Talent flows in Southern Lakes wrestling
Coach Ken Reynolds played the motivation card in the Elkhorn High wrestling room Wednesday afternoon.
With Elkhorn hosting the Southern Lakes Conference meet at 10 a.m. Saturday, Reynolds figured it’s time to turn up the heat.
Reynolds invited his good friend, former U.S. Olympic wrestler Ben Peterson, to give a clinic and address the troops. Peterson, from Cumberland, Wis., won a gold and a silver medal at the Munich and Montreal Games, respectively.
Reynolds is anticipating the Southern Lakes tournament will be more competitive than usual.
“It’s the best it’s been in years,’’ Reynolds said of the league meet. “A lot of talent is going to be showcased.’’
Craig Lodahl, coach of defending champion Delavan-Darien, backs Reynolds assessment.
“As I look at it, every school has two or three kids that can battle for a conference championship,” Lodahl said. “It should be fun.’’
Elkhorn defeated Delavan-Darien, 48-30, on Tuesday to complete the Southern Lakes dual dal meet season at 5-2.
“We wrestled Delavan-Darien and won handily,” Reynolds said. “It’s time to get our ducks in a row.’’
Reynolds believes the Elks are the favorites to unseat the Comets as Southern Lakes meet champs. The Elks finished third in the conference meet and overall standings last season.
“Do I have the horses that can win this race?’’ Reynolds said. “We have one of the best teams.’’
And there is the home field advantage.
“Do you think you can beat us in our house?” Reynolds asked. “You have to be nuts.’’
Reynolds, who has 105 victories in 11 seasons at Elkhorn, is no fool. He knows the competition will not roll over in his house.
First, there is Burlington, which marched through to the conference dual season undefeated.
“Burlington is in the driver’s seat this season,” Reynolds said. “They have maintained their lineup.
“They have good a staff, are deep and have been consistent all year,’’ Reynolds added.
But there is more motivation for Elkhorn to win the league meet.
“We can’t win the conference championship unless Burlington finishes third, and then we would tie them for the championship,” Reynolds said. “We don’t get a trophy for winning the conference meet.”
Derek and Nathan Gill at 112 and 119, respectively, and Nick Jazdzewski at 152 lead the Demons’ charge.
“The Gill brothers are very good,” Reynolds said. “Jazdzewski is strong at 152. They are a solid team.’’
The Elks’ four No. 1 seeds include returning 112 champion Taylor French, who will wrestle at 125, freshman Kyle Mountford (20-5) at 130, junior Tyler French (14-4) at 160 and Dante Blackbourn (20-8) at 215.
The Elks’ Jake Stilling at 152 and K.C. Verhoeven at 171 are seeded No. 2.
Delavan-Darien will return 145-pound champion John Benson (33-3) and 103-pound champion Jeff Myers.
The Comets finished 3-4 in conference duals this season.
“After winning it last year, we’re a little disappointed,” Lodahl said. “We had some injury and illness, but so did everybody.’’
Lodahl expects a clash between Benson and Wilmot’s Ryan Gartner, who handed Benson one of his three losses at 145. Gartner was the 125-pound conference champ last season.
“Gartner is a state qualifier,” Lodahl said. “He battles all the way.’’
Wilmot, which finished second in the conference standings last season, has state-ranked wrestlers Kyle Welzen at 135, Matt Gray at 140 and James Huey at 171. Lake Geneva Badger will have No. 6-ranked Joe Cychner at 285.
“There is no doubt, this is going to be a tough meet,” Lodahl said.