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March 02, 2012 | 09:23 PMMADISON - Badger wresting coach Shane Koehl rolled the dice in Friday's WIAA Division 1 state quarterfinal, implementing a lineup shift in the light weights that worked to Badger's advantage.
However, Koehl knew the middle weights would make or break his team, and unfortunately they did the latter.
Badger overcame an early 9-0 deficit to tie the match at 24-24, but the Orioles were too strong from there, finishing the match with a 13-6 run to capture a 37-30 victory at the packed UW Field House.
Badger finished its magical season, which included three individual state medalists and the first team state appearance in school history, with a 19-5 record. Hartford improved to 18-3 and will advance to a Division 1 semifinal against Holmen, who edged Burlington, 27-26, tomorrow morning.
Koehl preached all season long that just getting to state wasn't enough. He believed the Badgers had the talent to make plenty of noise and even reach the finals. He was disappointed after the match.
"We knew anything could happen," Koehl said. "We had to stay off our backs and we didn't. The two matches at 182 and 195 killed us. They were two matches we were very capable of winning. I don't like the notion that at least we made it here. I fully expected to win this one tonight."
Pins were even on the night at 4-4, but it was Hartford's pin at 145 which marked the beginning of the end for Badger.
After Badger fell in a 9-0 hole, Eddy Ruzga (220) notched a pin in 1:17 and Tom Cychner (285) followed with a 4-3 decision to even things up at 9-9.
In order to move Zac Leonard up a class to 113, Badger put junior varsity wrestler Alex Martinez in the 106 slot to face Hartford's Bobby Nachreiner, who placed second at state last weekend. Despite a valiant effort from Martinez, Nachreiner picked up the pin in 3:47 to push Hartford's lead to 15-9.
Then, the lineup shift took effect, with Leonard notching a pin in 2:41 to tie things up. Michael Coyne followed at 120 with another pin, this time in 30 seconds. Coyne's adrenaline was through the roof as he immediately gained control of Hartford's Mike Antonioni and forced his shoulders to the mat.
"I was really motivated watching Alex Martinez," Coyne said. "To see a JV kid stand up to a kid who took second in state, that was phenomenal. I knew I needed to step it up for the team."
The Orioles came storming back with a 3-0 decision over Badger's Chris Oberholtzer at 126 and a pin of Bryan Nugent at 132.
That's when team captain Randy Shine, as he has all season, led by example with a pivotal victory in a showdown with Nate Hennes, who won state last weekend at 132. Shine notched an explosive takedown in the first period and added an escape in the second. He held on for a 3-1 victory.
"I'd say I had the advantage," Shine said. "I beat him earlier this year in a tournament. I weighed in at 142, and he weighed in at 136. When I wrestle my hardest and I don't hold anything back, I win."
With the Shine win, Badger regained the momentum, and the sideline gave deafening cheers for Terry Konrad at 145. But Konrad fell behind 5-0 and was eventually pinned in 3:07, giving Hartford a 30-24 lead.
"I'm disappointed and I thought I could've turned it around for us," Konrad said.
At 152, Badger's Rory Shine found himself in a world of trouble with Division 1 state champion Nick Becker. Becker overpowered Rory, building a 9-2 lead thanks to a reversal in the second period. A 15-7 major decision put the Badgers in a 34-24 hole with two matches left. The only chance for victory was two Badger pins.
Things started well for Badger's Andy Cychner at 160. He took a 2-0 lead early and led 2-1 until Nick Hahn's reversal with four seconds left in the second period gave the Orioles a 3-2 lead.
Hahn increased the lead to 5-3 in the third before a Cychner escape made it 5-4. Cychner then registered what appeared to be a takedown with seconds remaining, but it wasn't called. Hahn took the 5-4 victory, and Hartford gained an insurmountable 37-24 advantage.
At 171, Tyler Otero finished the match with a fury, tallying a quick pin.
The Badgers have no reason to hang their heads. With a new standard set for success, and only three seniors graduating, this may be only the beginning. Randy Shine said it was a special year.
"I was honored to lead the best team that has ever come through Badger High School," Randy Shine said.
Konrad, Ruzga and Cychner all had their last matches as Badgers.
"Our season went really well," Ruzga said. "Nobody really expected us to get here. Everybody worked really hard, and it shows."
Cychner earned fifth place at individual state, but the team success meant more.
"Winning a sectional championship and getting to team state was huge for the school," Cychner said.
For Koehl, it was a big week for Badger wrestling.
"It's been a great week for the kids," he said. "They've practiced hard all week. For the most part, we didn't wrestle bad. We just made a few costly mistakes. It's tough right now. It's a learning experience for our guys. We have the full lineup coming back next year (16 of 19). There are good things to come."