Spartan senior wrestlers get their reward at regionals
The Amery Division 2 regional meet proved to be a prolific tournament for the Somerset wrestling team, particularly the Spartan seniors.
Four seniors wrestled for the Spartans at the regional meet and all four will wrestle again, as qualifiers for this Saturday's WIAA Osceola Division 2 sectional meet.
Somerset had eight wrestlers finish among the top two in their class at last Saturday's Amery regional meet, qualifying them for this Saturday's sectional meet. Somerset made a run at the regional team championship, but fell 30 points short of Amery.
Advancing as regional champions for the Spartans are the Bushinger brothers, Austin and Trevor, Dillon Schaeffer and Darrin Emmeck. Second place finishers at the regional meet were Caleb Belter, Alex Praschak, Haydon Dvorak and Jeremy Kelly.
The Spartan seniors are Belter, Praschak, Schaeffer and Emmeck. For all but Emmeck, this is their first crack at wrestling at the sectional level. Spartan coach Mike Kappers said the chance to wrestle at sectionals is a deserving award for the seniors.
Belter was the fourth seed at 130 pounds. He pinned his opening opponent, then lost to the top seed in the semifinals. He then beat the third seed 4-3. He saved his best for last, pinning the second seed to earn his trip to the sectional.
"He has got the heart of a lion," Kappers said of Belter.
Belter also gets a favorable draw at the sectional. He faces a freshman from Ashland who he beat at the Northern Badger Invitational in December.
Praschak wrestled his way to the finals in Saturday's regional. Again he gave Amery's Blake Lundgren a good battle, but lost 6-0. Praschak will get another familiar opponent at the sectional meet. He opens up against Ellsworth senior Shawn Helmueller.
Seeing Schaeffer win a regional championship shows there is justice in the world. Schaeffer has taken his lumps through the years, but has never stopped being a scrappy opponent who wrestlers hate to face. He went into the regional with a 7-12 record, but still received the top seed. He proved he deserved it, getting a pin in the semifinals and an 8-2 decision in the championship match.
Schaeffer's luck wasn't as good heading into the sectional. His first opponent brings in a 30-2 record. It's a safe bet that Schaeffer will put out the same relentless type of wrestling, no matter his opponent's record.
Emmeck looks to be healthy again after a knee injury cost him much of his season. But his regional matches were over so quick, it was hard to be sure.
School records are being checked, but it is believed that Emmeck's pin in six seconds in the regional semifinals is the fastest pin in school history. To prove it wasn't a fluke, Emmeck pinned his opponent in the championship match in 11 seconds.
Emmeck has probably the best bracket of any Spartan for a chance to get to state. He opens against a Spooner sophomore with a 4-6 record. The top three wrestlers in each sectional bracket qualify for the state meet.
In terms of surprise sectional qualifiers, freshman Austin Bushinger ranks at the top for the Spartans. Bushinger was the third seed in the regional. He pinned the second seed in the semifinal. In the finals he faced St. Croix Falls senior Jake Bruns, who qualified for state as a sophomore and took second place at the Northern Badger in December. This was no contest, with Bushinger winning 15-5.
Bushinger opens the sectional meet by facing Chetek-Prairie Farm sophomore Ray Ellsworth.
"If he wrestles the way he did against Bruns, he could make it through (to state)," Kappers said.
Trevor Bushinger was the top seed at 145 pounds and he wasn't seriously threatened at the regional. He scored a first period pin in the semifinals, before keeping control of the finals match to win 8-2.
Bushinger's opening draw in the sectional is Northwestern junior Bob Tahtinen, who has a 22-9 record.
Dvorak got to the 171-pound finals easily, with a quick pin in the semifinals. He faced one of the best wrestlers in the regional in the finals, Joe Raygor of St. Croix Falls. The muscular Raygor was able to win by a technical fall over the Spartan freshman.
Dvorak opens the sectional tournament against Ashland senior Kyle Gervais. Both wrestlers have 22 wins this season.
Kelly received a bye all the way to the 215-pound finals at the regional. There he lost by technical fall to Osceola's Dalton Spry. Kelly did bounce back nicely, scoring a pin in the second place match.
Of all the Spartans who reached the sectional, the seeding was toughest on Kelly. He draws Dustin Wozniak of Stanley-Boyd-Thorp in the opening round. Wozniak happens to carry a 35-0 record into the match.
Several other Spartans made good runs at advancing to the sectional meet. Luke Henry and Tyler Hecht both were third place finishers at the regional and Nick Dvorak took fourth place.