The fourth time, it turns out, was the charm for the Stoughton wrestling team.
After losing the past three years to Kaukauna in the finals of the WIAA state team wrestling tournament, the Vikings finally got a measure of revenge with a 34-30 victory over the Galloping Ghosts in the Division 1 semifinals Friday night at the UW Field House.
Stoughton, which won seven state championships before the team tournament format began in 1992, will go for its first such title tonight against No. 1 seed Holmen, which was pushed to the final match before defeating Burlington in its semifinal 27-26.
But before they turned their attention to the championship match, the Vikings were going to take a moment to savor a long-sought victory.
“They’re a great team and they’ve been a great team,” Stoughton co-coach Dan Spilde said. “We’ve had a hard time getting around them the past three years and that cost us the big trophy. We’re still a match away but it’s nice to be able to get that one behind us.”
Junior Cade Spilde made sure of that by winning his 152-pound match over Harrison Brooks 3-2 to give the Vikings an insurmountable 34-24 lead with one match remaining.
It was a rewarding turnaround for Spilde, who as a freshman lost the finals’ decisive match to a two-time state place winner.
“It’s kind of poetic justice for him to be able to have the match that sealed it tonight,” Dan Spilde said.
Cade Spilde had defeated Brooks earlier this season, but he knew he was in for a tough match with Kaukauna battling for survival. He also was determined to finally put that loss from two years ago behind him.
“I just needed to get the win,” he said. “It’s a lot nicer not losing. I think about that match (two years ago) every day and I came out on top this time.”
Dan Spilde and co-coach Bob Empey opted to start the match with their state individual runner-up Tyler Dow at 170 pounds in order to get the jump on Kaukauna. He provided that with a 17-1 technical fall victory that set the tone for the Vikings as they opened a 14-4 lead after four matches.
Kaukauna struck back with two consecutive pins and a technical fall to take a 21-14 lead.
But Stoughton was set with the heart of its lineup and that group didn’t disappoint.
Junior Hunter Lewis, who won the state individual title at 120 last weekend, got things started with a 17-2 technical fall. Sophomore Braeden Whitehead, a state runner-up, followed with a pin at 126, freshman Luke Mechler scored a late takedown to win his match 8-4 and sophomore Gavin Model won 7-1 at 138 to stake Stoughton to a 31-21 lead.
“The great part with our team is that we have some absolute hammers down in the lower middles and they didn’t let us down,” Dan Spilde said. “I can’t say enough about those four guys in the middle. That’s a tough lineup to get through for anybody and all four came through for us. That’s what we needed to get set up for the win.”
That the long anticipated victory came in the semifinals rather than the final was only a minor issue and the Vikings look at it as a springboard into the championship match.
“This should give us a lot of confidence going into Holmen,” Cade Spilde said. “It’s definitely good to get past these guys. A lot of people in Stoughton don’t think that we could ever beat them, but we finally did it.”
The Vikings had an easy time in the quarterfinals, dominating Marshfield 47-13, winning 11 of 14 matches.
Stoughton won five of the first seven matches to open up a 20-10 lead and then won three consecutive matches on pins by Lewis (1:15) at 120, Whitehead (2:52) at 126 and Mechler (2:26) at 132. Sophomore Jacob Gibson also won on a pin (2:56) at 145.
“Our guys early were real gritty and set us up in good position,” Dan Spilde said. “I thought our guys wrestled real hard.”
Holmen 27, Burlington 26
The Vikings trailed by five points with two matches left, but got decisions from Zach Gordon (152) and Reed Williams (160) to beat the Demons. Burlington also had a team point taken away due to an unsportsmanlike conduct incident.
Burlington 49, Slinger 13
Wyatt Hayes (285) and Jake Skrundz (152) each pinned opponents in under two minutes to help the Demons defeat the Owls.
Kaukauna 35, Mukwonago 27
The Galloping Ghosts topped the Indians in their quarterfinal, winning the final match in overtime. Zach Lee at 160 pounds and Keaton Kluever at 285 each posted wins.
Holmen 39, Hartland Arrowhead 35
Alex Pellowski (106), Kalyn Jahn (170), Isaac Lahr (182) and Jack Westcott (220) each won by pin to lead the Vikings over the Warhawks.