Homestead and Nicolet wrestlers finding roads to success
Both teams do well in tourneys
All season long, the Homestead and Nicolet wrestling teams have been fighting for respectability in an increasingly competitive series of meets with lineups that are largely very inexperienced.
The two teams met with good levels of success for them Saturday, when the Highlanders earned two individual titles and turned in a strong fifth-place effort at the Lake Geneva Badger Invitational and the Knights made the long drive up to Clintonville and also earned two individual crowns in taking sixth in the Trucker Invite.
"It was an encouraging week after a discouraging week," Highlanders coach Ernie Millard said. "We have twenty-nine kids on the roster right now and they're working hard. We're really working on being more aggressive and picking up our fitness level."
The timing couldn't be better for the Highlanders as they traveled to Germantown for a North Shore dual meet and then prepare for a hectic weekend. First they host their own 18-team varsity invite Friday that features Burlington, Kimberly, Union Grove, Oak Creek, Port Washington, Menomonee Falls, Whitefish Bay and others starting at 4 p.m.
Then, on Saturday, they host their annual 21-team junior varsity invite. Homestead has had this busy schedule for several years now.
"When we finally roll the mats away on Saturday night we'll all take a deep breath," laughed Millard.
As for the Knights, they have a quiet week coming up as they have concluded their regular season tournament slate. They have North Shore duals against Cedarburg and Milwaukee Lutheran the following week.
Coach Gus Kaufmann is working with about 20 athletes at this point in the season with the heart of the team being made up of a strong sophomore group.
"They're a very positive bunch," he said. "You ask them to do something and they will do it. They're the real leaders of the team right now."
Seven of them are in the current varsity lineup.
Homestead has had a solid lineup most of the season, but not a great many of them entered the season with varsity experience. The Highlanders depth, however, did help them turn in a stout 2031/2 point effort at the 12-school Badger meet as Milton dominated the event with 3461/2.
Price, Lennon lead Homestead
Winning titles for the Highlanders were Zach Price (19-6 overall) at 132 pounds and Zach Lennon (23-2) at 160.
Price went 4-1 on the day and shared his crown as he beat Sun Prairie, Badger, Iowa Grant and Menomonee Falls opponents before losing to a Milton foe in overtime.
Lennon, whose only two losses on the year are to a Cedarburg opponent, dominated his class with victories over Big Foot, Milton, Badger, Kenosha Tremper and Oregon foes. He beat the Oregon wrestler, who went into that match with a 23-2 record, by a 6-4 decision.
Taking a second for the Highlanders was John Hokeness at 126 (9-9), while a third was earned by Gage Zupke at 195 (16-8). Mark Usatinsky took fourth at 170 (4-10), and Tyler Denmark was fifth at 145 (14-11).
Homestead, which also lost to Port Washington and beat Milwaukee Lutheran in North Shore duals to improve to 3-2 in league action on the season, was missing regular 138-pounder Drew Waller, while 2012 state qualifier Nick Pierret is still slowly making his way back from a concussion suffered at the end of the football season.
Millard praised the efforts of the two champions as well as that of Denmark (four pins), Hokeness and Zupke.
"We're ready to go," he said.
Meanwhile, Nicolet scored 179 points for its sixth-place berth in the 12-team Trucker Invite, as Omro won with 3211/2.
Senior 113-pounder Jack Kalloch (20-6) continued to work toward his first elusive state tournament bid when he won his class with victories over Omro, Tri-County, Mayville, Kenosha Christian Life wrestlers and then another Christian Life opponent.
That final wrestler had a record of 22-6 and Kalloch worked hard to pull out a bloody and well-earned, 3-2, win. Kalloch took a hit to the nose early in the final and built up about 3:45 worth of blood time trying to stem it.
"He's really stepping into his role," Kaufmann said. "He got an escape in the last 17 seconds and then held on. It was rough, but all the younger guys gathered around and watched him step up."
Meanwhile, sophomore 145-pounder Savion Dean (10-6) used his own unique style to his advantage in beating Clintonville, Manawa, Omro, Rosholt and Kenosha Christian Life foes for his crown.
"Savion is an enigma," Kaufmann said. "He's good at his style. We coach him in untraditional ways because he has a lot of natural talent."
Teague Worlton just got cleared after suffering a torn MCL early in the season. The 132-pounder made the most of it by taking third and going 3-2 on the day. Other solid finishes included fifths from Gavin Voit at 126 (4-11), Isaiah Agara (11-6) at 195 and Armani Johnson (11-9) at 285.
Of special note was sophomore 152-pounder Teddy Uy, who entered the tourney with a 1-17 record and lost his first three matches of the day, but then came back to beat Mayville and Manawa foes in his final two bouts.
"He's there every day and he doesn't get too excited about things," Kaufmann said, "buthe was about the happiest kid we had on the way home. He was very proud of himself." Kaufmann was also pleased for Voit, who also entered the tourney with only one win, but came out of it with four.
"We go up here because this tourney is more our speed," Kaufmann said of the less intense competition, "but I was happy with how the kids stepped up. We got a couple of championships and that gives us something to work with."
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