Homestead wrestlers show character in claiming four NSC titles
Nicolet's Kalloch wins title at 113 pounds
Good things come to those who wait and to those who persevere.
Just ask Homestead senior North Shore Conference wrestling champions Zach Price at 132 pounds, Zach Lennon at 160 and Nick Pierret at 182.
Price didn't wrestle at last year's conference meet because of concussion issues, while Lennon suffered an injury in the league meet last year and was denied subsequent WIAA qualifying opportunities because of it.
Pierret was arguably the most frustrated. A 2012 state meet qualifier, he tore his MCL in his knee last year before the conference meet and then had been battling concussion issues all this season and was only recently cleared to return to action.
They joined junior 138 pound champ Drew Waller in the winner's circle as the Highlanders scored 179 points and turned in their best conference effort in 20 years with a strong third Saturday.
Only champion Cedarburg (227) and Port Washington (1961/2) bested them.
"It goes back to 1994 when we had five guys in the finals and all five won," coach Ernie Millard said of the last great run. "It was the year Vince (Farina) won state....This was a great day. There is virtually nothing I would change about it. Only about two or three matches that (I) would have liked to have had a different result. We just prepared so well.
"...And those kids (the senior champions) are good wrestlers, but they're better people for having stuck things out like they did."
Whitefish Bay was sixth in the league test with 1001/2 points and Nicolet, behind 113-pound champ Jack Kalloch, was eighth with 731/2.
All three teams now take part in WIAA regional competition that feeds into the Milwaukee Riverside sectional on Feb. 22. Homestead iis at the Menomonee Falls regional at 10:15 a.m. Saturday, while Nicolet hosts its own regional the same day with Bay as one of the participating teams (10:30 a.m.).
"We've worked a lot of tourneys lately," Nicolet coach Gus Kaufmann said, "So we're pretty confident that things should work out all right and run smoothly."
The first four individuals in each weight class at the regional meets advance to the Riverside sectional with hopes of advancing to the state tournament (Feb. 27-March 1).
"We're super-psyched," Millard said. "Really looking forward to ratcheting things up."
He should be, as his four class winners all took similar routes to their crowns.
Price (29-9), whose father is a well-known volunteer for the Highlanders program, had arguably the most dramatic road. He pinned a Nicolet opponent (3:00) in the first round and then had to earn an intense overtime pin over a Germantown opponent in the semifinal (7:59) before downing Bay's tough Miguel Gomez, 8-5, in the final.
Gomez had beaten Price in the regular season dual meet.
"He (Price) hit him (Gomez) with a lateral drop late," Millard said. "I was so excited I could have slam-dunked a basketball when he did that."
Waller (24-7), a junior, pinned a Nicolet opponent (1:10), then beat a Bay foe on a 12-0 major decision before overpowering a Cedarburg foe, 16-5, in the final.
Lennon (35-3) had a first round bye, then edged a Germantown foe, 5-4, in the semifinals. That set up another intense meeting with Port's Jordan Clark as Price pulled out a 2-1 double overtime win for the title.
"And he had beaten him by two in overtime (in the dual)," Millard said of Lennon.
Pierret, who had to default out of a tournament the previous week after banging heads with an opponent in an early match, was fully recovered and showed flashes of his state form with a title of his own.
After a first-round bye, he beat a Milwaukee Lutheran opponent, 10-1, and then edged a Cedarburg foe, 3-1, in the final.
"Coming back from that (the knocking of heads) and competing as well as he did took the doubt out of his mind," Millard said. "His fitness level is getting better every day."
Gage Zupke ( 24-13) at 195 battled an illness and lost a tough 10-9 decision to a Cedarburg wrestler in the finals.
A bittersweet moment came for senior John Hokeness (17-11), who lost his semifinal at 126 but then won his final two bouts to take third. It was his last tourney as he is going to New York this week to play the bass for the Wisconsin Youth Symphony.
Other places included Joe Fischer (16-18) fifth at 106, Doug Lennon (20-19) fourth at 120, Tyler Denmark (22-18) fifth at 145, Conor Scholtus (17-22) fifth at 152, Mark Usatinsky (14-16) third at 170 and Ben Beck (2-13) fifth at 285.
For Nicolet, the senior Kalloch was a bright spot on an otherwise difficult day. Kalloch (24-7) pinned a Lutheran foe (3:25), won on a technical fall over a Bay opponent and then beat a Port competitor with a 14-5 major decision in the final.
"Jack looked pretty good," Kaufmann said. "He's confident and ready to go. He wants to test himself and really put together a good full tournament. He really wants to get to state."
The next best other places for the Knights were a fifth from Amani Reid (1-2) at 126, a fourth from Savion Dean (14-8) at 145, a fifth from Chris Azcueta (11-20) at 170, and a fourth from Armani Johnson (13-12) at 285.
"Jack is our only senior and we had three guys out for the tournament, including two with concussion issues and another who had another obligation," Kaufmann said. "Everyone's back next year except for Jack, so we're focusing on getting better."
For Bay, which has been battling injury issues down this stretch run, Gomez (25-5) had the best finish with his runner-up spot at 132.
Other top efforts included a third from Cooper Fergus (28-11) at 106, a fourth from Jonah Nelson (12-16) at 113, a fourth from Jack Ludke (16-18) at 126, a fifth from Matt Gottlieb (5-12) at 182, a fourth from Steve Meyer (25-13) at 195 and a fifth from Joe Beck (16-17) at 220.
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