Thielke’s a Rising State Star

By Joe Shinners


   It is a tough group to crack into on the wrestling scene in Wisconsin.

   Dennis Hall, Garrett Lowney, Ben Askren. All three are Olympians, and larger—than-life figures on the local wrestling scene. Hall won three state titles at Hartford. Lowney won three for Freedom. Askren won two state titles and qualified for three finals at Arrowhead.

   Quite possibly, the next name on the list of the best wrestlers to emerge from the state in the past 20 years will be Germantown sophomore Jesse Thielke.  The young star has garnered national attention for his accomplishments on the mat throughout his youth career and his brief high school career.

   Thielke defeated Wisconsin Rapids’ Carl DeLuca by a 10-2 major decision to the WIAA Division 1 112-pound state title a year ago. Thielke finished the season with a 46-0 record, 

and followed that up with a strong summer and fall season.

   Thielke won the USA Wrestling Cadet Greco-Roman nation title in Fargo, N.D., for his age group, finished second in freestyle and then defeated Port Washington’s Alex Dieringer, 9-1, to win the 125-pound title at the USA Wrestling Preseason Folkstyle Nationals October in Des Moines, Iowa. Dieringer won the D1 103 state title a year ago, defeating defending champion Alex Becka of Manitowoc by a 6-0 decision. Thielke and Dierringer start the season ranked nationally by W.I.N. Magazine.

   Thielke and Dieringer are in the North Shore Conference, but are not rivals.

   “They are best friends,” Port coach Angelo LaRosa said. “That’s what people don’t understand. They want them top be rivals, and they are not.”

   As if winning the national age-group titles wasn’t enough, Thielke entered the Gold Division at the Pointer Open in Stevens Point against collegiate wrestlers and won the 125 title. Three times Thielke was named outstanding wrestler at a national event, including at Point.

Although he’s only a sophomore, those results are raising expectations, and Thielke’s father Jeff points to the coaches who have worked with his son since he began wrestling years ago.

   “I think it has been a combination of all the coaches who have worked with (Jesse) through the years,” said Jeff Thielke. It’s a combination of going to the camps and getting Olympic-level coaching, and he’s been at Ringers for years. He gets a good mix of coaching in all three styles and that gives him a change of pace.”

Thielke posted a record of 148-5 prior to the beginning of the high school season, which according to Jeff Thielke will be a test this year as Jesse jumps from 112 to 125 this year.

   “That’s why we went to the college open,” Jeff Thielke said. “He’s going to be going against kids who are bigger and older than he is. Plus, it’s nice to see him step into the high school season and make weight two times a week. In high school, he gets tow wrestle in front of his friends and peers. He’s not afraid to put his reputation on the line.”

Coaching changes: There were quite a few coaching changes in Southeastern Wisconsin, and the biggest was the movement of Andy Trudell from Mukwonago to take the position of Athletic Director/Principal at Crivitz.

   The run of wrestling coaching changes that have hit the area really surfaced in the Classic 8 Conference, the Metro Milwaukee area’s best the past four years, wasn’t spared.

   Three of the eight schools will have different coaches this year, and none of the changes was more noticed than when Andy Trudell left Mukwonago after his 10th year to become the principal and athletic director at Crivitz.

   Trudell was replaced by Jon Wierzbicki, an assistant at the school for 10 years. At Milwaukee Pius, Kevin Bradley takes over for Bill Phillipson and at Waukesha North Ben Cesarz takes over for Greg Pachowitz.

   There were several other coaching changes in the area – former UW wrestler Ralph Denisco takes over at Milwaukee Marquette from Brian Zimmerman and Randy Ferrell takes over at West Allis Hale from Bran Domski -- but none are as high-profile as Trudell.

   He helped rebuild a team with an emphasis on youth programs that prior to his arrival, as Wierzbicki recalls, was mired in the bottom of the league standings when Trudell took over.

   “I think it was (Trudell’s) second year, and we were in seventh-place in the conference,” said Wierzbicki. “I don’t want to go back to that.”

Trudell helped Mukwonago win at least a share of the Classic 8 dual or tournament titles five of the past six years. He also coached two two-time state champions in Chad Leviner and Billy Schlottke and led Mukwonago to three appearances in the Division 1 state team tournament from 2005-2007.

   This won’t be the easiest time to be taking over at Mukwonago, despite a deep roster of 48 returning wrestlers and a large incoming freshman class. The team returns no state qualifiers and no conference champions for the first time since 1998.

   Wierzbicki isn’t feeling any pressure, especially since he’s been with the program for so long.

   “It’s not so much pressure, but I want to continue the tradition of the program,” Wierzbicki said. “We worked a lot as a team in the wrestling room. I think he made the right move to get into the administrative side of things. I just miss coaching with the guy. Right now, I’m the only coach in the building.”

   The changes leave Waukesha Catholic Memorial’s Bill Young (25th season) and Arrowhead’s John Mesenbrink (11th season).

“There’s going to be a lot of new faces, definitely a lot of change in the league,” said Wierzbicki. “It will be Bill and John and a six guys wet behind the ears.”

   Hartford coach Steve Best knows how Wierzbicki feels. Best took over for longtime coach Don Krueser at Hartford a year ago after holding co-coaching duties and waiting in the wings.

   “The day that Don resigned and I took over, the weight is a little heavier in a transition year,” said Best, now in his second year. “But there are a lot of parallels there with the Hartford situation. Hartford has a good club program and Mukwonago has a good feeder system. I have to believe they’ll be fine.”

   Trudell isn’t worried about Mukwonago having continued success under Wierzbicki.

“He’ll do just fine,” said Trudell. “Jon is more than capable to take over. They are in good hands."

Conference Breakdowns

Classic 8

Arrowhead qualified for the Division 1 state team tournament a year ago for the fifth consecutive year and returns three state qualifiers after sweeping both the league’s tournament and dual titles for the first time…Mukwonago features a new coach, returns no state qualifiers or conference champions…Waukesha West, with 10 key returning wrestlers, is considered a threat. 

Greater Metro

West Allis Central won the league tournament title in an upset over Brookfield East a year ago before both teams collapsed late in the year. Central returns only one of four individual champions in junior Joe Immekus (130)…East won the dual title and is favored to do so this year. Central hosts East Thursday at 7:30 p.m.…West Allis Hale has a new coach in Randy Ferrell and a solid incoming class of freshman.  

Southern Lakes

Wilmot returns two conference champions in Adam Neal and Andrew Vozel…Westosha Central returns two champs in Craig Clazavar and Brett Marth…Elkorn is the favorite to win the league in its first year in the realigned conference. The Elks return a pair of state qualifiers.

North Shore

Port Washington is seeking its eight consecutive league title and returns 12 wrestlers last year’s team. Port’s lineup includes defending D1 103 state champion Alex Dieringer, who is slated to wrestle at 119 this year…Germantown returns nine veterans from last year’s team, none more important that defending Division 1 112 state champion Jesse Thielke…Cedarburg finished second at the league tournament and is led by two-time state qualifier Kyle Householder, a 145-pound senior.

Southeast

This should be one of top dual meet title chases in the area. Defending champion Muskego lost nine seniors from the squad that advanced to the state team tournament last year. The Warriors’ lineup will be bolstered by incoming freshman wrestlers and sophomore Tyler Quartullo from New Berlin West. Quartullo finished fourth in D2 at 112 last year and gives Muskego four state qualifiers…Franklin, another state team qualifier last year with a young team, returns nearly its entire lineup and four state qualifiers…Oak Creek returns four state qualifiers, including two who have qualified twice…Kenosha Tremper and Racine Park have solid numbers returning…The Conference’s 17 returning state qualifiers are the most of any conference in the state.

Wisconsin Little 10

Hartford won both the league and tourney titles a year ago in coach Steve Best’s first year and has won either the dual or tourney title eight of the past nine seasons…Wisconsin Lutheran won the tourney title two years ago but lost the majority of it senior leadership and will field a very young team this year…Oconomowoc's youth movement continues this year as it tries to regain a conference title for the first time since 1998.  

Woodland

Pewaukee is poised to win the league again this after qualifying for the Division 2 state tournament a year ago. Pewaukee is 15-0 since joining the conference two years ago and returns four individual league champions and a pair of two-time state qualifiers…Whitnall finished second in the league a year ago and will try to win its first team title since 2005 in coach John Quinlan’s 25th year…Greenfield returns 13 wrestlers from a year ago.

Midwest Classic

Milwaukee Heritage Christian is seeking its sixth consecutive title conference title and returns five conference champions…Delafield St. John’s returns nine seniors after finishing second in the league a year ago. St. John’s hasn’t won a league title since 1994…The league expanded to seven teams with the inclusion of Kenosha St. Joseph and Racine St. Catherine’s

Milwaukee City

Bradley Tech swept the league titles a year ago but lost nine seniors and will field a young team other than senior state James Parker (125)…Milwaukee Custer will be solid from 145 up and features returning state qualifier Dwayne Hale (160), but its lower weights will be a problem…Milwaukee Riverside returns the majority of its team and could be a darkhorse in the league. 

Others

East Troy moves to the Rock Valley this year, and is favored to win …Milton joins the Badger South after dominating the Southern Lakes for years, but will have a tough challenge from perennial state power and rival Stoughton…Kewaskum is favored in the Eastern Wisconsin as the Indians return five state qualifiers and add transfer Brad Bentz, a sophomore who finished sixth in D3 a year ago. The Indians will be challenged by defending champion Sheboygan Falls…Ozaukee will try to upset favored Random Lake in the Central Lakeshore…Kettle Moraine Luther and Winnebago Lutheran will be chasing Lomira in the Wisconsin Flyway