Wilmot’s Hunter Valach salutes the crowd after winning the 170 pound title at last weekend’s Southern Lakes Conference tournament hosted by Delavan-Darien (Mike Ramczyk/The Report).

Bell and McNeill, of Westosha, take third

By Jason Arndt

In the fierce Southern Lakes Conference, where three schools are among the top 10 in the Division 1 state wrestling rankings, there is little margin for error.

To succeed, especially in the Feb. 3 conference tournament, preparation and near perfection was critical.

According to coach John Watson, the preparation and near perfection paid off for two of his Wilmot Union High School wrestlers, seniors Hunter Valach and Joey Graham.

The Panthers duo, who boasted some confidence entering the tournament, came out as champions in their respective weight classes.

“As a coaching staff, we were obviously pleased with the performance of both Graham and Valach,” Watson said. “Both of our wrestlers were on their best Saturday.”

At 170 pounds, Valach had a first round bye to advanced to the semifinal match against Elkhorn’s Myles Schumaker, who dropped a 10-5 decision to the Panthers senior.

In the title bout, Valach faced No. 10 ranked Alex Rewolinski of Union Grove, but jumped to an early edge following the first period.

Valach, noting his confidence, believed he could come out a winner.

“After the first period, I was winning 7-3, so I felt pretty confident I could get it,” said Valach, who eventually defeated Rewolinski on a 16-7 major decision.

Valach, who is unbeaten in the SLC, credited both a rigorous off-season workout regimen and the Panthers strong coaching staff.

“The coaching made it possible,” he said. “I also worked out a lot in the offseason to get better.”

Meanwhile, for Graham at 120, he pinned Elkhorn’s Teddy Woyak in the semifinal bout at 1:51 to advance to the title match against Burlington’s Cody Welker.

Graham, who went the distance, edged Welker with a 6-1 decision.

Graham’s SLC tournament appearance, according to Watson, was near perfect and avenged an early season loss to Welker.

“Joey avenged a loss earlier in the season in which he made some technical errors,” Watson said. “On Saturday, his match in the finals was close to error free, and he was able to dominate it.”

Wilmot also had Benson DuChemin placed third at 113 and had three others advance to the third place match, but lost.

Finishing fourth were Drew Hebior (132), Logan Pye (152) and Larz Gough (160).

Watson, however, came away pleased, considering the Panthers were short-handed.

Without a competitor at 145, senior Austin Lardner moved up one weight class, and held his own.

“He showed great heart just competing so heavy,” Watson said. “All of the kids showed great competitive spirit and because of that we were able to place fifth even with the empty spots.”

Finishing ahead of Wilmot was tournament winner and fourth ranked Burlington, followed by No. 9 Waterford and 10th ranked Elkhorn. Unranked Badger finished fourth.

In spite of challenging competition, Valach believes him and Graham could make a move to state.

“Joey and I definitely have a shot at state and I hope we get there,” he said.

Westosha Central’s Reid McNeill pins Lake Geneva Badger’s Patrick Keplar to come away with third place at the Feb. 3 Southern Lakes Conference tournament hosted by Delavan-Darien High School (Mike Ramczyk/The Report).

McNeill, Bell lead Falcons
Meanwhile, for Westosha Central, the Falcons were led by seniors Reid McNeill and Zach Bell.

McNeill and Bell, both of whom had a different set of challenges, each finished third.

For McNeill, dropped a quarterfinal match to Badger’s Patrick Keplar on a 11-7 decision, but came back to defeat the Lake Geneva wrestler in the third place bout on a pin at 4:34.

According to Falcons coach Jason Ladd, the two have had tight contests in the past, but McNeill stepped up when needed.

“They had a really close match in our dual a couple of weeks ago, Reid won that right at the buzzer,” Ladd said. “After that (1st round) loss, we were just focused on winning out….and we ended up beating him in the third place match.”

Unlike last year, when McNeill only had four other wrestlers to contend with in his weight class, Saturday’s bracket brought eight competitors.

“It was definitely harder for me this year because I had a full eight man bracket,” he said.

Bell, at 182, won three of his four matches, but dropped his semifinal bout to fourth-ranked Nathan Crayton of Burlington.

“Zach had a tough second round match against Nathan Crayton,” Ladd said. “Nathan is a top tier ranked wrestler.”

McNeill credited Bell’s off season work ethic, which made him stronger and more confident, even against tough competitors.

“Zach worked his butt off this offseason and really focused on his neutral work and got noticeably better on the mat,” McNeill said. “He’s just been a lot more confident.”

Westosha Central, which placed seventh of eight schools, also saw seniors Dennis Grubb (138) and Dennis Grubb (145) take fourth.

As the conference slate concludes, like Valach, McNeill has the same goal entering regionals.

“The goal is to qualify for the state tournament,” he said. “That’s been my goal since my season ended last year.”

SLC Tournament
Delavan-Darien High School, Feb. 3

Team scores: 1. Burlington 236, 2. Waterford 211.5, 3. Elkhorn 187.5, 4. Badger 165.5, 5. Wilmot 118, 6. Union Grove 103, 7. Westosha Central 65, 8. Delavan-Darien 59.

Central results
113 – Cons. Round 1: Jacob Greidanus, DD pin Kaitlyn Crider, 1:28; Quarterfinal: Hayden Halter, BHS pin Crider, 0:11.
138 – 3rd place: Brandon Martinez, LG def Jefferson Kearby, MD 10-0; Consolation Semifinal: Kearby, WC def Mason Diedrich, WIL, 8-6; Semifinal: Coleman Karl, ELK pin Kearby, 1:37; Quarterfinal: Kearby pin Brandon Martinez, DD, 3:45.
145 – 3rd place: Michael Sanders, LG pin Dennis Grubb, WC, 4:06; Consolation Semifinal: Grubb, def Dillon Pagels, UG, MD 13-5; Consolation Round 1: Grubb pin Austin Lardner, WIL, 1:46; Quarterfinal: Michael Sanders, LG pin Grubb, 1:29.
152 – 5th place: Dylan Scacco, UG def Sean Gulliksen, WC, MD 14-0; Consolation Semifinal: Giovany Gonzalez, DD pin Gulliksen, 1:47; Semifinal: Alex Guardiola, WAT pin Gulliksen, 1:39; Quarterfinal: Gulliksen pin Austin Pack, LG, 1:55.
160 – Consolation Round 1: Larz Gough, WIL pin Colton Soto, WC, 2:55; Quarterfinal: Zack Kaminski, WAT def Soto, MD 11-2.
182 – 3rd place: Zach Bell, WC pin Dalton Creighton, LG, 2:42; Consolation Semifinal: Bell pin Reid Ruth, ELK, 2:00; Semifinal: Nate Crayton, BHS pin Bell, 0:50; Quarterfinal: Bell pin Jacob DuChemin, WIL, 2:44.
195 – 3rd place: Reid McNeill, WC pin Patrick Keplar, LG, 4:34; Consolation Semifinal: McNeill def Eric Gonzalez, DD, injury default; Consolation Round 1: McNeill pin Nathan Bousman, BHS, 2:40; Quarterfinal: Patrick Keplar, LG def McNeill, 11-7.

Wilmot results
106 – 5th place: Lucas Johnson, WAT def Kolby Moudy, WIL, MD 16-5; Consolation Semifinal: Jaden Bird, BHS pin Moudy, 0:59; Quarterfinal: Payton Jacobson, ELK pin Moudy, 0:44.
113 – 3rd place: Benson DuChemin, WIL def Jacob Greidanus, DD, 9-2; Consolation Semifinal: DuChemin def Luke Truesdale, ELK, 5-4; Semifinal: Hayden Halter, BHS pin DuChemin, 1:56; Quarterfinal: DuChemin def Jacob Greidanus, 12-10.
120 – 1st place: Joey Graham, WIL def Cody Welker, BHS, 6-1; Semifinal: Graham pin Teddy Woyak, ELK, 1:51; Quarterfinal: Graham, bye.
132 – 3rd place: Zach Weiler, BHS pin Drew Hebior, WIL, 2:50; Consolation Semifinal: Hebior pin Jared Greidanus, 1:53; Quarterfinal: Zach Weiler, BHS def Hebior, 5-2.
138 – 5th place: Mason Diedrich, WIL pin Jacob Cherba, WAT, 2:07; Consolation Semifinal: Jefferson Kearby, WC def Diedrich, 8-6; Quarterfinal: Jacob Cherba, WAT pin Diedrich, 1:47.
145 – Consolation Round 1: Dennis Grubb, WC pin Austin Lardner, WIL, 1:46; Quarterfinal: Jake Skrundz, BHS pin Lardner, 1:13.
152 – 3rd place: Giovany Gonzalez, DD def Logan Pye, WIL, 10-4; Consolation Semifinal: Pye pin Dylan Scacco, UG, 0:57; Semifinal: Ben Kumprey, BHS def Pye, 8-3; Quarterfinal: Pye def Giovany Gonzalez, DD, MD 17-3.
160 – 3rd place: Zack Kaminski, WAT def Larz Gough, WIL, MD 11-2; Consolation Semifinal: Gough pin Alec Linn, LG, 2:30; Consolation Round 1: Gough pin Colton Soto, WC, 2:55; Quarterfinal: Aaron Taylor, ELK pin Gough, 2:38.
170 – 1st place: Hunter Valach, WIL def Alex Rewolinski, UG, MD 16-7; Semifinal: Valach def Myles Schumaker, ELK, 10-5; Quarterfinal: Valach, bye.
182 – 5th place: Jacob DuChemin, WIL pin Reid Ruth, ELK, 3:31; Consolation Semifinal: Dalton Creighton, LG pin DuChemin, 1:48; Quarterfinal: Zach Bell, WC pin DuChemin, 2:44.
195 – Consolation Round 1: Nathan Welsh, ELK pin Jason Rullman, WIL, 0:33; Quarterfinal: Tony Mastrocola, WAT pin Rullman, 1:06.
285 – 5th place: Cameron Storbeck, UG pin Andrew Tucknott, WIL, 3:25; Consolation Semifinal: Wyatt Hayes, BHS pin Tucknott, 1:56; Quarterfinal: Kyle Freund, LG def Tucknott, MD 10-1.


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