The Oak Creek wrestling team has been knocking on the door of the state's very elite for a few years now.
And the Knights just put some serious effort into opening that lock when they won four individual championships en route to upsetting third-ranked Sparta and claiming the title in the 14-team Brookfield Central Lancer Invitational on Jan. 14.
"We had a tremendous effort by the whole team Saturday," said coach Matt Sommerville. "We knew we would have our work cut out for us but thought we could get the job the done if everyone had a good day. Although some of the guys didn't have their best day, they still pulled through when we needed them. We are very happy about the tournament win. Beating the third-ranked team in the state is a big deal for us."
It was the second major tournament win in a row for the Knights following their victory in the Burlington Duals on Jan. 7.
Oak Creek, which entered the meet ranked seventh in the Wisconsin Wrestling Online state poll, scored 374 points for its title, as Sparta was second with 359 and Muskego third with 300.5. They will be at the Homestead Highlander Scramble on Friday, Jan. 20.
The Knights entered the meet with four wrestlers ranked in the top 10 in their individual weight classes, and they all held up their end. Mitch Landgraf at 120 pounds (ranked sixth), Matt Berlin at 126 (ranked ninth) and Nolan Paar at 170 (ranked fourth) all won their individual weight classes, as did John Wright at 195.
Landgraf (22-2 overall) beat Brookfield Central, Catholic Memorial and Homestead opponents before edging a Fort Atkinson opponent, 3-2, for his crown.
Berlin (23-2) had a huge day, as he pinned Pius XI, Muskego, Fort Atkinson and Memorial opponents before giving Beaver Dam's Devin De Los Angeles (23-1) his first loss of the season in a 5-4 decision.
Paar (22-2) continues to impress as he pinned Fort Atkinson and Delavan-Darien opponents before winning by technical fall over a Homestead foe and then pinning a Sparta opponent for his title.
"Nolan Paar had a great day beating some quality kids by pin and tech fall," Sommerville said. "He is a really fun kid to coach. Nolan doesn't do a whole lot of conventional things, but he manages to find a way to put people on their backs, and when he gets them there, they usually don't get off."
Wright (9-3) was 4-1 on the day for his title, losing an overtime second-round decision to a Kenosha Tremper opponent but then coming back to beat Whitnall, Central and Sparta competitors for his crown.
"John Wright has had some mental mistakes and is still trying to break off the rust from an early season injury that he is finally getting back from," Sommerville said, "but at the end of the tournament John finally figured some things out, and hopefully he continues to do what he is capable of."
Earning seconds were Joey Colla at 138 (20-4 overall) and Enrique Acevedo at 220 (18-5), while thirds went to Brycen Hakes at 285 (17-8) and Veliko Kochiu at 132 (11-1). Kochiu entered the tourney ranked fourth in the state but lost a tough semifinal decision, 8-6, to a Fort Atkinson opponent.
Randall Hunt at 113 (16-9), Nathan Berlin at 145 (14-9), and Jesse Kovnesky at 152 (19-5) all earned fourths. Kovnesky entered the tourney with an honorable-mention ranking in state polls. Brandon Lenczner at 138 (14-4) was fifth.