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Steven Moncada a first-time state qualifier for Somerset wrestling team

Somerset junior Steven Moncada hugs Spartan head coach Ali Peterson moments after Moncada locked up a chance to compete at the WIAA state championships for the first time in his career. 1 / 2
Somerset senior Josh Maack (top) wrestled aggressively in his opening round match at the sectional tournament.2 / 2

Somerset junior Steven Moncada has always been a bundle of energy on the wrestling mat.

This year, he’s been able to harness that energy and turn it into major improvement. That progress culminated on Saturday, when Moncada qualified for the 2017 WIAA State Wrestling Championships.

Moncada will compete in the Thursday evening session at the state meet, which will be held at the Kohl Center in Madison.

Moncada qualified for state by winning his opening two matches in the 126-pound bracket at the Amery Division 2 sectional tournament on Saturday. The first thing Moncada did after having his arm raised in victory in the sectional semifinals was to hug Somerset head coach Ali Peterson, who has been a guiding force in Moncada’s transformation into a state caliber wrestler.

The coaches have been working the past two seasons with Moncada on being a patient, mature wrestler and he’s made major steps in that direction. With his wins on Saturday, Moncada’s record stands at 30-10 for the season.

Moncada opened the sectional meet with a 4-3 win over Medford’s Zeke Sigmund. In the semifinals Moncada faced Baldwin-Woodville’s Jordan Bonte, who had beaten Moncada at the Middle Border Conference tournament. Moncada was able to counter everything Bonte did in the match to win 9-6 and earn his place in the state tournament field.

“In those first two matches, Steven didn’t make a mistake,” said Somerset coach Ali Peterson.

In the finals, Moncada faced Ellsworth standout Owen Matzek. Matzek was able to catch Moncada in a cradle hold and get the pin.

In the second place match, Moncada faced Melrose-Mindoro’s Les Lakey. This was a match filled with controversy, with Moncada called for stalling several times, calls the Somerset coaches did not agree with. Lakey was able to get a late takedown to beat Moncada 6-5.

Moncada’s opening draw at the state tournament is Aidan Medora, a freshman from St. John’s Northwest Military Academy with a 35-3 record. Medora was a second place finisher in his sectional tournament. Peterson said that drawing a freshman in the opening round of the tournament might be a break for Moncada, hoping the underclassman will be dealing with nerves.

The Somerset coaches are doing all they can to help Moncada deal with any anxiety. They suggested that Moncada try to eliminate all possible distractions for the week so he can concentrate on his training for the state tournament.

Senior Josh Maack and sophomore Jared Grahovac also wrestled at sectionals, but both were limited to one match. Maack faced Ellsworth’s Matt Peterson in the opening round at 113 pounds. Maack was aggressive from the start, just missing a takedown with his initial shot. Peterson was able to counter with a takedown and two back points. Maack continued to try making things happen, but Peterson countered most of those attempts, winning 7-2. Maack finished his senior season with a 32-8 record.

“There were five or six wrestlers (in the 113-pound bracket) who were state caliber wrestlers,” Peterson said, including Maack in that group.

Grahovac drew Bloomer freshman Mitchel Harmon in the opening round at 132 pounds. Grahovac was one of several wrestlers who fell victim to Harmon’s powerful arm bar move, with Harmon winning on a first period pin. Grahovac suffered a rib injury in the process and was unable to continue. His sophomore season ends with a 25-16 record.

Dave Newman

Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.

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