Historic 2018 run could be duplicated with return of 8 state qualifiers

The Burlington wrestling team won its 15th consecutive event last year at the Freedom Invite, which included some of the state’s best teams. (Submitted/SLN)

 

By Mike Ramczyk

sports@southernlakesnewspapers.com

For as much as Burlington is a volleyball, baseball and football town, wrestling is right up there at the top.

Decades of warriors, some of the best to ever strap on a singlet, have graced the halls of Burlington High School.

But there were perhaps the most talented grapplers on one team in school history last season, one that saw Burlington win the Southern Lakes Conference and get to within one point of a state team title match.

A grand total of eight wrestlers advanced to the 2018 WIAA Individual State Tournament, led by Hayden Halter winning the state title at 106 pounds.

Halter transferred to Waterford Union High School this fall.

While that key piece is gone, the Demons welcome back Ben Stevenson (126), Zach Weiler (132), Cody Welker (138), Ben Kumprey (138/145), Max Ehlen (145/152), Jake Skrundz (152/160), Qwade Gehring (170/182) and Wyatt Hayes (220/285) – all of whom made it to the Kohl Center.

For head coach Jade Gribble, now in his 15th season, the ante has been upped, so to speak.

Burlington has added elite tournaments in Illinois and Minnesota this year, along with a solid schedule of yearly staples like the Freedom and Homestead invites.

“We are excited to see how we compete against the best teams in the state and country,” Gribble said. “Our numbers in the program are strong, and for the most part we have pretty good depth throughout the lineup. We have a lot of experience. Our biggest weakness will be getting everyone in the lineup to the weights they need to be.”

The depth doesn’t stop at state participants.

Helping fill the voids left by Halter, 2018 fourth-place state finisher Nate Crayton (195) and two-time state qualifying heavyweight Max Travis will be seniors Nate Bousman (195/220) and Taylon Hensley (285), juniors Eli Kiesler (152/160) and Jon Kubiak (195) and sophomores Jaden Bird (113), Grant Koenen (113/120), Jacob Cortez (120/126), Nathaniel Cortex (126/132) and Zach Wallace (160/170).

Two key areas of need, 106 and 285, will also be battled for by newcomers Ty Kiesler and Cody McCarthy (both 106) and senior Brian Konz (220/285).

Gribble hopes his squad can defend its conference crown and have a major state presence like last year.

“Our goal is to compete for a conference championship and put ourselves in position to compete at the individual and team state tournaments,” he said.

“To accomplish our goals, we will need to continue to work hard, stay healthy and have confidence that we can compete with anybody.”

Burlington opens its season Thursday at home against Westosha Central.

Assistant coaches are Jerry Barr, Jon Nelson, Tim Burd, Lucas Shenkenberg, Greg Gross and Ky Olson.

 

Schedule

(HOME MEETS ALL CAPS)

November – 29: WESTOSHA CENTRAL. December – 1: at Slinger Invite. 6: at Elkhorn. 8: at Downers Grove South, Ill. Invite. 13: WATERFORD. 15: at Fond du Lac Invite. 20: WILMOT. January – 4-5: The Clash, Rochester, Minn. 10: at Delavan-Darien. 12: at Freedom Invite. 17: at Lake Geneva Badger. 18: at Homestead Invite. 24: UNION GROVE. February – 2: SLC meet at Elkhorn. 9: WIAA REGIONALS. 16: Sectionals at Racine Park. 21-23: Individual State at Kohl Center, Madison. March – 1-2: Team State at UW-Madison Fieldhouse.

 

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