to look ahead, but at the same time they know that one team that has stood in their way in the past will likely be there again.
“Coleman is ranked No. 2 in the state, a perennial power,” Schwabe said. “They have such a great program and phenomenal coaches. They’re always the team to beat no matter what they’re ranked. They have eight freshmen in the lineup, and they’re beasts. We’ll have to get ready for those guys at the end of the year but can’t look past what we have coming now.”
Stratford has won five invitational team titles this season and was second overall at the Bi-State Classic during winter break in La Crosse while winning its third-straight Division 3 crown at the tournament.
Junior Mason Kauffman is 35-0 at 152 pounds, and sophomore Jeremy Schoenherr is 30-0 at 126 after both won individual D-3 state titles last year.
The Tigers’ other two state titlists from last year — A.J. Schoenfuss (120) and Kam Bornbach (182) — have again enjoyed successful seasons, and numerous other Tigers have a chance to make some noise in the postseason tournaments.
“They trained hard,” Schwabe said. “In the summer a bunch went to the freestyle and Greco stuff, a handful went to Ohio for a big team camp, and I think that helped with confidence, wrestling against guys from around the country. They’ve been lifting weights, and a lot of them are football guys. The football coaches have been supportive. They keep working one match at a time and stay after it.”
Stratford’s postseason schedule
Jan. 30 Marawood Conference Meet at Pittsville
Feb. 13 WIAA Division 3 Regional at Edgar
*Feb. 16 WIAA Division 3 Team Sectional at Manawa
*Feb. 20 WIAA Division 3 Individual Sectional at Shawano
*Feb. 25-27 WIAA State Individual Tournament at Madison
*March 4-5 WIAA State Team Tournament at Madison