A few unexpected victories and some key lineup strategy led to a surprisingly lopsided win for Whitnall High School wrestlers Wednesday night as they beat New Berlin 48-18. The victory sets up a battle for the Woodland Conference duals title next Wednesday against Wauwatosa.
Both New Berlin and Wauwatosa combine wrestlers from two district high schools into a single team.
With New Berlin expected to dominate--if not sweep--the heavier weight classes, it was a 2-1 win by Michael Langenohl, wrestling at 195 pounds, that keyed the team win. Co-head coaches Craig Austin and John Quinlan both praised Langenohl's effort in beating New Berlin's Alex Rodriguez, who carried a 25-6 record into the match.
"We didn't really expect him to win," said Austin, noting that Langenohl was wrestling a weight heavier than his usual slot. "He wrestled a great match."
"That was one of Michael's smartest matches all year," added Quinlan.
Without a consistent 195-pounder all season, Whitnall was looking at a possible forfeit at that weight. Instead, the Falcons forfeited at 170, moving both Langenohl and co-captain Zach Barnhart up a weight class. Barnhart also posted a victory, a 6-3 decision, and the Falcons gave up only 15 of a possible 30 points among the heavier weights.
At the opposite end of the weight spectrum, the coin flip determining the wrestlers' check-in order also played a role. New Berlin intended to forfeit to Whitnall standout Anthony Senthavisouk at 106 pounds, but the Falcons were able to insert Jared Bessler into the lineup to accept the forfeit. Senthavisouk then wrestled at 113 pounds and pinned his opponent.
The middle weights also saw a lineup shift, this one due to injury. Falcons 145-pound starter Tyler Rabideaux incurred a season-ending injury Saturday, so 138-pounder Nick Monty moved up to that weight Wednesday, making room for reserve Mark Burakowski at 138. Both Burakowski and Monty won with pins.
Ryan Olson scored a pin in 56 seconds, about five minutes quicker than his average. Co-captain Zach Price also won by pin while his brother, Joe, and Blake Leslie took decisions. "Joe really did a nice job," said Quinlan, noting that he had lost to his New Berlin opponent three times previously.
"At the start of the season, we never, ever thought we would have a chance at the conference title," said Austin. "This is just awesome. Our guys really picked each other up tonight."
"We wrestled hard tonight," added Quinlan. "All the tossup matches went our way."
Neither coach expected Wednesday night's win to be the 21st of the season. "We definitely did not envision 21 wins," said Quinlan, "and the 21 haven't been because of one or two guys--it's been a team effort."
But he did credit two guys with moving the team beyond expectations: co-captains Zach Price and Zach Barnhart. "Our senior leadership has been fantastic," said Quinlan. "Those are two of the best captains we've ever had."
A win next Wednesday night at Wauwatosa West will tie the Falcons and the undefeated Tosa team for the duals championship. Whitnall will be a clear underdog.
"We're definitely going to have our hands full and then some," said Quinlan. "They've had a fantastic year in the conference, and they've been in the top two or three in every tournament they've entered. If we're going to win, this is going to have to be our finest match, without a doubt."
- Whitnall's junior varsity will compete in a tournament Saturday at Whitefish Bay.
- Whitnall High School has instituted its own coaches' Hall of Fame, and Quinlan is its first inductee. A wall plaque memorializing the induction was unveiled prior to Saturday's Zelinski Memorial tournament (see photo). Quinlan was inducted into the Wisconsin High School Wrestling Coaches Hall of Fame last September.
- Coach Quinlan's comment about two of the best captains his team has ever had might not play well at home: both Price and Barnhart have brothers who captained the Falcon wrestlers in past years.