Delavan-Darien hits state team wrestling tournament
DELAVAN When Craig Lodahl joined the Delavan-Darien wrestling program as an assistant coach in 1997, the Comets were bottom feeders in the Southern Lakes.
Filling every weight class was an ongoing problem, and there was no youth program to build for the future.
Fast-forward to 2012, and that same program, under the direction of Lodahl, is now one of the state’s best in Division 2. Delavan-Darien wrestles defending Division 2 champion Ellsworth at the WIAA State Team Tournament at 1 p.m. today at the Field House in Madison.
Win or lose, today marks the end of the Lodahl era at Delavan-Darien. Now an anatomy and physiology teacher at Lake Geneva Badger, Lodahl resigned as head coach to concentrate on his teaching responsibilities.
“It was a tough decision because of the kids I’ve had the pleasure of being around in our program,” Lodahl said of his resignation. “We usually got between 10 to 15 kids a year that came to us as freshmen that had little or no experience in wrestling. By the time they’re done, some of them are making big contributions at the varsity level. That’s what is so rewarding.”
In making the school’s first state team appearance, the Comets upset fourth-ranked Port Washington to win the sectional team title. Led by seniors Marcus Hudson, along with twin brothers Kiefer and Kyndle Bennett, the Comets are a confident group heading into state.
“I had a long pep talk with the team after Thursday’s practice,” Lodahl said. “I told them how special this weekend is and how important it is to enjoy the moment.
“But at the same time, as much as I want each and every one of them to have fun, they also have to be ready to compete. We’ve proven all season that we belong to be there (state).”
Delavan-Darien will have its hands full with Ellsworth. The Panthers are making their seventh straight state team appearance and 11th overall, including state titles in 1985, 2000, 2007, 2009 and 2011. Ellsworth had eight wrestlers tournament.
Lodahl knows that the starting weight today will be key. The Comets are strong in the middle weights, which is where Lodahl would like to see the match end.
“If we could start at about 195, that would be good for us,” Lodahl said. “I’ll put our seniors at the middle weights up against anybody else. But we don’t have any control over where the match starts, so we have to be ready no matter what weight class it is.”
Lodahl said his days of head coaching are behind him, but he didn’t rule out getting back in as an assistant. Badger High wrestling coach Shane Koehl is a Delavan-Darien graduate and a good friend of Lodahl. The Badgers qualified for the Division 1 State Team Tournament but lost to Hartford on Friday night.
“I still feel like I’ve got a lot to give,” Lodahl said of coaching.