Franklin wrestlers exhibit heart, advance six to WIAA state test
Stiff, Smith both making third trips
In a move emblematic of the Franklin wrestling team for the last decade or so, senior 138-pounder Roman Stiff just was not going to let down in his wild wrestleback for second in the WIAA sectional meet at Racine Case last Saturday.
"It came down to heart, actually a late reversal, maybe with less than 30 seconds left," he said of his match with Bradley Tech's Rodney Daniels. "He was a strong kid, but I felt that my conditioning was better. I got it (the reversal) done and then just held on."
The result was an 11-10 victory as Stiff (37-8 overall) earned his third WIAA individual state meet berth and joined teammates Xianou Xiong at 106 (28-9), Noah Larson at 113 (21-9), Myles Devine at 170 (36-8), Kyle Smith at 182 (38-4) and Gavin Devine at 220 (24-6) in making the trip to the Kohl Center in Madison this Thursday.
Going to state
Coach Chad Phillippi was pleased with the team's efforts.
"Even though they didn't all make it to state, we were very proud of the effort and heart displayed by our wrestlers at sectionals," he said. "We were also very proud of the class and sportsmanship demonstrated whether they won or lost. Going into the tournament we knew we had an opportunity to send quite a few wrestlers to the state meet, but we were going to need to wrestle well and be mentally ready."
First round and quarterfinal matches will be held Thursday at 3 p.m., with action continuing through Saturday night's finals. Xiong, Stiff and Smith are all multi-time qualifiers, while the Devine brothers and Larson are all first-timers.
"A couple of years ago when I went for the first time, it was pretty nerve-wracking," Stiff said, "but now it's all business. You just block out the noise. You can't look past the square of your mat or it can get into your head. Just keep your head on straight."
At the sectional meet
Xiong, Myles Devine and Smith were all sectional champions. Xiong had a first round bye, won by technical fall over a Kenosha Bradford opponent and then edged Oak Creek's Andrew McIntosh (23-14) in the finals, 7-5.
Myles Devine pinned Marquette (2:30) and Oak Creek (0:43) opponents before surviving a harrowing 10-9 decision over Bradford's Joshua Pfleger (29-5) in the final.
Smith, who like Stiff is a three-time qualifier, had a first-round bye and then beat a Bradford foe, 6-2, before pinning Burlington's Greg Miller (31-14) in three minutes flat.
Stiff earned his berth the hard way. He beat Oak Creek and Cudahy/St. Francis opponents before falling to a Burlington opponent, 6-1, in the finals. That set him up for the exciting wrestleback.
Larson had a first-round bye, then upset a favored Oak Creek wrestler, 10-6, in the semifinals. He lost to a Burlington opponent in the finals but since the Knight opponent from the semifinals won the third pace match, Larson did not have to deal with a wrestleback.
Gavin Devine also had the luxury of no wrestleback, having scored pins over Marquette and Union Grove opponents. He remained in state position despite a loss in the finals to a Burlington opponent.
There was on fairly substantial disappointment for the Sabers as 2012 state qualifier Daniel Peyer at 160 (20-20) upset South Milwaukee's Ben Zbikowski (41-6) by a 4-2 count in the third place match and battled Burlington's Max Shenkenberg close in the wrestleback, only to come up short, 8-5.
Other Franklin competitors at sectional included Louden Brown at 120 (fourth place, 15-19); Ethan Potrykus (first round, 19-19) and Jake Harmen at 285 (first round, 15-14).
"We had several close matches in which some went our way and some didn't," Phillippi said. "My hope is that our guys left it all on the mat, and they can walk away and say they did their best. As a coach, that is all I ask for. This week, we are going to watch some film and get our guys ready for Thursday. We are going to take it one match at a time and enjoy the experience."
Stiff for one is going to take that advice to heart.
"I got a pretty good draw and I hope I can do the most with it that I can," he said. "I'm going to enjoy this as much as I can every minute of it, seeing as it's my last go-around. And besides, a trip to Mad-town is always a good time."
Heading to state
WIAA STATE DRAWS: 106 - Xiong versus Michael Pinter, Badger (36-11). 113 - Larson vs. Jerott Holz, Menomonee Falls (31-7). 138 - Stiff vs. Brook Whitehead, Wausau East (41-5). 170 - Myles Devine vs. Brett Handschke, New London (33-13). 195 - Smith vs. P.J. LeClaire, Brookfield East (38-11). 220 - Gavin Devine vs. Tyler Schmidt, Merrill (41-0).
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