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Four Badger grapplers poised for state



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February 23, 2011 | 08:34 AM
Janesville — Badger wrestling coach Shane Koehl hoped to send between two and five wrestlers to state at Saturday's Janesville Craig Sectional.

At the conclusion of the event, Badger advanced four, the most in school history.

Seniors John Leibforth (140), Dylan Peter (160) and Brad Nugent (285), along with junior Ed Ruzga (215) all took second place after losing in their respective championship matches, and the quartet will now compete at the WIAA Division 1 state meet in Madison Thursday.

"It was quite an accomplishment for the team," Koehl said. "All four state qualifiers lost in the finals, though. That was the only disappointing part of the day. I thought we would get at least two champs. We lost a couple matches we should have won. But overall, this is very exciting for the team."

Ruzga (18-4) and Peter (34-8) both had to win wrestle-backs to make it to state. Ruzga, who finished 3-1 on the day, almost wasn't going to compete because of the death of his aunt, but last Thursday he decided to wrestle. And Ruzga came through in the second-place match, pinning Kenosha Tremper's Brian Stinebrink, who he lost to in regionals, in 2:47. Stinebrink was ranked No. 7 in the state.

"Ed told me he was wrestling for his aunt," Koehl said. "He completely dominated Stinebrink. It was good to see him smile. He keeps improving every week. He really beat up on some good kids."

Peter, who was 3-1 on the day, handled Milton's Avery Sweeney, 7-3, in a second-place wrestle-back. Peter's two other wins came by decision.

"Dylan had four close matches," Koehl said. "He kind of wrestled afraid to lose. He was a little conservative and didn't open up like he should have. It was one of Dylan's goals to make it to state, and he achieved it."

Leibforth (31-4) fell in the title match to Wilmot's Adam Neal, a familiar foe, 4-0. In the semifinals, Leibforth dominated, winning 7-0 over Verona's Brian Woods. In the first round, Leibforth pinned Oregon's Kevin Schewe in 1:19.

"It was the best match I've seen him wrestle in two years," Koehl said of the semifinal win. "John got a little conservative in the finals."

Nugent (37-4) breezed through the first two rounds with a 10-0 and a 6-2 win before falling in the finals to Stoughton's Jessie Nelson, 3-2. Nelson won with a takedown with only three seconds left.

"Brad looked really good in his first two matches," Koehl said. "He had some nice takedowns. In the finals, Brad was overpowered a bit and was cautious. He made some uncharacteristic moves."

Senior Branden Allen nabbed third place at 189 with a 2-2 record, and senior Mike Ezelle placed fourth at 145. Allen suffered a pin in a second-place wrestle-back in 4:19, just missing state. Ezelle picked up a first-round win over Mount Horeb's Jake Kruse, 8-5.

"Branden and Mike both finished their careers," Koehl said. "Allen lost a heartbreaker at the end. And Mike beat a tough kid from Mount Horeb. Both guys had good seasons."

At 152, sophomore Rory Shine grabbed third place with a 2-1 record. In the third-place match, Shine edged Madison East's Rudy Hernandez, 10-7.

"Rory bounced back after getting pinned in the second round," Koehl said. "He finished the season really well."

At 171, Taylor Hildebrandt lost his first match, 14-3, to Mount Horeb's Quinn Faust, ending his season. Only a sophomore, Koehl said he hopes the experience helps Hildebrandt for next year.

At Thursday's state meet, if a wrestler loses his first match, the kid he lost to must win his second match for his previous opponent to earn another match. Koehl believes his guys can make some noise.

"A couple guys have a good shot to place," he said. "But we got some tough draws. Anything is possible. The kids have to believe in themselves and put it together up there (in Madison). We have to change the mind set of just being happy to make state. We must win up there. We have to believe we can win at any level."

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