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Wright, Neff, Gerhmann miss finals, make medal round

February 24, 2019 GMT

MADISON — Jefferson’s three state qualifiers will all leave the WIAA State Individual Wrestling Tournament with a medal today.

That means very different things to each one of them.

It’s the fulfillment of the ultimate dream for 120-pound senior Weston Wright, who lost an 8-2 decision to top-ranked Jacek Nickowski of Baldwin-Woodville (37-0) in the Division 2 quarterfinals, then clinched a berth in the medal round with a pin in 2 minutes, 5 seconds against Evansville/Albany’s Jared Miller in the consolation bracket on Friday.

“It’s been a long road,” Wright said. “My entire life just working for this moment. I love it. It’s awesome to do what I came here to do. I was a little nervous yesterday before my first match, but before the match, I really got them under control and I haven’t had much problems with nerves. That’s been huge, being able to control my nerves.”

Going into the match against Miller, Wright figured he probably had to win on his feet. Miller scored the first takedown, but Wright escaped and countered another shot with a cow catcher for a 3-2 lead. Miller escaped to take a 3-3 lead after on period and chose down to start the second. Wright turned Miller with an arm bar, Miller bridged his shoulder blades up and Wright flattened him by running a half nelson over him.

“We do a thing where we had the kids write a goal,” Jefferson co-wrestling coach Devin Weber said. “Originaly Weston wrote, qualify for state and coach (Gary) Quackenbush stopped him and said, ‘That’s not good enough, you’ve got to place at state,’ so he changed it. He wrote, ‘I’m going to place at state’ and he’s been writing it down every day since and here he is, living truth.”

“He’s achieved his goal,” Jefferson co-wrestling coach EJ Pilarski said. “He’s gone from being well overlooked by a lot of people in the state to being on the podium guaranteed. Weston’s been wrestling hard. To see a kid who busts his butt so much, to see him get here and do this is very satisfying as a coach.”

It’s less than ideal for Jefferson junior Dean Neff, but still pretty positive. Neff placed sixth at 132 here a year ago in his first state appearance, and will do no worse this season after starting the tournament with a 2-1 record.

Neff (46-6) lost in the quarterfinals by an 8-3 decision in the quarterfinals to top-ranked Freedom senior Sam Peters (38-4), then clinched a berth in the medal round with a wild 13-12 decision over North Fond du Lac/St. Mary’s Springs Dalton Fritch in the consolation bracket.

Peters pushed Neff away repeatedly to shut down his shot attempts.

“He had heavy hands,” Neff said.

One week after whipping Fritch 17-4 in the sectional semifinals, Neff got in on a double and tossed Fritch to the mat in the opening seconds, but got taken to his back while riding in the second period. He had to fight off his back and the match went back and forth from there until Neff scored the winning escape with under eight seconds to go.

“Dean wrestled him last week,” Weber said. “That kid is really dangerous. He gets into a lot of funk. Last week, every time the kid hit funk, he hit it the wrong way, we ended up on top and ended up getting near fall out of it, which really separated the match. This week, he came at us and he hit some good stuff and really pushed Dean. That was a great match. Eight seconds left, do or die and he got one, to get away, that was awesome. That was big stuff. You hope the match isn’t that close, but when you’re here, it gets crazy sometimes. Anything can happen. Win and move on.

“His neck was a little sore from that last match. Every kid has aspirations of wrestling on the far end of the bracket and winning it. So it’s tough sometimes to come back from a loss here. He did that. He’s on the podium two years in a row. Nothing to be ashamed of there.”

Neff scouted video of Fritch prior to the sectional. This time, it was Fritch who had clearly learned some lessions for the rematch.

“He got a feel for how I wrestle at sectionals,” Neff said. “(When I was on my back), I was thinking (oh, crap). I didn’t want to be done. I just had to fight. I’ve just got to get higher on the podium this year. That’s what its all about.”

For Gehrmann (36-4), it was championship or bust. The fact that he guaranteed himself a third straight medal in his third trip to state was small consolation. Gehrmann won a tremndous quarterfinal tussle with Viroqua junior Josh Frye (44-7) in the quarterfinals, but lost a 12-6 decision to Seymour sophomore Wyatt Kaczrowski (32-5) in the semifinals.

Gerhmann set the tone early against Frye, throwing him out of bounds twice to set the tone. He then had a good shot on the whistle and got into a high crotch and into an arm bar to take a 5-0 lead. Frye was trying to stop it because he was in a little pain but the ref saw it was legal and Gehrmann got the near fall.

Frye started to score on Gehrmann from there and cut a 9-4 deficit to 9-8. He let Gehrmann up with 33 seconds left, but Gehrmann shot in on a leg and held on in the closing seconds to preserve a two-point victory.

“I guess my plan was to get up right away and then just slowly let him gain points,” Gehrmann said with tongue in cheek. “He’d just get on the two-on-one and he wouldn’t do anything, he would just get it. He was stronger than me, but I still pulled out ahead.”

Gehrmann was just as relentless to start out against Kaczrowski, hitting a quick double and tossing him to the mat for a 2-0 lead. But Kaczrwoski escaped and scored a late takedown to lead 3-2 after one period. Gehrmann took his final lead on a reversal to start the second period to lead 4-3, but gave up an immediate reversal and later his second takedown and trailed 7-5 entering the third.

Riding while trailing by three, Gerhmann gave up an escape and missed on desperation attempts in the final minute. Kaczrwoski countered for a five-point move and rode it out. It will be Kaczrowski rather than Gehrmann who faces defending 106 state champion Tommy Larson from East Troy for the championship.

“(Quintin) came out strong,” Weber said. “It kind of sucked. He got him up in the air. Usually when you do that, you’re going to get some near fall and he actually kind of overthrew it there and didn’t get the back points. When the other kid gets the escape and the takedown, now, you’re down even though you set the tempo to begin the match. That was a big bummer.

“The whole way, he kept trying to climb back from that, and never quite made it. He had his chances, a couple were out of bounds, a couple on the mat where he just didn’t quite catch and arm on a roll through or something where he might have put someone on their back.

“(Kaczrowski) avoided the big move. With Quintin, it’s one big move waiting to happen and we didn’t get one that match. (He scored on) counters and Quintin getting a little frustrated and that kind of led to him scoring some points.

“Obviously, you are at the highest level and that’s what kids are here to do, so kudos to that kid, he knocked him off and hopefully Quintin can come back and re-calibrate and get his mind back to where it needs to be strong for third tomorrow.”