Gartner, Volkert prove they belong in state's best
New Richmond seniors Bradley Gartner and Tom Volkert proved they belong among the state's best wrestlers during the 2009 WIAA State Wrestling Championships, held last Thursday through Saturday in Madison.
Gartner got rolling in the wrestlebacks and was able to earn a fourth place finish among the Division 1 130-pounders at the 2009 state meet. Volkert was a winner in two of his matches in the 215-pound bracket of the state meet.
Gartner's fourth place finish is the highest finish at the state meet for the Tigers since Brian Volkert placed second at 275 pounds in Division 2 in 2006.
Gartner lost his opening match at state. He then moved to the wrestlebacks where he caught fire. He defeated three strong opponents, including a former state champion, to reach the third place match. In the third place match he was in a battle right to the end, losing 3-0.
Volkert won two of his first three matches at state, to put him in the top eight wrestlers at 215 pounds. He was then beaten in a controversial triple overtime match that ended his run at the state meet.
Gartner's first match was against James Parker of Milwaukee Bradley Tech. Parker had exceptional arm and upper body strength that Gartner couldn't overpower. Parker was able to shoot in and grab one of Gartner's legs, throwing him for a takedown in the first period. Gartner spent the rest of the period trying to break out of Parker's grasp, with no luck. Gartner started on top in the second period, but Parker got a reversal. Again, Gartner couldn't get free and Parker held a 4-0 lead after two periods.
Gartner started in the down position in the second period and couldn't break Parker's grip. Parker was nicked for two stalling points in the third period. But with Gartner unable to break free, the match ended at 4-2.
Gartner's second round opponent wasn't any easier. Gartner drew Waupaca's Charlie Wanty, a defending Division 2 state champion. Waupaca moved up to Division 1 this year, joining New Richmond as one of the smallest schools in the class.
The first two periods were uneventful, with Wanty getting an escape in the second period to lead 1-0. In the third period Gartner showed some of the creative moves that have been a big part of his success. He reversed Wanty to his back, with Gartner laying on his back on Wanty's chest. That five point move put Gartner in command. Wanty got an escape. Then, in the final 10 seconds, as Wanty desperately tried to get at Gartner's legs, Gartner spun around Wanty to get a takedown to win the match 7-2.
In Gartner's second wrestleback, he really got comfortable competing at the state level. He rolled past Baraboo senior Lucas McGann, 11-2.
"Brad just dominated him," said Tiger coach Mark Neumann. "He switched to a different level. It was fun to see."
Gartner then faced Jose Nunez of Beaver Dam, who had lost in the state semifinals to Sam Umlauf of Wausau West. Gartner turned Nunez for three back points in the second period, leading to a 4-0 win for Gartner.
"Brad used probably the best technique he's had all year," Neumann said.
In the third place match Gartner faced Jonathan Enderby of Pulaski. Neumann said that heading into the state meet, most people expected Umlauf, Enderby or Wanty to be the state champion. Gartner gave Enderby all he could handle. The match was scoreless until Enderby got an escape in the third period. Gartner then tried the same move that had worked against Wanty, and it almost worked on Enderby. Gartner wasn't quite able to lock it down and Enderby slipped out of the hold to get a takedown in the final seconds of the match.
Volkert's opening draw in the state meet was Kolby Knuth of Appleton North. Volkert's ability to counter opponent's moves was big in this win. Knuth came out trying to attack Volkert's legs. When Knuth shot in too far, Volkert shucked him down and spun around Knuth to get the takedown.
Knuth started in the down position for the second period and got an early escape, cutting Volkert's lead to 2-1. Volkert started the third period in the down position and almost immediately escaped to go ahead 3-1.
Volkert then went on the attack. He was able to lift on of Knuth's legs high into the air, launching Knuth to the mat. Knuth tried to dive out of the circle, but Volkert kept his toes in the ring and got credit for the takedown. Knuth escaped shortly after, making the score 5-2.
Knuth then began getting desperate. He tried to throw Volkert, which Tiger fans know, rarely works. Volkert slipped out of Knuth's grip during the throw attempt and Volkert ducked behind the off-balance Knuth for the takedown. Volkert then rode out Knuth to earn his first state tournament win, 7-2.
In the second round Volkert faced Josh Viner of La Crosse Logan. Viner is the type of wrestler that gives Volkert the most trouble, a tall opponent with long arms and legs. The first period went scoreless and Volkert chose down for the second period.
That's where his trouble began. Viner spent most of the period with his legs entwined with Volkert's trying to turn Volkert. When Volkert finally got his legs free, Viner was able to bundle him into a cradle hold. Viner got three points out of the move.
Viner selected down for the third period and Volkert immediately cut him loose. Volkert tried several throw attempts, with no luck. One one of those throws Viner got out of Volkert's grasp and took Volkert down. Volkert got a late escape, to make the final score 6-1.
The loss to Viner put Volkert into the wrestlebacks. His first opponent there was Patrick Bruyette of Greenfield, who lost to Viner 7-4 in the opening round. Bruyette could not contend with Volkert's quickness. Volkert got a takedown in the first period and nearly got back points, but Bruyette was able to escape. The first period ended 2-1. Volkert started the second period with an escape, then got a takedown. Volkert got off to Bruyette's side and pried free an arm to turn Bruyette over with an arm bar.
Few wrestlers get away when Volkert gets them on their back. Bruyette couldn't, with Volkert recording the pin at 2:54.
Volkert's final match was against Matt Wallace of Kaukauna. The match was tied after regulation and the first two overtimes. Volkert had first choice in the third overtime and took the down position. He was able to score an escape.
Wallace then was down. The wrestlers were at the corner of the mat, where Wallace was given a reversal call that Coach Neumann disagreed with. Volkert had nine seconds to try to get free and it appeared he did at the buzzer, but the official did not award him the point.
"It was really sad," Neumann said. "You couldn't come any closer to getting on the podium if you scripted it."
Neumann said Gartner and Volkert showed the Tigers are becoming more competitive each year in Division 1. The wrestler who won the state championship at 130 pounds in Division 3, CJ Hale of Auburndale, lost to Gartner during the season.
New Richmond's Jared Kerr, who couldn't get out of the strong field in the Wausau sectional, had two wins this season over Jared Kissinger of Verona, who took third place in Division 1 at 125 pounds at state.
"Ten years ago people thought Division 2 was the toughest division," Neumann said. "Now it's changed. The big schools have improved."