2014-15 Articles

By Joe Shinners

First published in The Crossface

            There is some bad blood brewing in the Southeast that could last all season.

The so-called “co-op gate” continues to be the hottest topic in the area this year as the merger of Whitnall and Greendale in the Woodland Conference has created the biggest controversy around.

            It only figures to get hotter as the merger of the teams prompted Pewaukee coach Ed Kurth, always one to speak his mind, to pull out of the Whitnall Duals this year in a mini-protest of the situation and complain loudly that it is unfair to pair two Division 1 teams.

            There’s no doubt Whitnall coach John Quinlan was the beneficiary of the move as the team has jumped out to a 8-3 record this year, already defeating Greater Metro Conference power West Allis Central en rout to winning the Horward/Manley dual tournament at East Troy and going 2-3 at the Dells Duals.

            Senior Anthony Senthavisouk highlighted Whitnall’s otherwise dim day at the Dells by defeating Sparta senior John Roddick, 4-2, in Whitnall’s 47-24 victory.

Kurth was unapologetic about his move out of the Zelinski Duals. Pewaukee has dominated the Woodland since its creation nine years ago, winning 8 of 9 titles since the league formed. Only another combined team, Wauwatosa East/West, has topped Pewaukee for the league crown in the team two years ago.

            “That’s why I pulled out, yes,” said Kurth, whose team pulled out a one-point victory over team state qualifier Menomonee Falls of the Greater Metro to open the season. “Greendale had enough kids to be its own program. It’s just not fair. Same for Wauwatosa.”

            The teams meet in league action on Dec. 167h at Whitnall.

Quinlan says he’s hopeful that Greendale will be able to field a full team on its own in the coming years, and went so far as to have its first league dual scheduled at Greendale this year to keep both schools involved in the sport.

            Two-time Olympian Jim Gruenwald, a Greendale graduate, was brought in to talk to both teams, sign autographs and begin the match with an honorary coin flip.          

            “It was a great night,” said Quinlan. “Jim was great. It was nice for the Greendale kids to wrestle at school. We hope in a year or two they can get the team going again.”

            Greendale’s team of nine joined Whitnall’s nearly full team and boosted Quinlan’s chances of winning the league title and possibly a team sectional title this year.

The addition of sophomore Nathan Hensley (113/120), one of the most talented lightweights in the area, was probably a big concern for Woodland opponents as well as three other potential starters.

Greendale probably didn’t have the numbers to field a solid dual meet team, but as one coach said, “They had some solid kids last year. That’s got some people upset. But it’s not my beef. It’s not my league.”

That has more than a few people raising their eyebrows at the co-op.

            Still, co-ops are everywhere these days, as are athletes who move from school to school for various reasons.

            That Greendale continues to offer the sport is paramount, Quinlan argues.

            Pewaukee returned the majority of its team from a year ago, and is expected to do well this year. A one-point victory over Menomonee Falls to open the season proves that moving up a division will be difficult for the Pirates. They are, like many of the teams in the area, a solid dual team. The Pirates also finished in sixth at the Battle on the Bay.

What didn’t help matters was the fact that Whitnall/Greendale and Pewaukee are in the same regional and sectional groupings this year. That was only possible after Pewaukee, a Division 2 team state finalist a year ago, was bumped up to Division 1.

            That means this rivalry will only continue to grow.

            The teams are split in the regionals with Whitnall in the West Allis Central Regional and Pewaukee at the Waukesha South Regional. The two teams could meet at the Mukwonago team sectional with a berth to team state on the line.

            Of course, Wauwatosa West/East also jumped out to a promising start to the year by winning the Campbellsport invite by half a point and winning its first two duals.

            The co-op confrontation will only grow in the Woodland, and will be fought through Greater Metro foes the rest of the year.

            In other conferences, the drama was mat-related.

The Oak Creek Knights have lived up to the billing early in the year as the top team in the Southeast Conference. The Knights opened the season by winning the Laser Duals at Kettle Moraine with a 5-0 record and added a 66-8 blowout over Kenosha Indian Trails in the league-opener to push their season record to 6-0. The Knights also picked up a team title at the Tom Burns Memorial at Milwaukee Marquette.

            Wisconsin Lutheran, a surprise to many in the Wisconsin Little Ten, jumped out of the gates by winning its own invitational and finishing second at the Bob Downing Scramble at Sun Prairie. Returning senior state champion Tepra Wright, ranked No. 1, was not at Sun Prairie.

            In an upset, top-ranked Beaver Dam sophomore Devin De Los Angeles (8-1) was defeated by Madison West senior Moziah Clark, 11-7, at 106 pounds at Sun Prairie. Clark was ranked No. 6 at 113. De Los Angeles was ranked No. 1 at 106.

 Hartford junior two-time state champion Beau Breske (182) and West Bend East senior Jordan Gundrum (170) – both ranked No. 1 in their respective weight classes – suffered no early setbacks.

             Cedarburg remains the strongest team in the North Shore, but it didn’t surprise Burlington this year at the Gunslinger Invite. Cedarburg finished second to Burlington but remains the top team in the North Shore. Cedarburg also won its dual tournament – the Grant Schoen Memorial Duals – with a 5-0 record. In the championship, Cedarburg defeated Stevens Point, 48-37.

            In the Midwest Classic Conference, Kenosha Christian Life pounded the City Conference’s top team, Bradley Tech, 65-16, at the Christian Life Duals and followed that up with a fourth place finish at the Whitewater Invite.

            The Classic 8 Conference, long one of the strongest in the area, has struggled to start the season. Oak Creek easily dispatched Mukwonago, 48-25. Mukwonago did beat league foe Kettle Moraine, 39-32, at the Laser Duals. Arrowhead was routed at the Spartan Duals at Luxemburg-Casco. Mukwonago and Arrowhead meet Dec. 16th at Arrowhead.

           

            First appeared in Journal Sentinel

By Joe Shinners

            Oak Creek Knights wrestling coach Matt Sommerville remembers a conversation he had with Mukwonago coach Jon Wierzbicki several years ago.

            “I said to Jon, ‘I would kill to have 20 kids who really have the motivation for the sport like you do,’” Sommerville said in assessing his team since he took over from former coach Jim Hauerwas in 2009.

            Right now, Sommerville and the Knights have the motivation and the track record of success that points toward one of the brightest seasons the team has embarked on in recent memory.

            “That’s what I have right now,” said Sommerville, who marveled at Mukwonago’s deep pool of wrestlers and their desire to wrestle. “I have those kinds of kids now. Even if they only improve 1 percent, they have the passion for the sport.”

Oak Creek, fresh of its Southeast Conference championship a year ago and scheduled to face Kenosha Indian Trails in the league opener at 7 p.m. Thursday at Oak Creek, is ranked No. 4 in the area. It is the highest pre-season ranking the team has had since Sommerville took over.

            “This is one of the best teams Oak Creek has ever had,” said Sommerville, who was an assistant under Hauerwas, recently inducted into the Wisconsin Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame, beginning in 2005. “I can see four or five or six state place-winners on the team.”

            There’s plenty of reason for optimism at Oak Creek, a team that won its first conference tournament title since 1996 and its first dual meet title since 2006 last year and returned to the area top 10 poll midway through the year.

            “Our sights are set on both of those again this year,” said Sommerville, whose team features four returning state qualifiers and a pair of state place-winners from last year. “We have a solid lineup. It will quickly progress. We’re very excited this year.”

            Oak Creek returns 13 of its 14 starters from a year ago from a team that started mostly freshman and sophomores. The most important returnees are its four state qualifiers: senior Ben Hakes, juniors Andrew McIntosh and Isaiah Robinson and sophomore Matt Berlin.

            Hakes finished 45-3 a year ago and in fifth place at 160 in D1. McIntosh finished 40-8 and in fifth place at 113. Robinson (35-9) and Berlin (35-13) failed to place.

            Those four anchored a team that went 7-0 in the Southeast and 13-5 overall last year.

            Sommerville credits the work of Terry Nachtigall and Bill Kahle for helping build the Oak Creek program in recent years. The pair set up a youth program in 2006 and has been running it since.

            “It took a lot of hard work but it is paying off,” said Sommerville. “Plus, the kids go to the clubs – Askren Wrestling Academy and Ringers – and that helps, too. It’s all paying off.”

            Oak Creek’s biggest victories a year ago came against Burlington, the area’s No. 1-ranked team then and now.

            At the Highlander Invitational, Oak Creek beat Burlington by 14.5 points. At the individual sectional at Racine Horlick – the score of which is not official according to the WIAA – Oak Creek beat Burlington by 9 points.

            But in the dual between the teams at the Burlington duals, Burlington posted a 38-25 victory. Burlington, a semifinalist at the state team tournament in D1 last year, is the team Oak Creek will have to beat in the end to earn a trip to the state tournament this year.

            Burlington coach Jade Gribble, who coached Sommerville at UW-Whitewater, is happy to see his former wrestler succeeding at Oak Creek.

            “He’s done a great job,” said Gribble. “Matt’s really an intense guy, and a friend of mine. I know his kids work hard and wrestle hard. You want to beat everybody but if you’re going to lose, you want it to be a friend.”

            Sommerville is just hoping his team can be there in the end come late January to challenge Burlington.

            “We’re hoping that there are no injuries and we have a full lineup by mid-January,” said Sommerville. “We’re ready.”