Westosha’s Reid McNeill (left) and Hunter Valach of Wilmot will represent western Kenosha County in today’s state meet in Madison.

By Jason Arndt

A year after Westosha Central and Wilmot were shutout from state representation after sectionals, the two area schools will send one wrestler each to next weekend’s Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Division 1 state meet, including sectional title winner Hunter Valach.

Falcons senior Reid McNeill, who placed second at 182, was the other state qualifier.

The two are scheduled to hit the mats 3 p.m. Thursday at the Kohl Center on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.

Valach, a 170-pound Wilmot senior, captured the championship after winning a 4-2 decision to Stoughton’s Luke Geister-Jones (38-13).

The Panthers senior, who coasted in his first two matches in the Feb. 17 sectional at Ft. Atkinson, said the title accomplishes a mission he had.

“It is something I always dream about, and when I won my last match, I realized it,” said Valach (35-4), who was down 2-0 until he earned four points on a takedown. “In that match, I had a takedown, and then I just rode it out the rest of the way. It was probably one of my best matches technique wise.”

Valach’s title is his third straight, starting with a Southern Lakes Conference championship followed by a regional victory.

Wilmot coach John Watson, whose team had seven total sectional qualifiers, believes positioning and limiting opponent opportunities have been critical for Valach’s success this year.

“I think his season long consistent is in part due to his ability to stay in good position and really limit any openings he gives opponents,” Watson said.

Meanwhile, for McNeill (32-10), the Westosha Central wrestler qualified for the state meet when he pinned Elkhorn’s Nathan Welsh (23-24) in 4 minutes, 39 seconds in the second place wrestle back bout.

McNeill, who advanced to the title match, but lost a 6-4 tight decision to Brooks Empey (29-19) of Stoughton, said his sectional appearance was an unbelievable improvement from previous years.

“It is a pretty unique feeling to go from losing in the first round at sectionals the last two years to qualifying this year, my senior year, it’s just unbelievable,” said McNeill.

Against Empey, McNeill acknowledged the match was a challenge, considering his opponent’s calm and poised demeanor on the mats.

“The biggest thing was just his calmness,” he said. “He wasn’t jittery and we both just went out there and battled.”

Jason Ladd, Falcons coach, said McNeill’s qualification for the state meet is indicative of his work ethic and willingness to learn.

“He is a grinder. He shows up everyday and embraces the hard work that is needed to be successful,” Ladd said. “He is extremely coachable. He makes adjustments, asks questions, and is always looking to improve.”

“He also takes his leadership role very seriously,” Ladd added.

While McNeill and Valach will extend their careers at state, three seniors from both schools finished their careers.

For Wilmot, at 126, senior Joey Graham defeated Elkhorn’s Teddy Woyak on a 15-4 major decision to finish third.

According to Watson, Graham faced a challenging sectional, and could have beaten wrestlers who qualified from other sectional tournaments.

“Joey Graham had a very tough sectional and failed to place top two, but looking at the state brackets, you will see the names of several wrestlers he has beaten,” Watson said about Graham (32-9).

“He meant a lot to our program and was a role model to all of the other wrestlers,” Valach said.

Record breaker
The Falcons, meanwhile, had two other sectional qualifiers who missed qualifying, but 170-pound senior Zach Bell (33-14) came away with a school record 25 pins in a single season. He placed fourth.

Bell, who broke Matt Schmeckel’s record of 23 set in 1992, played an integral role in the program.

“He definitely had a goal of breaking the pin record the past couple of seasons,” Ladd said. “He is extremely reliable, he didn’t miss a match this year, and he is one of those guys that is always around trying to find ways to help out.”

At 145, Dennis Grubb (22-15) dropped a 13-1 major decision to Fort Atkinson’s Nico Roscioli (31-8).

“(He was) always battling through, even when he was hurt,” Ladd said. “He did have a solid season and a nice four years for us.”

Panthers potent future
Finishing fourth for the Panthers were sophomores Benson DuChemin (113, 20-9) and Logan Pye (152, 26-13)

Additional sectional qualifiers were juniors Larz Gough (160, 13-9) and Mason Diedrich (138, 20-17).

The seventh qualifier, 132-pound junior Jeremy Hebior, missed sectionals due to injury.

Their sectional appearances, according to Watson, gives the program hope for the future.

“I cannot help but feel that Wilmot had a good day of wrestling,” Watson said. “We went 4-2 in round one.”

Local results
Westosha Central
145 – Nico Roscioli (31-8), Fort Atkinson def Dennis Grubb (22-15), Westosha Central, MD 13-1.
170 – Luke Geister-Jones (38-13), Stoughton def Zach Bell (33-14), Westosha Central, 12-5.
182 – 2nd place wrestle back: Reid McNeill (32-10), Westosha Central pin Nathan Welsh (23-24), Elkhorn, 4:39; 1st place: Brooks Empey (29-19), Stoughton def McNeill, 6-4; Semifinal: McNeill def Mitchell Schumann (29-16), Oconomowoc, MD 11-2; Quarterfinal: McNeill pin Jared Strom (7-15), 1:40.

Wilmot Union
113 – 3rd place: Mayson Maclennan (31-14), Janesville Craig def Benson DuChemin (20-9), Wilmot, 15-8; Consolation Semifinal: Mason Dutcher (39-9), Milton pin DuChemin, 4:38; Quarterfinal: DuChemin def Luke Beyer (23-19), DeForest, 16-9.
120 – 3rd place: Joey Graham (32-9) def Teddy Woyak (24-21), Elkhorn, MD 15-4; Consolation Semifinal: Edward Wilkowski (37-4) def Graham, 8-2; Quarterfinal: Graham def Luke Olson (22-19), Oconomowoc, MD 10-0.
138 – Nick Logan (40-6), Watertown def Mason Diedrich (20-17), Wilmot, TF-1.5 6:00 (16-1).
152 – 3rd place: Keagan Lazar (31-7), Oconomowoc pin Logan Pye (26-13), Wilmot; Consolation Semifinal: Cade Spilde (41-12), Stoughton pin Pye, 2:24; Quarterfinal: Pye def Karson Sutton (20-15), Sun Prairie, 6-5.
160 – Tyler Dow (49-1), Stoughton pin Larz Gough (13-9), Wilmot, 3:05.
170 – 1st place: Hunter Valach (35-4), Wilmot def Luke Geister-Jones (38-13), Stoughton, 4-2; Semifinal: Valach def Killian Jauch (28-18), Milton, MD 8-0; Quarterfinal: Valach pin Evan Griswold (8-5), Ocononowoc, 0:57.


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