By David Paulsen
With one first-place winner and three thirds at the WIAA Division regional at Burlington Saturday, the Union Grove High School wrestling team took another step forward.
Two years ago (the team’s first year in Division 1), the squad failed to advance any wrestlers to sectional action. Last year, three Broncos moved on. This year? Four.
Junior heavyweight Tony Beck took the top spot. After an opening round bye, Beck pinned a Franklin opponent in one minute eight seconds in the semifinal.
That pitted him for the fourth time this season against Burlington’s Tyler Kirkeeng. Beck had won two of the three previous meetings. In this match, Beck made it three wins in four tries, besting Kirkeeng 9-4.
Bronco head coach Andy Weis noted that Kirkeeng took an early 2-0 lead in this match, but Beck responded well to the challenge.
“It’s nice to see him not panic when he was down,” Weis said.
Beck is now 39-3 on the season.
Junior Thurston Lovell, at 145 pounds; sophomore Adam Braley, at 182; and sophomore Cole Ryan, at 220; all advanced to sectional by virtue of third-place finishes. The top four wrestlers in each weight class in Division 1 advance to sectional.
Lovell, who is 24-15 overall and was seeded third, won his opening match by a 14-2 major decision, but then was pinned by Burlington’s Logan Schmalfeldt in the semifinal. In the third-place match, Lovell bested a Kenosha Bradford grappler by an 8-1 decision.
Because Schmalfeldt finished second, Lovell did not have the opportunity to wrestle for second place.
Braley, who was seeded second, pinned his opening round opponent, but then dropped an overtime decision to Alex Carravetta of Kenosha Tremper in the semifinal.
In the third-place match, Braley won a tiebreaker over Burlington’s Hegeman Tiedt.
Since he had not wrestled the second-place finisher, Braley had one more match. He lost that match by pin.
“Adam was in all of (the matches),” Weis said, adding that the top three seeds in that weight class were all very close.
Ryan won his first two matches by pin, putting him into the first-place match against Franklin’s Gavin Devine. Devine pinned Ryan at the very close of the match (5:55).
After losing to Devine, Ryan faced Burlington’s Koty Agnes for second place. Ryan had defeated Agnes in the Southern Lakes Conference Tournament, but this time Agnes got the win.
The one disappointment came at 120 pounds, where Brett Kieslich placed fifth.
Kieslich, who ended his season at 29-9, lost his opening round match by a 10-8 decision. Weis noted that Kieslich was ahead in the match, but got turned onto his back and gave up five quick points.
He came back to win his next two matches, but was unable to wrestle for fourth since the fourth-place finisher was the wrestler he lost to.
“Being a freshman and getting close to 30 wins on the season, he’s got nothing to be ashamed of,” Weis said.
As a team, the Broncos finished tied for fifth with Kenosha Tremper. The boys accumulated 112.5 points.
“We’re making strides as a team,” Weis said.