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Feb, 2020

Warrior wrestling wins fourth straight conference title

For the past three years, the Waunakee wrestling team has reigned atop the Badger North. This year’s team just made it four in a row.

Needing to place higher than Baraboo – who had defeated them in their first dual of the season – in order to tie for the conference title, the Warriors did exactly that on Saturday to earn a share of the Badger North Conference title.

“We lost early on to [Baraboo] our first dual of the year. As a team, it’s always been our goal to come back and get it…” said Colton Grindle, who was one of two Warrior wrestlers to win individual conference titles. “It’s a pretty big deal to win this for the four-peat: first time ever.”


Badger Conference Tournament

Waunakee’s two representatives in title matches were Grindle at 170 and Kolby Heinz at 120.

Heinz was up first, earning his spot in the first-place match with a bye in the first round, followed by first-period pins in the quarterfinals and semifinals. Awaiting Heinz was Milton’s Royce Nilo, who entered the tournament as the 11th-ranked 113-pound wrestler in Division 1.

“I’ve wrestled him in Madison where I train, but I’ve never wrestled him in a real match,” said Heinz. “I was nervous coming in.”

Heinz surrendered a takedown in the first period, and found himself trailing 3-0 early in the second. The Waunakee junior kept his cool and made the most of his opportunities from there on out to make his comeback. Heinz ended the second period up 5-3 and held on in the third to take home the 120-pound title with a 7-3 victory.

“I was pretty excited,” Heinz said. “To help the team score, that was the biggest reason I wanted to go out there and win.”

Grindle’s path to the title match saw him earn a pair of technical falls after an opening-round bye. His opponent in the first-place match was Baraboo’s Aiden Estes: ranked 10th at 170 in Division 1.

Grindle’s match followed a similar script to Heinz’ match; early on, he trailed 2-0 after allowing a takedown. Grindle kept his nerve and he too mounted his comeback in the second, ultimately taking the lead before the period’s end. Up 6-5 with under a minute to go, the Waunakee senior secured his second consecutive conference championship with a late reversal to take the match 8-5.

The win was particularly meaningful to Grindle, who had missed much of his senior season due to an injury sustained in football.

“To come back and win my second conference title, beat Aiden Estes – who’s a tremendous wrestler – and show everyone that, even with a torn ACL, I’m here and I can compete; it meant a lot to me,” said Grindle. “I know I couldn’t have done it without my team. I give full credit to my team.”

Wrestling in third-place matches for the Warriors were a trio of wrestlers: Nick Schweitzer at 126, Berhett Statz at 145 and Kaden Hooker at 160. Statz and Hooker each had rematches with the opponent that defeated them in quarterfinals.

Statz earned payback in a low-scoring match, beating Baraboo’s Eli Davidson 4-2 to take his place on the podium. Hooker did the same; after being pinned in the quarterfinals Milton’s Kade Desormeau, Hooker thoroughly controlled his third-place match to win 16-4.

Schweitzer ensured it was a clean sweep in Waunakee’s matches to earn spots on the podium; he defeated Brandon Liddle of Oregon 9-4 to take third place.

Waunakee’s remaining place winners were Braysen Ellis at 138, Dan Ford at 182 and Jack Schweitzer at 195 in sixth, Jayden Freie at 106 and Kyle Wilcox at 152 in seventh and Gabe Guralski at 132 in eighth. Coltan Nechvatal at 113, and Jackson Reischel each went 2-2 on the day, but fell short of qualifying in the top eight.

When all the points were added up, Waunakee’s total of 215.5 were seven more than Baraboo, earning the Warriors their fourth straight Badger North title.

“It was tough losing to [Baraboo] at the start of the year because we knew we were a better team,” said Heinz.

“We’ve been watching them all year...” added Grindle. “We’ve been making sure we’ve been doing everything right: working hard up in the wrestling room, working hard in duals… It was our goal all year to win this.”

With another conference title safely added to the trophy case, Waunakee’s attention now turns to the postseason. The Warriors will head to Middleton on Saturday to begin their run to qualify for the WIAA State Tournament. Start time at Middleton High School is scheduled for 10 a.m. Should Waunakee win the regional, they’ll square off against the winner of the Holmen Regional in Middleton on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

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