This Saturday’s WIAA Division 2 regional wrestling tournament in Ellsworth has the makings of being one of the most entertaining regionals in the state.
While most of the classes will have plenty of competition for the two berths that advance to the sectional level at each weight, there are also a couple spots where teams could slip less experienced wrestlers into the sectional tournament.
Ellsworth goes into the tournament as the favorite. History has earned the Panthers that status and their performance in the Middle Border Conference tournament validates it. But don’t overlook St. Croix Central in the team race. Central is a top quality team this season. Central went 22-1 in dual meets and they consider themselves a better tournament team than a dual meet team.
Here’s a breakdown on what might happen in each of the weight classes at Ellsworth on Saturday.
106 Pounds: Ellsworth’s Cody Raebel goes into the regional as the clear favorite. He’ll have trouble finding good competition, unless someone moves down from 113 pounds.
113 Pounds: Defending state champion Jens Lantz looks like a good bet to return to Madison this season. St. Croix Central senior Adam Lewis has won 33 matches and looks like a strong bet for the second berth to the sectional.
120 Pounds: Here’s where the competition starts getting thicker. Somerset junior Bobby LeRoy deserves to be the favorite after winning this weight in the Middle Border Conference meet. Ellsworth’s Brad Cain and Bloomer’s Connor Stone are also viable options here. If you’re looking for a darkhorse, St. Croix Central freshman Ryan Gulich could pull off a surprise in this class.
126 Pounds: Ellsworth’s Brent Stockwell is the prohibitive favorite here. Durand’s Jordan Gardner had an off day at the Middle Border Conference tournament, but he could get through. So could St. Croix Central senior Alex Halvorson.
132 Pounds: This will be the private domain of Ellsworth standout Roarke Langer. The second spot in this bracket is wide open for any wrestler who wants to ride Langer’s coattails to the sectional meet.
138 Pounds: Two of the top three ranked 138-pounders in the state will square off again in this class, with Durand senior Andrew Hartmann and Somerset junior Gabe Flandrick set to battle again, after battling to two one-point finishes already. Ellsworth’s Dan Langer would get to the sectional level from most regional brackets, but he’ll have a tough time getting through at Ellsworth.
145 Pounds: Baldwin-Woodville’s Tyler Weyer was a state placewinner last year and he’s even better this year. Weyer isn’t getting a free pass, however. St. Croix Central’s Carl Moll and Ellsworth’s Logan Kemmerer are both serious state contenders if they can get through the regional.
152 Pounds: This looks like it should be a repeat of the MBC championship match. Somerset’s Austin Bushinger beat Ellsworth’s Ryan Dickhausen 8-1 in the MBC finals. They will likely meet again, but don’t be surprised if Ellsworth has added a few new wrinkles to make the score closer this time around.
160 Pounds: St. Croix Central’s Cody Nyhagen looks to be back on top of his game after a dominating performance at the Big Rivers-Dunn-St. Croix Challenge on Saturday. He’s a clear favorite. Somerset freshman Max Praschak and Ellsworth’s Max Peterson will be dueling for the second sectional spot.
170 Pounds: There are three real standouts here. Ellsworth’s Gable Frandsen is the Middle Border Conference champion. Unfortunately, that doesn’t guarantee him anything this Saturday. St. Croix Central senior Matt Smith is 33-3 and is looking to return to state, where he performed well as a sophomore. Add in Bloomer standout Levi Nayes and this is a dynamite class. Nayes it the most likely of the three to switch classes. He could wind up at 160.
182 Pounds: Somerset senior Haydon Dvorak reached the state finals last year and he’s been focused on returning to the state podium all season. There’s a good three-way battle shaping up for the second spot in the sectional. Durand’s Mike Melstrom is the MBC champion, getting a narrow win over Ellsworth’s Derek Donnelly. St. Croix Central’s Kyle Aaby could also jump in and take the second spot in the sectional lineup.
195 Pounds: Ellsworth’s Parker Hines is a machine. Just like Dvorak, he’s ranked number one in the state and they both deserve that level of respect. Here’s where a team could get a surprise as the second sectional qualifier. Central’s Austin Edison and Baldwin-Woodville’s Justin Belisle are possibilities. One of the 182-pounders could also slide up to take advantage of the opportunity here.
220 Pounds: Undefeated St. Croix Central senior Marcus Malecek is another of the phenoms that fans will get to see on Saturday. Ellsworth’s Hank Holdorf is the MBC champion and he’ll be a strong candidate to get through the sectional too.
285 Pounds: Central senior Lauden Wood took the championship in the BRC-DSC meet on Saturday. That doesn’t guarantee him anything, but he is wrestling extremely well right now. His main competition will come from Somerset’s Alex Piletich and Ellsworth’s Brodey Kemmerer.