Surprising even their own coaches, Whitnall wrestlers placed second in the WIAA Regional Tournament at Greenfield High School Saturday.
Three Falcon wrestlers won regional championships. Six others advanced to the sectional tournament at Waukesha West next Saturday by finishing fourth or better.
Anthony Senthavisouk (106 pounds), Blake Leslie (126) and Zach Barnhart (170) are the titlists. Ryan Olson (152) and Ethan Harycki (220) took runner-up spots. Joe Price (120), Nick Monty (138) and Michael Langenohl (182) finished third. Dylan Kellner (132) finished fourth.
Mukwonago won the tournament with 236.5 points to Whitnall's 174. Greenfield finished sixth among the eight teams with 102 points.
Describing himself as "pretty happy overall with the team effort," Whitnall coach John Quinlan was clearly pleased with a performance that earned his team a finish well beyond the middle-of-the-pack range that he had predicted in advance of the tourney. He noted that his Falcons had finished well ahead of Waterford and Muskego, two teams that had bested Whitnall in tournaments earlier this season.
Senthavisouk scored a pair of decisions en route to his title, including a 9-1 major decision over Waterford's Justin Ratkovec (34-9) in the final. The sophomore improved his season record to 43-4.
Leslie had suffered a rib injury a week earlier in the Woodland Conference tournament and was "at about 70 percent" Saturday, according to his father. The sophomore's practice for the week was limited to the stationary bike. But he was dominant on the mat, with a pin and a pair of two-point decisions. He'll take a 31-15 record into the sectionals.
Barnhart, a senior and co-captain, had a bye and won a pair of decisions, one of them a major, on the way to his title. Barnhart's win in the finals was his 41st of the season.
The season ended for the four varsity wrestlers who didn't advance, including senior co-captain Zach Price. "I was disappointed for Zach, that he couldn't make it for one more week," said Quinlan. The coach noted that two of the non-qualifiers--Mark Burakowski and Kevin Seyedin--each finished with a pair of wins. Burakowski's were both pins. John Smith, pinned in his opener, didn't get a chance for redemption because there were only five wrestlers entered in the 285-pound class.
The road ahead--finishing either first or second at the sectionals to advance to the WIAA State Tournament in Madison--won't be easy for any of the wrestlers. Senthavisouk, ranked second in the state, faces the toughest test, according to his coach.
"Anthony definitely is at the toughest weight in the sectional," said Quinlan. "But there are no easy ones for anyone after this. Zach (Barnhart) has put himself in a good position, and we might be able to get four or five guys into the semifinals next week."
Winners of one regional are paired against fourth-place finishers in the other regional in the sectional's opening round, which puts Whitnall in better shape this year than last, the coach observed. Last year, five Falcon wrestlers qualified for the sectionals, but four of them were regional fourth-placers and were eliminated at the outset of the sectionals.