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Oak Creek junior 132-pound state runner-up Veliko Kochiu was looking for a better result, as was coach Matt Sommerville.

Heck, the entire Knight wrestling community was hoping for a great WIAA state individual tournament last weekend at the Kohl Center in Madison.

But it just didn't quite work out that way.

Kochiu (30-2), the enthusiastic and talented Wausau transplant of proud Albanian extraction, made the most of his first season in Oak Creek by making his way to the championship match before falling to Stoughton's powerful Brandon Klein, 6-0, on Feb. 25.

But he was the only one of eight talented, mostly experienced Oak Creek wrestlers to make it past the second round.

That result left a little craw in Sommerville's throat.

"The individual tournament was a bit disappointing," he said. "I expected some of our guys to wrestle better than they did. I think they also had those expectations because a number of them were really disappointed with their results. We are going to have to get tougher and be better in certain positions. We can't give up easy points and expect to win against the best in the state. We made too many mistakes.

"Obviously, the bright spot was Veliko. He competed hard and did the things he was supposed to do. He has been a tremendous asset to our program."

Kochiu was looking to become just the second individual state champion in program history, next to Joe Aperi, who claimed the 160-pound title in 1992. Kochiu thought he could have done better, too.

"I was relaxed, thinking straight, but he (Klein) came out on top," Kochiu said. "You can't change that. It was all very nice, all fine (the traditional March of Champions entrance for all the finalists especially), but it wasn't what we came here for. I've got to work harder."

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Team state next

The Knights (13-0 in dual meets) have a chance at some redemption. They are looking forward to the WIAA state team tournament, which begins at 5:30 p.m. Friday, March 3, with a quarterfinal dual against Greater Metro Conference champion and rival Menomonee Falls (22-3) at the UW-Madison Field House.

If they win that match, they will roll right into a semifinal later that evening against the winner of second-ranked Stoughton (23-0) and Waterford (16-2).

The championship match is slated for 3 p.m. Saturday, March 4, at the field house.

"We are looking forward to wrestling Menomonee Falls at team state," Sommerville said. "They have a very well balanced team, a lot like our team. They are well coached, and they'll be ready for us. We have seen them a couple times this year, and we know that they are better now than at either time we saw them. We are going to have to wrestle our best."

Kochiu's road

Kochiu was at his best for almost the entire individual tournament. A sixth-place finisher at 120 for Wausau West in 2016, he had a great first day on Feb. 23, downing Jarod Maes of Bay Port (34-11) by a 9-0 count. He then came back to overwhelm Pewaukee's dangerous Eric Halverson (42-11), 9-4.

He was very encouraged by his results. Those wins set him up for an impressive 8-2 semifinal win on Friday, Feb. 24, against Cedarburg's Sam Boerner (35-11).

But the championship bout against Klein (53-3), one of five Viking finalists that night, was a different matter. Klein got a takedown in the first period and then rode Kochiu out. Klein then earned an escape in the second period, and Kochiu couldn't quite get a takedown.

Kochiu was on the bottom in the third period and couldn't get out. A late attempt at a throw that was countered by Klein resulted in a late three-point near fall, resulting in the final score.

"The kid (Klein) was just very slippery," Sommerville said. "Veliko is as good as we have coming off the bottom, but it was just very hard for him. He'll recover. He'll come back and get right to work."

As noted, Kochiu was the high point of the tourney for the Knights as the remaining seven won a total of three matches. Freshman Randall Hunt (29-15) picked up valuable experience at 106 in acquitting himself well in a 13-7 loss to Stevens Point's Justin Groshek.

Senior state meet veteran Mitch Landgraf (41-4) went 1-2 at 120 while senior Matt Berlin (41-4) did the same at 126. Sophomore Joey Colla  (37-8) was also 1-2 at 138, and junior Jesse Kovnesky (36-9) was 0-2 at 152. Sophomore Nolan Paar (39-4) was 0-1 at 170 while senior Enrique Acevedo (35-9) was 0-2 at 220.

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