The podium beckoned, and Lincoln County took up the siren call.
All five of remaining Lincoln County grapplers took their place on the medal stand after Saturday’s action in the WIAA State Individual Wrestling Tournament, ranking at least fifth.
But all that led up to it paled to the championship round. Both Merrill senior Mason Reinhardt (170, 49-1) and Tomahawk junior Dane Borchardt (220, 49-1) captured their weight classes in the respective D1 and D2 divisions.
Reinhardt could hardly believe it when it was over.
“I’ve never felt like this,” he said. “I can’t feel my legs. I had dreams of this my whole life and my dreams don’t compare to this. This is crazy.”
It’s no exaggeration to say Reinhardt’s match was the most-anticipated of the tournament, pitting him against Hartford junior Beau Breske (50-1), already a two-time state champion that had never lost a match in the state of Wisconsin. Reinhardt’s only loss of the year came to Breske in a 4-2 decision at the Zelinski Duals in Whitnall in January.
Breske showed his talent immediately, taking Reinhardt down twice in the first period.
“He’s got such a good shot,” Reinhardt said. “I was like, ‘Holy cow!’”
Reinhardt escaped after the first TD and his escape early in the second cut the lead to 4-2 that held up for the period. Reinhardt needed to hold the quick Breske down in the third to have a chance, but he went one better and put Breske on his back. The referee ruled no points to the consternation of not only Reinhardt, the coaching staff and the Bluejay faithful. The Kohl Center erupted with the largest boo of the night.
“The whole (head) table as well as the officials knew I didn’t agree,” MHS coach Scott Arneson said. “The crowd didn’t either. That was awesome.
“Mason never broke. Mason never changed.”
Ironically, that was the moment Reinhardt knew he could win, even though Breske would finish the entire season without allowing an offensive point.
“I guess it motivated me to get faster,” Reinhardt said. “I thought to myself, ‘I almost pinned Beau Breske. I can win this match.’ ”
It didn’t hurt that the building rocked a chant of, “Mason, Mason, Mason…” late in his match.
“I was so motivated,” Mason said. “It’s definitely a positive when the whole place is on your side.
“I had talked with Arnie before the match and he said to just keep pushing the pace. When (Breske) got his first stalling, I looked at the clock quick and saw 47 seconds. I thought, ‘I’m going to make him get stalling again and tie this thing up.’ I talked to (Breske) after the match and he said he was gassed.
“I went into overtime believing I could win.”
Overtime starts immediately, so Breske got no respite. Reinhardt made his third stand-up escape in the third overtime period, and neither was able to work another takedown, giving Reinhardt the 5-4 victory.
Instant bedlam ensued. Bluejay senior Scott T. Arneson, himself a fourth-place finisher at 132 pounds, couldn’t wait to celebrate with his teammate and friend, “through thick and thin.”
“I was pumped,” Arneson said. “I sitting in the middle of our section and when Mason got that (last) escape I was like, ‘Get me out of here!’ Before the referee even blew the (final) whistle, when he had the head tie-up, I was sprinting right to Mason.”
Reinhardt could have avoided Breske by choosing to wrestle in a relatively weak D1 182-pound class.
“The whole year people were wondering why Mason was wrestling 170,” coach Arneson said. “Our way of thinking was we’re trying to win a state championship, not a certain individual. It’s nice when that stuff works out and nobody is more determined than Mason. He’s been with me for 12 years and he’s won state freestyle and Greco titles, but I’m sure this one feels great.”
Reinhardt concurred, mostly…
“It was my plan to be state champion, but I definitely wanted another shot at (Breske),” he said.
Borchardt faced Sheboygan Falls junior Brady Koller (40-8) in his final and came away with a 3-2 triumph.
“It feels great,” he said. “It’s one of the most satisfying feelings of my life. No doubt it’s been my goal since the beginning of the year.
“It got a little tough at the end. I just trusted what my coaches were telling me and it all worked out. They know what it takes to win. Coach (Bob) Garrou is an amazing coach. I also want to thank Kaleb (Kaminski) for all he did working with me. I don’t know what I’d do without my brother Jake here, too. I just feel he really cares about how I do. He’s definitely pushed me all season.”
Borchardt grabbed an early takedown and added a later escape. He nearly took Koller down twice in the third period.
“I definitely like coming out attacking right off the bat. I take the first couple of shots and that puts them on their heels.”
Merrill senior Arneson (132, 48-3) and Tomahawk junior Kaminski (182, 49-2) overcame disappointing Friday semi-final losses with consolation wins early Saturday, only to suffer final disappointment in their third-place matches. Both settled for fourth – Arneson after falling behind 5-0 early to Kimberly junior Jordan Weinzatl (37-9) lost 5-3, and Kaminski was edged 1-0 by Chetek senior Mitchell Wozniak (38-4), the same wrestler he nipped in the ultimate tiebreaker on Friday morning with an escape in the final 10 seconds. Arneson dominated the second period but only could come up with two back points, and a sure takedown attempt late in the third period ended just out of bounds.
“I just tried to keep a positive mind,” Arneson said about the early deficit. “If it’s meant to be, it’ll be.”
Arneson had reached the third-place match with a pin in :53 of New London sophomore Scott Cook (37-8).
“I feel I didn’t wrestle up to my potential and I didn’t reach my goal,” Arneson said. “My senior year getting on the podium for the first time is pretty cool. Thirty years from now, I’ll probably be happy.”
Meanwhile, Kaminski nearly reversed Wozniak to his back for the win in the final 10 seconds, but it hung in the balance for a moment before being thwarted. Kaminski had gotten to the third-place match with a 3-2 victory over Wautoma senior Taylor Rivers (46-5).
“I was sort of disappointed, to be honest,” Kaminski said of his state experience. “My goal is to be state champion. I lost some pretty tough matches. This is another step in the road to get a state championship.
“The competition was great. I knew I would have to wrestle my best. I think in my semi-final match I didn’t live up to that standard.”
THS senior Jake Borchardt (285, 44-8) worked his way back to fifth. He was pinned in Saturday’s consolation round, but rebounded with a 7-6 win over Richland Central junior Kaleb Crook (39-10). Borchardt was giving up 60+ pounds in most of his matches.
The 220-pound class best fit both Jake and Dane, but Jake went up to 285.
“It’s too bad when two brothers weigh the same,” Garrou said. “The older one has always gone up.”
“I like heavyweight,” Jake added. “I hated 220.”
“Three-and-2 at the state tournament is pretty good, and you’re beating good kids at state, obviously,” Garrou said. “We brought three kids here and all three medaled.
“What the Borchardts did, they stuck together and fought it out. That’s the stuff that dreams are made of. The Borchardts lost their father when they were in seventh and eighth grade. I know there’s a huge smile up in heaven tonight because both of them represented Tomahawk so well. Their mother is so strong. She never let them do anything wrong and she taught them to be dedicated.”
Arneson felt the same way about his team.
“Two out of three got on the podium,” he said. “That’s what we shoot for. Mason can feel good about being a state champion. Scottie can feel good about being on the podium. Devon (Schultz) can feel good about qualifying for state. Those are all great things for our school and community. Our kids handled themselves with class.”