Season preview: Stratford, Spencer/Columbus wrestling
By Paul Lecker
A true powerhouse: Stratford wrestling ranked among best teams in the nation
STRATFORD — The Stratford wrestling team suffered the most excruciating loss possible in the WIAA State Team Wrestling Tournament last season, but that stunning defeat is not going to keep it down for long.
The Tigers lost in a tiebreaker to Fennimore in the Division 3 championship match. After tying 26-27, Fennimore won the tiebreaker by virtue of winning eight of the 14 matches, keeping Stratford from what would have been its first-ever state team tournament title.
However, with four individual state champions and one runner-up returning to the mat, the Tigers are expected to make a run again toward the state team tournament and add upon their three-straight Marawood Conference championships.
Junior A.J. Schoenfuss (126 pounds), junior Jeremy Schoenherr (145 pounds), and senior Kamren Bornbach (220) are all back after each won their second Division 3 individual state titles in a row last February.
Tyson Kauffman also returns after winning a state title at 285 pounds. In addition to the four champions, runner-up Mason Kauffman (152), state medalists Jake Drexler (138) and David Marquardt (170), state qualifier Derek Marten (132), and Marawood champs Jordan Becker (160) and Manny Drexler (106) also return to give the Tigers’ one of the — if not the most — potent lineups in the state.
“The kids seem pretty excited being nationally ranked in two separate polls (39th in one and 50th in another),” Stratford coach Joe Schwabe said. “It’s a lot of fun watching these kids in practice. There is a lot of talent in the room. They have worked very hard in their careers and strive to be excellent at their craft.”
Mason Kauffman, a state champion in 2015, was the runner-up at his weight last year after suffering from a heart ailment that was diagnosed when he fell ill after the semifinals. He has now pushed his undefeated career record past the 100-victory mark with wins early this season.
Also returning to the varsity lineup are sophomore Dylan Schoenherr at 182 pounds and Aiden Hoffman at 195.
Newcomers Kolton Dahl (113), Max Schwabe (120), and Trevor Dennee (152) will vie to fill out the varsity roster.
“I am equally impressed with what we call our varsity reserves as they place at varsity tournaments as a team and win individual brackets,” Joe Schwabe said. “The last few years we have had between 30-38 kids. I’m very proud to have numbers like this in a small school. These wrestlers work very hard and are part of something special right now.”
Finding balance: Talented veterans and promising newcomers make Spencer/Columbus wrestling a team to watch
SPENCER — The Spencer/Columbus Catholic wrestling team is a work in progress.
The Rockets return four wrestlers that accounted for 124 victories and a state tournament medal last season but have seven freshmen on the varsity as they will have to learn their way through a grueling schedule that will culminate with tournament action in February.
Junior Hunter Luepke went 42-7 last season and earned a fifth-place finish in Division 2 at 182 pounds at the WIAA State Wrestling Tournament. The two-time regional and Cloverbelt Conference champion and two-time state tournament qualifier will wrestle at 195 and 220 pounds this season and is off to a 6-0 start after earning a pin in Tuesday’s dual meet victory at Stanley-Boyd/Owen-Withee.
Bryce Shaw, another junior, earned a state medal in 2015, placing sixth at 113 pounds. Last year Shaw went 28-11 and won the Cloverbelt title at 126. He is expected to move up to 138 and 145 pounds this season.
Also back for the Rockets are junior Dominick Wichlacz and sophomore Logan Zschernitz. Wichlacz went 21-18 and qualified for sectionals last year, and Zschernitz, who is also 6-0 this year, was a second qualifier and finished 33-8.
“We have a young team with no seniors and seven freshmen starting varsity,” Spencer/Columbus coach Jake Zschernitz said. “However, we do have some talented guys returning. We expect to be competitive as a team while bringing the young guys along.”
Ashton Ackman at 106 pounds is one freshman that will be in the lineup in addition to sophomore Carson Hildebrandt at 160 pounds.
“We have plenty of talent to do some good things toward the end of the season and when tournament time gets going,” Jake Zschernitz said.
Spencer/Columbus will host a multiteam dual meet on Friday night with WIAA Division 3 state runner-up Stratford among the competition.
Paul Lecker is publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com, a contributor to Hub City Times Sports. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.