The team season ended on a sour note for the Southeast Conference champion Oak Creek wrestling team last winter with a stunning loss to league rival Kenosha Bradford in the WIAA team dual sectional final.
Though still early, the Knights made some amends for that defeat with an impressive 40-37 victory over the Red Devils in the SEC opener on Dec. 1.
And they didn't stop there, coming back to win the Slinger Gunslinger Invitational on Dec. 3.
Though suffering from some tough graduation losses, including state 138-pound runner-up Andrew McIntosh, Knight coach Matt Sommerville said the goals remain the same.
"We are excited and ready for this year," he said. "We expect to win every time we compete. Our goals are still to win every time we are out there. We, like Bradford, do not have our complete team right now due to injury. When we do have a complete team, we will be very tough to beat. We are going to rely on our seniors and juniors a lot this year."
The Knights scored 400.25 points to win the 16-team Gunslinger as the host Owls were second with 363.75.
Interesting enough, Oak Creek won the meet with balance, having not claimed a single weight class.
Taking seconds were newcomer Randall Hunt at 113 pounds (4-1 on the day, two pins), veteran Matt Berlin at 126 (4-1, three pins), state meet veteran Joey Colla at 138 (4-1, two pins), state meet veteran Nolan Paar at 170 (4-1, four pins) and Bradford meet hero Ricky Acevedo at 220 (4-1, three pins).
Earning thirds were state 113-pound sixth-place finisher Mitch Landgraf at 120 (4-1), Brandon Lenczner at 132 (4-1) and veteran Jesse Kovnesky at 160 (4-1, two pins). Nathan Berlin at 145 was 3-1 and fifth at 145.
Against Bradford, the Knights found themselves in a hole after back-to-back Red Devil pins at 182 and 195 put Oak Creek down, 37-34, with only Acevedo remaining at 220. But Acevedo went after Bradford's Najee Mitchell and pinned him in 3:56 to secure the win.
"We knew they would be good and ready for us," Sommerville said. "Bradford is really talented and very young. Their program is going to be very good for several years. We thought it might come down to the last match, and thankfully we were able to put one of our seniors out there against an inexperienced but game opponent.
"Ricky Acevedo took care of business and got the job done like he is supposed to do. I was really happy for him; he is a great kid who deserves a lot of credit. Our seniors really shouldered this team last night. They provided the leadership and experience that we expect."
Other wins for the Knights included Brycen Hakes at 285 (pin), Landgraf at 120 (13-0 major decision), Matt Berlin at 126 (pin 2:37), Colla at 138 (default), Paar at 160 (pin 2:10) and Kovnesky at 170 (DQ).
Oak Creek will be at Racine Park for a Southeast Conference dual on Thursday, Dec. 8, and then will be at the Marquette Invite on Saturday, Dec. 10.