There was only one area wrestler that rose to a No. 1 ranking and refused to shrink in the face of a challenge when it mattered most: West Bend East senior Jordan Gundrum.
While it’s true that Gundrum didn’t emerge as the most decorated wrestler in the area over the past four years, he was the most consistent and dominant at his weight class this year.
He triumphed when it mattered most with a perfect 50-0 season – one of two area wrestlers to go undefeated – that culminated in his 9-0 major decision over Oak Creek senior Ben Hakes (28-2) in the 160 Division 1 final a the WIAA state individual wrestling tournament.
Gundrum is the Journal Sentinel area wrestler of the year.
That he went wire to wire this year matters.
Others considered were Hartford junior Beau Breske, Burlington junior Josh Bird, Waterford senior Max Fisher, Mukwonago junior Nathan Smith and Wauwatosa West junior Justin Folley.
Breske hadn’t been defeated in three years by a state wrestler, but Merrill senior Mason Reinhardt knocked him off, 5-4, in double overtime in the 170 D1 final. Breske finished 50-1.
Bird, a three-time state finalist, won his second state title when he captured the 132 title this year and finished 46-2.
Fisher, whose comeback from an elbow injury was impressive, upset Schofield D.C. Everest senior Joe Ziolkowski by a 3-1 decision to win the 145 title, denying Ziolkowski a second title. Fisher, however, missed a large portion of the season before winning the first state championship in his school’s history with a 29-0 record.
Smith, a two-time state qualifier, knocked off a returning state champion and an undefeated wrestler in the final to win the 120 title by outscoring his opponents by a combined 14 points at state to finish 40-3.
Folley, formerly of Milwaukee Riverside, became the first Wauwatosa wrestler to win a state title when he won the 126 title with a 46-1 record.
None of those wrestlers, however, dominated from start to finish as did Gundrum. He cruised through the final three weeks of the season with four pins, two major decisions, a major decision and 13 victories. At the state tournament, he didn’t give up a point.
Gundrum finished his career with a record of 188-11 and placed three times at state in the four trips he made to Madison. He simple wasn’t challenged this year.
“It’s finally a reality,” said Gundrum of his state title. “It’s been a lot of work.”
Wisconsin Lutheran Vikings coach Darrell Roecker is the area coach of the year. Roecker led Lutheran, a D2 school, to the state team tournament for the first time. The school also became the first private school to reach the tournament. He led a team that wrestled without a 120-pounder for the majority of the season and still finished 18-1 in the regular season and 18-2 overall.
He is the area coach of the year after leading Lutheran to a historic finish to the season.
Others considered were Burlington coach Jade Gribble, Pewaukee coach Ed Kurth and Cedarburg coach Jake Frias.
Gribble led Burlington (12-2) to the state team tournament for the fourth consecutive year, but the Demons were unable to get past eventual D1 team champion Kaukauna. Kurth led the Pirates (16-4) to the D1 tournament for the first time after qualifying in D2 four times. Frias led Cedarburg (17-2) to the team tournament for the first time.
Roecker has built the Vikings program steadily over the past 11 years. They won share of the Wisconsin Little Ten Conference dual meet title this year – the team’s first dual title – with Oconomowoc with a 6-1 record and won the league tournament title for only the second time.
Lutheran also became only the third Milwaukee team – Milwaukee Custer (2003) and Milwaukee Pulaski (1998 and 1999) – to qualify for the state team tournament.
Roecker also coached the school’s first two-time state finalist and only state champion in senior Tepra Wright. Wright won the D2 120 title a year ago before losing to Amery junior Hunter Marko, 4-2, in a highly anticipated championship at 126. Marko won his third title.
“We had a great group of seniors who provided super leadership from Day 1,” Roecker said. “I’m proud of them.”