Gain in confidence puts Kurtz among state’s best wrestlers
JANESVILLE Mark Mullen always believed Zak Kurtz had the ability to wrestle at state.
The Janesville Craig wrestling coach simply felt it was a matter of confidence keeping Kurtz from a state berth.
Kurtz found that confidence this season, and with it, a place among the state’s best.
The Craig senior is the only Janesville wrestler competing in the WIAA Division 1 state meet, which begins this afternoon at the Kohl Center in Madison.
Kurtz, 35-7, wrestles Josh Wipperfurth of Waunakee (38-7) in today’s opening round at 195 pounds. Preliminary matches in Division 1 are slated to begin at 3 p.m.
“Zak is a great example of what happens when you believe in yourself,” Mullen said. “I don’t think he was even a .500 wrestler last season, and not because of his skill level. He had the physical ability to compete with anyone he wrestled, he just didn’t have the mental toughness.”
Mullen credits two factors for helping Kurtz reach his potential this season. One was getting off to a fast start in Craig’s opening tournament at Oconomowoc. The other was working hard each day in practice with his stepfather and assistant coach, Troy Hamil.
“Zak beat two good kids at Oconomowoc, which built up his confidence right away,” Mullen said. “And coach Hamil really pushed him in practice to let him know that if he worked hard, he could be successful because the skill level was already pretty high.”
Delavan-Darien’s Marcus Hudson, Brodhead/Juda’s Hunter Colden and Walworth Big Foot’s Garrett Cary have been dominant on the mat.
The threesome are a combined 111-3 this season, with Hudson (44-0) and Cary (26-0) both unbeaten heading into this weekend’s WIAA Division 2 state competition.
All three wrestlers have a bye in today’s opening round but will be in action Friday morning in quarterfinal matches.
Hudson was fourth last year at 171 pounds and is ranked second at 182 this season heading into state. The Comet senior, who will play football at UW-Whitewater in the fall, is in the opposite bracket of top-ranked Hayden Dvorak of Somerset. Hudson will have at least one more match after this weekend as Delavan-Darien is poised to make its first appearance in the state team tournament next weekend.
Cary, a junior who figures to be one of the state’s top football recruits next season, has manhandled virtually every opponent this season. He won his opening-round match a year ago at 285 before losing in a quarterfinal match to Taylor Henry of Viroqua, who went on to win the state title.
Colden is also making his second straight state appearance. The junior lost in the opening-round a year ago at 152 pounds. His three losses this year came early in the season, and he’s ranked third in the state at 170 heading into this weekend.
Lack of seeding draws ire
The majority of WIAA tournaments are seeded. Wrestling is not one of them.
That may take away some of the luster at this weekend’s individual Division 1 competition.
Two marquee match-ups pitting top-ranked against second-ranked—according to the latest Crossface ratings—likely will take place tonight rather than in Saturday night’s finals. Two defending state champions are likely to meet in one of those quarterfinal matches. Milton’s Ian Johnson (40-0) is ranked second in the state at 182 by Crossface. Muskego’s Roland Dunlap (42-1) is ranked first at 182.
“The brackets are set up in a random draw,” Milton coach Pat Jauch said. “It’s too bad because I think everybody would rather see those two go at it on Saturday night instead of a likely Thursday night match.
“The top four ranked wrestlers at 182 (in Division 1) are in the same portion of the bracket at state. That means one of them is not going to even place at state.”
Milton’s John Wells, a state champion in 2010 at 103 pounds, is top-ranked at 113 pounds this season. The senior is likely in the same situation as Johnson.
A Wells’ win in the first round against Reed Luengen of Slinger will likely set up a quarterfinal match Thursday night against second-ranked Austin Quartullo (41-2) of Muskego.
“We talked about the possibility of seeding kids at state at our sectional coaches meeting, but I don’t think you’re going to see anything happen,” Janesville Craig coach Mark Mullen said. “I think now with wrestlebacks being in place, the feeling I get from the WIAA is that they feel like the set-up now is fine.
“But I’m in agreement with pretty much everybody else I’ve talked to who is a true fan of the sport. I would much rather watch Johnson and Dunlap wrestle on Saturday night with a state title on the line than Thursday. We were in the same position last year when our defending state champion Siven Furseth had to wrestle another defending state champion, Torin Boernke, in the second round.”
WIAA State Individual Championships
At Kohl Center
113—John Wells, sr., Milton (40-4) vs. Reed Luengen, sr., Slinger (43-4).
126—Landon Shea, sr., Milton (37-5) vs. Colin DeClark, sr., Franklin (28-7); Cory Cinelli, jr., Arrowhead (30-6) vs. Brett Bowar, sr., Fort Atkinson (38-11).
132—Garrett Whitehead, sr., Milton (37-7) vs. Ryan Stalsberg, soph., Holmen (27-15).
138—Randy Shine, jr., Lake Geneva Badger (37-3) vs. Mackinzie Nutzmann, jr., Chippewa Falls (32-12).
145—Mitchell Berenz, jr., Arrowhead (30-9) vs. Kyle Mountford, jr., Elkhorn (31-5).
170—Jake Stilling, jr., Elkhorn (40-2) vs. Dave Unger, jr., Mukwonago (24-13).
182—Ian Johnson, sr., Milton (40-0) vs. Tom Mitchell, soph., South Milwaukee (38-6); Josh Regazzi, sr., Oak Creek (34-5) vs. Tayler Hildebrandt, jr., Lake Geneva Badger (27-9).
195—Zak Kurtz, sr., Janesville Craig (35-7) vs. Josh Wipperfurth, sr., Waunakee (38-7).
220—Tyler Schmidt, soph., Merrill (39-6) vs. Dakota Johnson, jr., Elkhorn (35-3); Eddy Ruzga, sr., Lake Geneva Badger (38-4) vs. Grant Schindler, sr., Chippewa Falls (38-4).
285—Tom Cychner, sr., Lake Geneva Badger (36-8) vs. Kyle Polum, fr., Cedarburg (30-10).
106—Austin Schwarz, sr., Delavan-Darien (29-10) vs. Adam Lewis, sr., Saint Croix Central (39-7).
113—Ryan Engel, fr., East Troy (31-9) vs. John Roddick, fr., Sparta (39-12).
126—Brent Stockwell, sr., Ellsworth (26-9) vs. Zack Lamb, soph., East Troy (13-5).
145—Aaric Spencer, jr., Medford (20-2) vs. Kiefer Bennett, sr., Delavan-Darien (38-7).
152—Scott Digman, sr., Cuba City (34-5) vs. Kyndle Bennett, sr., Delavan-Darien (41-7).
195—Adam Carlson, sr., Edgerton (27-5) vs. Austin Roberts, soph., Rice Lake (36-10).
PRELIMINARY MATCH THURSDAY
182—Justin Graham, jr., Orfordville Parkview (35-7) vs. Kyle Rentmeester, sr., Elkhart Lake (45-6).