The fun begins
Stratford fine-tunes strengths and weaknesses
By Paul Lecker
STRATFORD – The Stratford wrestling team is off to a predictably good start to the season, but now the fun begins.
The Tigers enter this weekend’s Bi-State Classic in La Crosse unbeaten and in search of a fifth-straight Division 3 title, at the 60-plus team meet Dec. 29-30.
Seniors Jeremy Schoenherr and A.J. Schoenfuss, both three-time WIAA individual state champions, lead another strong group of Stratford wrestlers into the epic two-day tournament.
“The wrestlers get quite excited and love to face the challenge of smaller-division schools facing the larger schools in the state,” Stratford coach Joe Schwabe said. “I actually try to put less emphasis on this tournament and would rather gear up for the end of the season, but that is not happening. Our kids really want to go out and perform best and try to place high. They would like to defend their over-all championship from last year. It is a nice test for several individuals to see where they are.”
Among the Tigers returning this season, Manny Drexler and Max Schwabe finished second, Schoenfuss took third, Derek Marten was fifth, and Aiden Hoffman finished seventh in their respective weight classes at last year’s Bi-State.
Stratford, heading into a dual tournament at Stanley-Boyd on Dec. 22, had won its first 10 duals, including a 5-0 mark at its home Schoenherr Duals on Dec. 2 and a 4-0 record at the Dells Duals on Dec. 9 in Wisconsin Dells.
Karter Stuttgen (106 pounds), Drexler (113), Dylan Schoenherr (220), and University of Wisconsin recruit Jeremy Schoenherr (145) all took undefeated records into the Stanley-Boyd tournament. Schwabe (132), Schoenfuss (126), and Hoffman (195) have each only lost once this season for the Tigers, the defending WIAA Division 3 state champion.
Included at the Dells tournament was a dual meet win over Division 1 state runner-up Stoughton.
“With football, deer hunting, and Thanksgiving, all factors in the beginning, we kind of restart, if you will, once they have gone by,” Joe Schwabe said. “After defeating Stoughton, they relaxed and handled three other highly-ranked teams to follow. Many of our kids have had some individual competition that has been great for us all to learn what we need to improve on.”
Following Bi-State, the Tigers begin their march toward a fifth-straight Marawood Conference championship, and the WIAA postseason that comes in February.
“As our season progresses, we need to do several things,” Joe Schwabe said. “One is to continue to get great competition at our tournaments so each kid can fine-tune both areas of strengths and weaknesses. Along with that, there needs to be a balance between pushing the team to be in great shape and still give them time to be kids and enjoy the sport and each other.
“The methods to do that will vary from week to week and certainly changes as the personality of the team changes from year to year. The most important thing is to try and find ways to reach optimal conditioning while limiting the high-impact physical stress live wrestling has on the body.”
Auburndale, Spencer/Columbus Catholic, and Marshfield will also participate in the Bi-State Tournament, which is hosted by Holmen High School. Both days begin with action at 9 a.m. at the La Crosse Center.
Paul Lecker is the publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com, a contributor to Hub City Times Sports. You can reach him by email at [email protected]