2008 Team Preview Kurth Returns

By Joe Shinners

It's been a while since Pewaukee Pirates wrestling coach Ed Kurth officially led a squad to the state team wrestling tournament.

The last time was 1999, when he coached Milwaukee Pulaski to the state team tournament for the second consecutive year.

That doesn't mean Kurth hasn't been preparing the Pirates for their first berth in the tournament, which begins Friday and runs through Saturday at the Fieldhouse at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

Since Kurth took over at Pewaukee eight years ago, he has required his wrestlers to attend the tournament, formerly located at West Allis Central and since 2005 at the Fieldhouse. And he's had the Pirates continue to practice until the end of the team tournament each year. Just in case they qualified. Just to be ready.

Finally, Kurth can formally load a bus of Pirates headed to the state team wrestling tournament to compete. No longer do they have to sit in the stands and watch or toil through preparation in the wrestling practice room in hopes of going to the tournament.

“(The Pirates) put up with a lot of me yelling at them and getting on them,” Kurth admitted. “Now they are getting the recognition. We feel very good about our team and our accomplishments.”

Pewaukee, ranked No. 8 in the state among Division 2 teams by the Crossface, is to face No. 2-ranked Lodi in the semifinals at 9 a.m. Saturday.

The winner it to face the winner of the semifinal between No. 1-ranked Luxemburg-Casco (14-2) and No. 3-ranked Ellsworth (15-6) in the final at 6 p.m. Saturday.

It has been a season of ups and downs this year for Pewaukee with a young team that includes four senior starters and seven wrestlers with 30 or more victories. Strong tournaments were followed by poor tournaments as the Pirates grew this year.

A second-place finish at the Battle on the Bay at Bay Port was followed by a sixth-place finish at the Mid-States Invitational at UW-Whitewater was followed by an 18th place finish at the Cheesehead in Kaukauna.

“I think we are the underdogs again,” said Kurth. “Just like all year.”

Lodi has won the tournament twice and has finished second four times.

Still, Pewaukee has been able to keep matches close this year by avoiding pins and technical falls. That is what the Pirates did to overcome Sheboygan Falls by a 29-28 margin to advance. The last two years, Pewaukee lost in the sectional final.

“Right now the young kids just get it,” Kurth said. “When it’s all said and done, the guys go out to win every time they go on the mat. Guys when they lose, if they wrestled really hard, the other guys on the team know it and feed off it.”

  Lodi had six state qualifiers to the individual tournament a week ago, four of whom placed. Pewaukee had four state qualifiers, three of whom placed.

The Pirates are led by junior David Phillips (48-5 at 145 pounds), senior John Hrabik (43-7 at 152) and junior Josh Mohr (41-11 at 189). Phillips and Mohr each placed third last week.

Kurth knows his team will need another stellar showing to upend Lodi.

“We can’t duck everybody in the lineup,” Kurth said. “We have a chance to beat some state qualifiers with kids who did not go to state. I’m pretty confident going into the team tournament. We feed off each other. But we’re going to definitely have to win big matches.”