Jackson Fox is still inspiring Wrightstown High School wrestlers years after winning a state title as a Tiger.
Fox, the last Tiger to win a state title in 2012, finished 3rd at the WIAA Sectionals that season, and turned around and defeated the wrestler that beat him on his way to his state title. Now four current Wrightstown Tigers will try to follow in his footsteps and bring a state title to Wrightstown.
Joshua Verbeten, Ben Klister, Bryce Herlache and Stetson Burmeister all punched their tickets to Madison with top 3 finishes in the WIAA D-2 Sectional B at Oconto Falls High School.
“Overall, we wrestled very well. We came through some tough situations with some of those guys to win a couple matches in a row to qualify for state,” co-head coach Matt Verbeten said. “Joshua is a sectional champion, just wrestled with good control all day. Ben and Bryce had some tougher kids in their bracket but we are closing the gap on them and we are going to beat them eventually. Stetson had a rough semi-final but I think he will come back from it and be better because of it.”
Of the four, Joshua Verbeten will head to Madison as a sectional champion. The senior, the #2 ranked wrestler in Division 2 at 152 pounds, went 3-0 on the day, with a 2-0 decision over #4 Michael Bertrand of Southern Door in the 152 pound 1st place match. The sectional championship earns Verbeten a first round bye at the state tournament, and will face either #3 Shane Liegel of River Valley or #8 Derek Nielson of Neillsville. He will wrestle his first match on Friday, February 26th.
“It feels good and I am really excited,” Verbeten said. “I think all of us deserves this. I came in here today wanting to be a three-time sectional champion, and that happened, so I am excited for next week.”
Klister had a message for Oconto Falls’ Nate Trepanier, who defeated him by a score of 5-1 in the first place match at 145 pounds.
“After our match was done, I shook his hand and told him that I would see him in the state finals,” the #5 ranked junior said. “That is how much confidence I have in myself. It feels pretty great to (qualify for the state tournament) and it feels pretty great. Most people don’t get to do that in their lifetime.”
Klister had to finish second through the wrestle back match, a 6-2 decision over #7 Eric Peters of Luxemburg-Casco. He will wrestle #8 Sam Burzynski from Stanley-Boyd in the first round on Thursday, February 25th.
Herlache, who came up just short last year at sectionals, made sure that that would not happen again. Going 4-1 on the day, the #8 ranked junior 160 pounder overcame a semi-final loss to #2 Seth Vosters of Freedom with two pin fall victories and a 5-0 decision over Keaton Kotek of Nekoosa to earn a second place finish and a trip to Madison. In the second place match, Herlache needed just :45 to finish off #7 Cullen Ducat of Luxemburg-Casco.
“In the beginning of the match, it seemed like Ducat was tired and wasn’t warmed up yet,” Herlache said. “So I took advantage of that and went out there and did the best I could. It feels amazing to be a state qualifier. Hopefully we do it right at state.”
Herlache will face Jacob Heyroth of Lodi in the first round in Madison on February 26th.
Burmeister will be using Jackson Fox’s route to his state title as motivation for his own state title run.
“Jackson didn’t win his sectional that year, finishing 3rd, and he went on to beat the people that beat him and won a state title,” the senior said. “Today didn’t quite go the way I wanted to, but I learned some things today that will help me next week.”
Burmeister #2 in Division 2 at 182 pounds, went 3-1 on the day, losing a hotly contested match to Mac Winkler of Oconto Falls by a score of 12-10. He went on to pin Kyle Premeau of Wittenberg-Birnamwood and earned a 5-1 decision over Mitch Kramer of Berlin in the 3rd place match. The senior will start his quest for a state title with a familiar foe, facing former Olympian Conference member and honorable mention Jared Mueller of Chilton/Hilbert in the first round on February 26th.
Coach Verbeten realizes that a lot of good, quality wrestlers won’t get a shot at a state title because of how tough this sectional was, and is very proud of the way his charges wrestled.
“It is one of the toughest sectionals in Division II over the last 15 years,” Verbeten said. “The numbers prove it. When you get four kids out of this sectional, it is not only excellent for the kids, but also excellent for the program. The kids around them are making those kids better every day in practice. It is outstanding to have that many kids come out of this sectional and another one (Darby Schumacher) be just 2 points away. The coaches did a great job and it paid off today.”
106 Pounds – Joey Bianchi – Two Rivers
113 Pounds – Brock Bergelin – Denmark
120 Pounds – Paul Bianchi – Two Rivers
126 Pounds – Tanner Deist – Wautoma/Wild Rose
132 Pounds – Jordan Sarver – Nekoosa/Assumption/Port Edwards
138 Pounds – Cody Yauch – Two Rivers
145 Pounds – Nate Trepanier – Oconto Falls
152 Pounds – Josh Verbeten – Wrightstown
160 Pounds – Seth Vosters – Freedom
170 Pounds – Quinton Wallenfang – Tomahawk
182 Pounds – Kaleb Kaminski – Tomahawk
195 Pounds – August Peplinski – Wittenberg-Birnamwood
220 Pounds – Dane Borchardt – Tomahawk
285 Pounds – Cole Warzynski – Almond Bancroft/Pacelli