Rory Shine (click for larger version)
Hildebrandt (click for larger version)
February 26, 2013 | 04:14 PMMonday afternoon in the Badger High School wrestling room, athletes were battling each other in practice matches. But it wasn't just the students.
Badger wrestling coach Shane Koehl walked to his office and sat down for an interview, somewhat struggling to catch his breath.
"I was doing some live go's with the kids," said Koehl, referring to his wrestling with his athletes. "We wrestle with the kids almost every night, and we pick on the kids we want to work with."
Koehl, a former high school state champion, still holds his own out there. It's this kind of hands-on approach that has helped Badger advance to team state for the second straight year.
The local boys (20-4) will battle the state's No. 2 team in Division 1, Kaukauna (20-0), Friday night at 7 p.m. at the University of Wisconsin Field House in a Division 1 state quarterfinal.
Last year, it was an emotional high for the team as it was the program's first-ever team state berth. This year, it was a team goal entering the season.
"It's very exciting," Koehl said. "We have beat some very good teams this year and learned to wrestle through injuries. We weren't 100 percent all year."
Badger won't be at 100 percent again Friday. Senior Randy Shine, who suffered a knee infection last week, isn't expected back with the team. Shine had emergency surgery to treat the infection and was in a large leg brace Monday. However, he is scheduled to have the brace removed Tuesday and is up and walking.
Badger senior Carlos Garcia called Shine the team's "emotional rock," and the team isn't ruling out his return. However, Shine said he isn't likely to compete.
"Showing support for everybody is my job now," Shine said. "I will be there verbally, and I will lead just like I have all year. It's not the role I would prefer, but I trust Rory (Shine's brother) and Garcia to also lead."
Randy Shine, who said he was pain-free Monday, said his right knee was the size of a softball and was super hot a couple weeks ago. A couple days later, his doctor cut out the infection and cleaned up the leg. He had to miss last weekend's individual state meet. Koehl said there was "no doubt in his mind" Randy would've won a state title.
In Shine's absence, Badger will count on senior Chris Oberholtzer at 138, junior Tristan Steiner at 145 and senior Rory Shine at 152.
Rory Shine has also had to deal with adversity. The senior missed the entire season because of reconstructive hip surgery, but he returned for the Southern Lakes Conference meet Feb. 2. After taking second at 152 at conference, Rory proceeded to win regional and sectional titles. On Saturday at individual state, he placed fourth at 152, a remarkable feat considering he was in street clothes one month earlier.
"I'm happy with fourth," Rory said. "It's only my third week of practice. I'm feeling really good, and I'm ready for Friday. It kind of sucks to not have Randy. But he gives me a lot of motivation to do good. He worked hard, and I wrestled for him at state. Hopefully, the whole team can do the same at team state."
Kaukauna is the real deal. At 20-0, the Galloping Ghosts are ranked No. 2 in the state according to Wisconsin Wrestling Online. According to the same poll, Badger is ranked No. 5 out of the remaining Division 1 teams. Kaukauna sent eight wrestlers to individual state last weekend, and it boasts studs Tres Leon at 106 and Robert Lee at 120.
"They don't really have a weakness," Koehl said. "The lightweights are very strong. They have tough kids all the way through. I told the kids we are the underdog. But we can beat them. I truly believe that."
"It will take a lot of intensity and teamwork," said Rory Shine. "We will push for the major points."
Senior Tayler Hildebrandt, who placed fourth at 195 Saturday, said the Badgers have an advantage in the upper weights.
Senior Robert Johnson, who lost two tough battles at state last weekend at 220, said it must be a team effort.
"All 14 guys have to contribute," Johnson said. "We have to get pins where there are no pins and points where there are no points. We must stay off our backs. We can definitely win. Getting to team state shows how much hard work the coaches put in."
Garcia said the itch to win is bigger this year.
"The second time, you want to get farther," he said. "We need to feel like we have improved. It was sad to hear about Randy, but we need to step it up for him."
Oberholtzer, who will compete Friday at 138, said Rory Shine will take over as the team leader. He commended Koehl.
"It shows how good of a coach Koehl is," Oberholtzer said. "He's made it to team state twice in six years."
Hildebrandt, Shine medal
Last weekend, Badger sent Hildebrandt, Rory Shine, Johnson and Michael Peter to individual state.
At 152, Rory Shine picked up two wins by decision to advance to Friday night's semifinal. However, Hartford's Beau Breske upended Rory Shine in a 10-0 major decision. The Badger senior bounced back to win in the consolation semifinal before falling in the fourth-place match. He finished the season 11-4.
"Rory is an amazing story," Koehl said. "He's getting all his conditioning and timing back. He's getting better every day. He battled some very good wrestlers at state."
At 195, Hildebrandt opened state action Feb. 21 with a 5-2 win over Wisconsin Rapids' Beau Thompson. After losing his next match, Hildebrandt picked up three straight wins to get to the third-place match. However, Franklin's Kyle Smith downed Hildebrandt, 8-0.
"He was a bit timid," Koehl said of Hildebrandt. "Against Franklin, he got caught for a five-point roll. That was the difference."
Hildebrandt said he was proud of his finish.
Johnson fought valiantly but came up short in two matches at 220. Wrestling 30 pounds under weight all season, Johnson fell in a 1-0 state opener against Neenah's Mitchell Ledwith. In his next match, Johnson lost, 7-4, to Tomah's Lucas Stromberg-Windau.
"I thought I could've been in the final match," Johnson said. "I didn't do as good as I wanted to. I've only wrestled since my freshman year, and I've improved as much as possible."
At 106, freshman Michael Peter was one and done with an 11-7 loss to Franklin Feb. 21.
"He got caught up a little bit in the spotlight," Koehl said. "Michael got to within two points. He learned a lot."
Koehl said the four grapplers saw in person there isn't much difference between the wrestlers' abilities across the state.
"They can compete with the best kids in the state," Koehl said. "Last year was huge for our program to get to team state. It has carried over, and now the guys know that anything's possible."