Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Leibforth, Ruzga, Nugent win SLC titles

by Mike Ramczyk

February 10, 2011

Delavan — Badger coach Shane Koehl knew his team had an outside shot at the Southern Lakes crown going into Saturday's conference meet at Delavan-Darien High School.

After last Thursday's dual against Delavan-Darien was cancelled, the Badgers needed a big day at the meet to catch up with conference-leading Burlington.

Despite three individual championships, the Badgers stumbled to a fifth-place finish with 169 points. Elkhorn won the meet with 200 points, while Burlington grabbed second with 196. Delavan-Darien and Wilmot also finished ahead of the local grapplers.

As a result, Burlington and Elkhorn won the conference co-championship. Koehl was disappointed, considering the Badgers beat Elkhorn in a dual and tied Burlington earlier in the season.

"I thought we would have been closer to the top," he said. "It doesn't look good to finish fifth in the SLC tournament. We just didn't have enough guys score Saturday. We did well overall, but we had three weight classes without points. But there are five good teams. It shows how balanced the SLC is."

Badger wrestler Trevor Hagmeier, who competed at 130, tore his pectoral muscle during a match Saturday. Koehl said he thought Hagmeier could've given the team points if he hadn't gotten injured.

Three take conference titles

Badger boasted plenty of breakout performances, including three SLC champions. At 140, senior John Leibforth grabbed the title with a 7-5 decision over Burlington's Willie Ehlen in the championship match.

"John wrestled solid with no mistakes," Koehl said. "It was a good day for him. He was a little conservative in his matches. I hope it continues to build confidence for him. We have a goal for John to place at state. And he is finally close to 100 percent."

Ed Ruzga picked up Badger's next championship at 215. Competing with a relentless intensity, Ruzga simply overpowered Burlington's Tyler Vorpahl 4-1 to take the title. Ruzga has been impressive in his two weeks back since battling a back injury.

"Sometimes Ed squeezes his opponent's head so hard, I think it will pop off," Koehl said. "Ed gets into another zone out there. He is fun to watch, and I know he will give 110 percent every time. It was good to see him smile, he puts a lot of pressure on himself. In the championship match, he wrestled straightforward, overpowered the kid and was hard to score on."

Ruzga dominated all day, with a pin in 1:20 in the semifinals and a 16-2 major decision victory in the quarterfinal.

Badger's last championship bout of the day came at heavyweight (285), where a much lighter Brad Nugent (220 pounds) battled Elkhorn's Connor Selvey (260 pounds). Nugent used his quickness to school Selvey in a 9-3 decision. Koehl was impressed with Nugent.

"Brad just kept his feet moving the whole time," he said. "Selvey tried to jack him up, and Brad changed levels and put him on his back for a five-point lead. It was 7-1 after the second period, and Selvey played catch up the rest of the way. Nugent wrestled smart. It was a good match for him."

At 160, Dylan Peter advanced to the championship match, but lost 4-2 to Elkhorn's Jake Stilling.

"In the second period, Dylan went right at Stilling and lost an opportunity for a takedown," Koehl said. "Then he was taken down right at the end. It was one of the better matches Dylan has wrestled all year."

Badger also had three third-place finishers, Randy Shine (135), Michael Coyne (112) and Mike Ezelle (145).

Shine won by a 10-1 major decision in his third-place match over Waterford's Cody Nannemann. Shine finished 3-1 for the afternoon.

"Randy was phenomenal," Koehl said. "He had a stacked weight class, but he destroyed three really good wrestlers."

Ezelle won by a 6-0 decision over Elkhorn's Devin Kinney in the third-place match. Ezelle also picked up a pin and another decision and went 3-1 for the day.

"It was a nice day for him," Koehl said about Ezelle. "It was a nice day for him. He lost to the champion."

At 189, Branden Allen picked up fourth place with a 2-2 record. Koehl said Allen was caught in a head throw in his two losses, and it was the difference.

"Those are two mistakes you can't afford against a good kid," Koehl said. "It could hurt Branden in the seeding meeting for regionals. It was a disappointing day for him. Two wins could've been a difference of 10 points."

Badger will now head to the Wilmot Regional Saturday. The tournament will be loaded, with Muskego, Milton and Kenosha Tremper all ranked in the state's top 10. Koehl thinks anything can happen, but he knows it will be tough for the team to advance to sectionals. Only the regional champion will move on.

"Tremper is the favorite," Koehl said. "And Muskego has a lot of horses. Advancing 10 kids to sectionals is a legitimate goal. One of the five teams, including us, should be able to beat the other regional winner."