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Coleman Falls to Stratford at WIAA Team Sectionals

Issue Date: February 21, 2019

Any number of different factors could have gone Coleman's way and sent the Cougars to the team state championship, but it wasn't in the cards.

The Cougars missed state by six points, leaving them looking at a number of different factors that could have made the difference, starting with the first match to the last.

After beating Weyauwega-Fremont 54-24 in the first match of last week's Division III sectional at Auburndale, Coleman faced back-to-back state champions, Stratford.

In the first match, Stratford's Jacob Heiden beat Karson Casper in a 5-4 decision to start things off right for Stratford. Casper was wrestling up a level in order to give the Cougars a disadvantage from the start and leaving them open at 132 for six free Stratford points to end the match.

In Casper's loss, Coleman fans were unhappy with a few controversial calls, including an early stalling call and what coach Kevin Casper thought should have been three near fall points early in the match.

Coleman took a lead with two decision wins by Jake Baldwin over Mavrick Licciardi at 145 and Bryce Karban over Devin Dennee at 152 by 7-2 and 2-1 decisions respectively.

Stratford countered with a pin by Derek Martin over Dakota Birr in a minute, 34 seconds. Stratford got three pins to Coleman's one, another big difference in the match.

Tyler Blanchard (170) responded with a 4-1 decision win for Coleman and Shamus McLain (182) beat Jediah Knetter by 16-0 tech fall, to make the lead 14-9 Coleman. Stratford got two more pins from Trevor Dennee (195) and Trevor Steiner (220) over Jonathon Bieber and Spencer Karban to take the lead back.

Brock Martinson beat Dylan Schoenherr 5-3 for Coleman and Chance Gruber (106) got four points for a major decision against Logan Gaulke.

The 113-pound weight class was another big match, as it pitted back-to-back individual state champion Koltin Grzybowski against Stratford's undefeated freshman, Gavin Drexler. On this day, it was Drexler's day, as he topped the Cougar standout 9-6 in a back and forth match.

"We felt we could get the job done there. It was a great match. It went back and forth the entire match until the last 30 seconds," coach Casper said. "It wasn't meant to be for whatever rhyme or reason."

Stratford defending state runner-up Manny Drexler (120) then beat Kasey Casper 7-2 at 120 to all but seal the Cougars' fate. Caleb Gross quickly pinned Dillon Kirsch at 126, but the writing was on the wall since Coleman was open at 132.

"We felt pretty good about our team going into the match. We obviously knew it was going to come down to a few key matches," coach Casper said. "Like I told our kids, I'm still proud of them. They wrestled their hearts out and sometimes you need Lady Luck on your side and we didn't have any luck that went our way."

All year, this has felt like a Coleman squad that could make a run at state, so for it to come so close was disappointing, but it's not a knock on the team's talent.

It's not always the best team wins on any given night, but Stratford, I've got to take my hat off to them. They wrestled a lot better than we thought they would based on what I scouted of them. They didn't wrestle as well those nights as they did the night against us, so we have to give credit to them as well. That's why they're the two-time defending state champs," coach Casper said. "It wasn't in the cards, which is a shame because I think if we wrestled them 10 times, we'd probably beat them a majority of the times. That night wasn't it."


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