All the real important stuff is still ahead for the Oak Creek wrestling team.
The No. 3-ranked Knights won seven individual titles and cruised to their fourth straight Southeast Conference championship on Feb. 4. They will now host a WIAA regional meet Saturday, Feb. 11, which they fully expect to win, and then will take aim at the state sectional team dual at Kenosha Bradford on Feb. 14, where they will face the winner of the Bradford regional. The winner of that dual meet will advance to the WIAA team state meet.
Oak Creek felt it should have been at that stage last year, except the Knights were upset by league rival Bradford (which finished second in the Southeast meet on Feb. 4) in the sectional dual.
Coach Matt Sommerville said that dual was a meet "where everything that could go wrong, did go wrong."
Now, the Knights want some payback. in a big way.
"Oh yeah, we're hoping its them (Bradford), we really want revenge," said Southeast 120-pound champ Mitch Landgraf. "We want to get back at them and win every match."
Yes, it's clear, Oak Creek will enter the WIAA tournament series with a great deal of motivation. The Knights want to validate an extremely strong regular season with a spectacular state series.
"None of this is surprising," said Landgraf., "because we have a lot of talent on this team. We really push each other in the practice room. We push each other as far as we can go."
The regional will start at 10 a.m. In addition to the team champion advancing to the dual meet, the first four wrestlers in each weight class will advance to the individual sectional at Burlington on Saturday, Feb. 18.
Sommerville sees the internal depth and competition as keys to the team's success. He felt the conference effort was good preparation for what's ahead.
"The kids are ready to go," he said. "They wanted to show that they could compete against Bradford and the rest of the conference. Show them that there was a reason why we won both the dual and tournament titles. We knew we had to wrestle well to win the tournament and we did."
Oak Creek scored 257 points for the win, well ahead of Bradford (184).
Individual titles came from Landgraf at 120, Matt Berlin at 126, Veliko Kochiu at 132, Jesse Kovnesky at 152, Nolan Paar at 170, John Wright at 195 and Enrique Acevedo at 220.
Sommerville was happy for all the individual champions but especially for Landgraf and Paar.
"Both had tough matches and knew their opponents well," said Sommerville. "Nolan is fun to watch. He always finds a way to put his man in a bad position. It's not a normal thing that any coach teaches, as he sort of makes it up on the spot. It makes him a little hard to coach sometimes, but it is fun."
Landgraf downed a Franklin opponent (default) before beating a Kenosha Indian Trail opponent, 2-1, in the final.
Paar pinned a Kenosha Tremper foe (49 seconds) before defeating a Franklin opponent, 12-2, in his championship.
Berlin claimed his crown with pins over Racine Park (49 seconds) and Bradford (4:45) opponents; while Kochiu continued his scorched earth policy pinning an Indian Trail foe (4:27) and downing a a Tremper opponent (14-6).
Kovnesky defeated an Indian Trail competitor on a technical fall before pinning a Racine Case opponent (2:50) for his crown, while Wright beat a Bradford foe on a major decision (9-1) before edging a Tremper wrestler (3-2) in the final.
Acevedo pinned a Franklin opponent (51 seconds) and defeated a Bradford foe (3-0) for his championship.
Other good efforts included Randall Hunt, third at 106, Joey Colla second at 138, Nathan Berlin third at 145, Collin Daniels fifth at 160 and Brycen Hakes second at 285.
Colla received praise for his effort in the 5-4 loss to Bradford's Marco Infusino in the final.
"He's lost to him about four times in the last few years, but aside from the first time (which was a pin), every match has been within two points," said Sommerville. "Joey's going to get him, it's just a matter of time."
Landgraf said the conference title means a great deal to the team.
"This is something we speak of highly, because it's not every team that can do this for four straight years," he said.
Sommerville was pleased with the consistency the Knights have shown.
"Four years in a row, all the duals and the tournament, too," he said. "That really says something about the kids. The kids are excited about the next couple of weeks."
"Oh yeah, we can feel it," he said. "I'm excited every time I wake up."