MONONA — Top-ranked Stoughton showed off its wrestling prowess, advancing to seven championship matches and winning six of those finals Saturday night in the Badger Conference tournament at Monona Grove High School.
The Vikings totaled 361 points — 68 more than runner-up Sauk Prairie — in claiming their third consecutive conference tournament title.
While Stoughton dominated the team competition, the individual match that brought many in the packed house to their feet was the 182-pound final between DeForest senior Jackson Hemauer, No. 1 in the weight class in the WiWrestling.com rankings, and Milton senior Billy Pitzner, ranked third.
Pitzner rallied from a 4-1 deficit, scoring a 6-4 sudden-victory triumph in overtime. Pitzner (39-3), the WIAA Division 1 state champion at 170 pounds last season, dealt University of Wisconsin recruit Hemauer (38-1), last year’s 160-pound state champion, his first loss this season.
“It was a great win,” Pitzner said. “Most people expected him to win because he’s No. 1 in the state. He beat me earlier at the Cheesehead (Invitational). Today was like a redemption match. He’s a really good wrestler. But with most of the kids he has to wrestle, he doesn’t have to go all six minutes because he pins them. I think conditioning came into play at the end.”
Pitzner, who has orally committed to St. Cloud (Minn.) State for wrestling, got in on Hemauer’s legs for the two-point takedown that tied the match 4-4 with 37 seconds left in the third period, then Pitzner struck right away in overtime.
“I took a shot and got his ankle,” said Pitzner, who prevented Hemauer from a fourth conference title.
He hopes they meet again.
“Everyone has that one person they have to beat,” Pitzner said. “He’s my person to beat. It shows how working hard pays off. Hopefully, I will meet him two more times — at sectionals and at state. Hopefully, in the finals.”
Stoughton was the Badger South overall champion for the third straight year after also winning the Badger South’s dual season.
“The team is doing very well,” said Stoughton senior Brandon Klein, who won at 132 pounds and earned his third conference crown. “Everyone stepped up. Our chemistry is good as a team. That is good to see.”
The Vikings claimed six of the first nine title bouts, starting with sophomore Hunter Lewis’ 13-3 major decision over Sauk Prairie’s Zeke Smith at 106 pounds.
“I think my mentality this year is a lot better — to go out and wrestle and to go out and dominate,” said Lewis, who avenged a loss to Smith at 106 in the conference finals last year.
The Vikings then got victories from Tristan Jenny (120), Kaleb Louis (126), Klein (132), Garrett Model (145) and UW commit Tyler Dow, who celebrated his 17th birthday with a pin in 28 seconds over Monroe’s Sam Kind in the 160 final. Jenny and UW recruit Model also won their third conference titles.
Model needed to rally for a 9-7 sudden-victory overtime win over Milton’s Vince Digennaro. Model, the state champion at 138 last year, scored an escape in the final 2 seconds of the third period before his overtime takedown won it.
“I knew it was a matter of staying composed and that the points would come,” said Model, who trailed 4-1 and 7-6.
Seventh-ranked Sauk Prairie’s runner-up finish — ahead of third-place Milton (256 points) and fourth-place Waunakee (251) — meant Sauk Prairie and Waunakee, the Badger North dual winner, were the co-champs of the Badger North. Sauk Prairie has won or shared the North title for the past seven seasons.
Four teams earned two individual titles apiece: Pitzner and Dalton Shea (113) of Milton; Drew Fjoser (138) and Logan Moore (220) of Sauk Prairie; Trey Haugen (170) and Dalton Hahn (195) of Reedsburg; and Nate Lorenz (152) and Alan Olkowski (285) of Waunakee.