Coach: Great Wrestling Memories, No Regrets
By Ken McKenzie
In his 12 seasons as part of the SPASH wrestling program, including the last six as head coach, Duane Groshek has never had a year quite like this one.
The whirlwind rush going on since November is now over with the conclusion of the 72nd Annual WIAA Individual State Wrestling Tournament.
Along the way, the SPASH team won the first-ever regional team championship, advancing them to face Hudson at Menomonie in team sectional competition. Battling through a tough non-conference schedule of duals and selective invitationals- while existing in the shadow of rival Wisconsin Valley Conference member Wisconsin Rapids/Lincoln- is not easy.
The squad came together to compete well, eventually earning five regional individual titles and three runners-up; then advancing ten to sectionals and sending five to state, including sectional champs Dylan Koontz and Fritz Schierl.
“Getting two guys on the podium (at state in Madison) is certainly a highlight,” said Coach Groshek of the season ending “Considering they (twin brothers, Brady and Dylan Koontz) are just sophomores… can only help build on our team resume as we begin next season.”
“We’ll have four state qualifiers and two state place winners coming back,” he added. “Those are criteria calculated into bracket seeding in almost every tournament we enter. It bodes well for us in those seeding opportunities.”
Brady Koontz finished at 49-7 on the season and placed sixth after winning his first two matches before dropping his semifinal match, the consolation semifinal and fifth place match.
Dylan Koontz also won his early two matches, advancing to the semifinals where he lost to eventual (undefeated) champion Airk Furseth of Janesville Craig. He then lost in the consolation semifinal by a two point decision and then earned his fifth place finish by winning a 5-3 decision.
Chance Bailey, a freshman state qualifier, finished the campaign with a 29-12 record but accomplished much in his first round of learning. He had a real tough draw out of the gate, matched against the state’s #2 wrestler out of the very strong Kaukauna Grapplin’ Ghosts program.
“I know Chance Bailey was disappointed in losing his opener. I thought he’d get a wrestle back opportunity but then his guy lost, so he was done,” Groshek said. “I told him it doesn’t diminish what he accomplished as a freshman in getting to state and having that experience now to build on. I know some of the guys are already making plans for wrestling Greco-Roman style now in their off season; even though I’d think they might like to take at least a little time off.”
Disappointed he didn’t achieve at least the fourth place award that he secured last year, Schierl was a returning state qualifier who battled through a partial tear to a lateral ligament in an ankle and came back to win conference, regional and sectional championships (at 152#) before losing out to the eventual state runner-up. Schierl lost two matches- tough, one-point decisions at Madison- but Groshek said his performance bodes well for a stronger return next year and puts the team in a great position.
“Naturally we hoped to see Fritz on the podium,” said Groshek. “With the type of injury he had, most guys would have said, ‘see you next year’. But he continued to compete when he could. His injury may have taken a bigger toll on him than I even realized. He battled two months and his mental toughness was incredible. Now we can hope his injury will get the chance to finally heal.”
The final competitor at Madison for SPASH was senior Noel Winch, who recently took part in the active National Signing Day for senior continuing their athletic careers at the next level and will play D-II football at Winona State. Winch won a 4-2 decision in his first state appearance before losing in his quarterfinal match by a fall and later dropping a 7-2 decision in the consolation round.
“It’s very satisfying to work with a young man like Noel Winch and see him succeed,” Grosehk said. “Noel had not wrestled in three years and came out as a senior, had a lot of fun and brought his football leadership skills with him that helped our team out a great deal. He won a regional title, qualified to go to state and then got a win in Madison. I asked him and he’s awfully glad he wrestled this year. Like we’ve said our team mantra has been all year, ‘no regrets’.”