When Badger’s wrestling team traveled Jan. 4 to the Sauk Prairie Invite, it was just a small crew of Badgers who competed in a large tournament once again. And just like the team’s past few tournaments, those who made the trip did well, as all four Badger competitors finished fourth or better.
Despite the small team size, the Badgers were able to finish in the middle of the pack, with a ninth-place finish out of 18 teams.
Austin Peter placed fourth in the 138-pound bracket, picking up a win in the first round and a dominant 13-0 victory in the second round before running into a couple of tough opponents in the semifinals and a third-place match that kept him out of the top three.
Brandon Martinez finished one place higher in the 145-pound class, taking third overall. After struggling in a semifinals loss, Martinez bounced back with a gutsy overtime win to claim a bronze that impressed head coach Hank Peters.
“To have the mental toughness and the heart to push through his exhaustion should be a big step in the right direction for his confidence,” Peters said.
Continuing to climb up the standings, Josh Stritesky claimed a second-place finish for the Badgers in the 113-pound bracket. After three strong wins to qualify for the finals, Stritesky had a tall task in front of him with a matchup against the fourth-ranked 113-pounder in Division 1, Quintin Wolbert of Kettle Moraine.
Stritesky wrestled well for most of the match, building up a 12-6 advantage and looking like he was in good position to win. However, one strong move by his opponent turned the tide and Wolbert pinned Stritesky to clinch a win.
In Badger’s best finish of the day, Jake Stritesky claimed first place in the 132-pound class with an undefeated 4-0 run that included a win against the state’s top-ranked wrestler in that class. Stritesky came into the match with a high ranking of his own, sitting at fifth in the Wisconsin wrestling coaches poll.
Not only did the win come against a top-tier foe — Cayden Henschel of West Bend East — it was one that Jake Stritesky had past history with. On Dec. 28, Henschel beat the Badger in the Mid-States Classic.
When the two met up a week later, the match was as close as the two wrestlers’ top rankings would suggest, and it tied 4-4 with a minute left. Jake Stritesky was able to break the tie with 45 seconds left to claim a 6-4 victory that is a good omen for his dreams of a deep state tournament run.
“To avenge a loss to the number-one ranked wrestler in the state indicates he is capable, both physically and mentally, of doing very well in February at the state tournament. This was a huge confidence builder for him,” Peters said.