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Somerset's Flandrick and LeRoy return to state wrestling; Praschak qualifies too

Somerset senior Bobby LeRoy secured his third trip to the WIAA state wrestling tournament with this pin in the sectional semifinals over Michael Chadwick of Neillsville-Granton.1 / 4
Somerset senior Gabe Flandrick (top) became the first Spartan ever to qualify for four WIAA state wrestling tournaments.2 / 4
Somerset sophomore Max Praschak (left) tries to turn St. Croix Central's Carl Moll for back points in the sectional semifinals.3 / 4
Somerset freshman Logan Peterson picked up valuable experience at the sectional meet, wrestling against two state qualifiers.4 / 4

Somerset seniors Bobby LeRoy and Gabe Flandrick will be completing their high school wrestling careers in familiar territory.

Sophomore Max Praschak also has hopes of becoming as familiar with the state tournament surroundings as his older teammates.

Those three Spartans qualified for the 2013 WIAA State Wrestling Championships with their performances in the Division 2 sectional tournament held at Somerset High School on Saturday.

Flandrick became the first Somerset wrestler to qualify for state in all four years of their high school wrestling career. LeRoy becomes the fifth Spartan to advance to state three times, joining Flandrick, John Melvin, Andrew Neumann and Justin Neumann.

LeRoy is advancing to state as the sectional champion at 138 pounds. Flandrick and Praschak were both third place finishers in the sectional meet, Flandrick at 160 pounds and Praschak at 170 pounds.

Flandrick and LeRoy have been down this road before. LeRoy placed fifth at state last year at 120 pounds. Flandrick has placed progressively better in each of his three years at state. He took fourth place at 130 pounds as a freshman. He ended up third at 135 pounds as a sophomore. Last year he lost to four-time state champion Jared Donar in the 138-pound championship match.

The Spartans are thinking their state experience will factor into their success this year.

"Everybody's goal is to be a state champion," Somerset coach Mitch Flandrick said in summarizing the plans for the state meet.

LeRoy's most dramatic match at the sectional meet was his first. He didn't get the lead away from Ellsworth's Dan Langer until early in the third period. LeRoy was able to turn Langer for three late back points to secure a 7-3 win.

In the semifinals LeRoy faced Neillsville-Granton's Mitchell Chadwick. LeRoy had already beaten Chadwick this season and he showed no fear, manhandling Chadwick from the start. LeRoy pinned Chadwick at 2:55 to lock up his spot in the state tournament field.

LeRoy seemed to always get the tough road this year, but he got a break in the sectional title match. Luck's Tristan Brewer was injured in his semifinal win, so he decided to forfeit to LeRoy in the sectional championship match.

By winning the sectional title, LeRoy earns a bye in the opening round at state. His first match will be in the 11:15 a.m. session on Friday. He will face the winner of Thursday's match between Wrightstown's Jake Schmidt (28-17) and Sparta's Tristan Zurfluh (23-8).

Flandrick was part of the most highly anticipated match of the opening round in Saturday's sectional, against St. Croix Central's Cody Nyhagen, who was also a state placewinner last year. The match got off to an awkward start, with an inadvertent whistle by the official. It came during a flurry when Nyhagen was awarded a reversal, but the Somerset coaches felt the points shouldn't have been awarded because Flandrick stopped wrestling due to the whistle.

Flandrick couldn't get the lead back from Nyhagen, losing 4-3.

The assignment didn't get easier for Flandrick in the wrestleback, drawing Mitchell Pohlman of Neillsville-Granton, who won 39 matches this season. Flandrick got out to a 9-2 lead, but the match almost got away when Pohlman flipped Flandrick to his back for a five-point move and nearly got a pin. Flandrick eventually fought out of the hold and was able to get into the third place match.

Flandrick returned to his normal style in the third place match, confidently controlling Cody Meyer of Abbotsford-Colby 9-3.

"Gabe didn't have his best tournament," said Coach Flandrick, his dad. "He's never had a sensational sectional, but he's always done well at state."

The state tournament trail is promising for Flandrick. His first opponent will be Wisconsin Lutheran junior Dan Squires, who has a 38-9 record.

Praschak's sectional journey started easily, but there was a wild ride ahead. Praschak pinned his opening opponent, Jackson Doller of Northwestern, in 1:20.

In the semifinals Praschak faced St. Croix Central senior Carl Moll. There was a lot of activity, but not much scoring, with the match tied 2-2 at the end of regulation. From a scramble, Moll was able get control of Praschak for the 4-2 decision.

That moved Praschak into the wrestlebacks, where he overpowered Stanley-Boyd's Lyle Swartz, winning by technical fall. That put Praschak in the third place match against Corwin Deetz of Rice Lake. This was another action-filled match that required overtime. This time it was Praschak who got the overtime takedown to win 9-7 and earn his first trip to state.

Praschak then had the chance to wrestle back for second place against Alex Richey of Luck-Frederic-Grantsburg, who Praschak pinned at regionals. Praschak was well ahead in the sectional match, but then got caught and pinned.

Praschak has been a different wrestler since the coaching staff reworked his style a month ago after the Eden Prairie tournament.

"We got him more aggressive on his feet. We changed his whole style," Coach Flandrick said.

Praschak opens his state tournament action against Luxemberg-Casco senior Jordan Pardowsky, who has a 34-14 record.

Somerset freshman Logan Peterson didn't reach state, but he did pick up some valuable experience at the sectional meet. He lost to Robert Csukker of Stanley-Boyd and Tristen Muller of Ellsworth, who both qualified for state.