WAUNAKEE — Zeke Smith was one of only three wrestlers to earn a pin in a championship match at the Badger Conference meet Saturday, putting him in elite company. Nonetheless, his father and Sauk Prairie head coach Scott Smith said he could probably still take his son.
“It’s a dogfight between us,” the elder Smith said. “He’s a better wrestler than I am. There’s no doubt about that. I might just with my size still be able to get him.”
Scott watched Saturday afternoon as his son, a senior, pinned Beaver Dam’s Dietrich Jaeckel with three seconds left in the first period of the 113-pound championship match, giving him his second individual conference title.
Zeke’s last season as an Eagle marks the end of a family affair between the Smiths and Sauk Prairie wrestling. Zeke’s older brother, Eddie, wrestled for the program for four years before continuing his career at Loras College in Dubuque. His sister, Olivia, manages the team. And his mom, Miki, has become the ultimate supporter.
“I feel like the whole family is working toward a common goal,” Miki said. “And I thank my husband for bringing it into our lives because I can’t imagine a more meaningful way to spend our lives as a family to serve and help kids and be apart of an awesome program.”
Wrestling never stops at the Smith household. Zeke, who is ranked second in Wisconsin in his weight class, said it’s the constant topic of conversation around the dinner table. When they aren’t talking about wrestling, he’s with his dad on the mat working to get better.
“I love having my dad at home and then having him in the wrestling room, too,” Zeke said. “It’s just a great resource for me.”
Scott was filled with pride after Zeke’s performance Saturday, seeing his son earn a bit of redemption after losing in the championship match at this tournament a year ago.
But for Scott, more important than the victories is the way Zeke carries himself, both on the mat and off. His parents described him as a quiet guy, who has never been afraid to tackle the next challenge head on.
“Ever since he was a little guy I always called him my ‘Little Man,’ just because he carried himself like a man even as a little guy,” Scott said. “So he’s always had a mature spirit about him.”
Zeke said a big part of his success has been his parents, who have been there every step of the way, dating back to his early wrestling days in first grade.
“It helps me a lot to have such supportive parents. I’m really grateful,” Zeke siad.
It goes the other way, too. Miki is just as thankful for her kids’ wrestling careers as Zeke is for his dedicated parents.
“It’s been one of the best things in my life because I’ve gotten to see the boys fight through difficult situations,” Miki said. “I’ll look back on this time in our lives and it will be one of the biggest blessings that I could imagine. I just feel super fortunate to be invited to the party.”
There were a number of upsets Saturday, beginning with Fort Atkinson’s Draven Sigmund. Ranked behind Reedsburg’s Caden Fry, he came out on top in the 132-pound championship. He defeated Baraboo’s John Gunderson by scoring two points in the waning seconds.
Stoughton sophomore Gavin Model, ranked 12th in the state, upset No. 8 Pablo Ramirez of Baraboo 7-5 at 138.
In a battle at 152 between No. 4 Cade Spilde from Stoughton and No. 5 Austin Rauls from DeForest, Rauls scored two late points to earn a victory.
Mount Horeb’s Max Olinger upset No. 3 Reed Ryan of Waunakee at 220, pinning him just 74 seconds into the match and sending the Mount Horeb faithful into a frenzy.
The Waunakee fans went home happy, though, after Alan Olkowski, who won last year in the 285-pound class, defeated Stoughton’s Aodan Marshall in a back-and-forth affair that went to two overtime periods.
Mason McMillen of Reedsburg, at 126, won his second conference title, handling Stoughton’s Braeden Whitehead.
Hunter Lewis and Tyler Dow of Stoughton each defended their titles, Lewis winning in the 120-pound class and Dow capturing the 160-pound crown with a pin.
For the third straight year and the 10th time since 2002, Stoughton hoisted the tournament champion’s hardware. The Vikings scored 348 points, 83 more points than second-place Waunakee.