The season had a disappointing conclusion for the multi-time Southeast Conference champion Oak Creek wrestling team, but the glass is still demonstrably half-full for the Knights as they start preparing for another strong season in 2017-18.
The Knights reached their high points when they qualified a school-record eight wrestlers to the WIAA state individual meet out of sectional competition on Feb. 18 and then on Feb. 21 when they beat league rival Kenosha Bradford for a coveted berth in the WIAA state team tournament.
Junior Veliko Kochiu was state runner-up at 132 pounds in the individual tournament, but he was the only Knight to advance past the second round. The following week, in the team tournament, the third-ranked Knights built a couple of leads against Greater Metro Conference champion Menomonee Falls, but against the strongest part of the Oak Creek lineup, the Indians won the final three bouts to end the Knights' season in the quarterfinals.
It left a bad taste in the mouth of the team and coach Matt Sommerville, who tried to look at the positives that came out of this still powerful campaign.
"Obviously the way things ended put a real damper on our season," Sommerville said. "However, I don't want to gloss over the amazing statistics that we achieved."
"We had several athletes break school records for wins, pins and team points. Matt Berlin (126 pounds) broke the school record for wins with 148, and he broke the school record for pins in a career with 90. Nolan Paar (170) broke the school record for team points scored in a season with 330.5, and he also tied the school record for wins as a sophomore with 40.
"We also sent a school-record eight wrestlers to individual state. Those are tremendous accomplishments. For now, we are working on getting our kids into the weight room and getting them to wrestle in either open wrestling or go to an area club for extra wrestling. We want them to compete in freestyle and greco state."
Oak Creek won the Slinger Gunslinger Invite, the Burlington Demon Invite, the Brookfield Central Lancer Invite and the Homestead Highlander Scramble in addition to the Southeast Conference tournament.
Seniors in the starting lineup included state qualifiers and co-captains Mitch Landgraf at 120 and Berlin at 126 (both 40-plus wins on the season) as well as state qualifying 220-pounder Enrique Acevedo (35-plus wins). Senior 285-pounder Brycen Hakes finished a match away from a state individual berth and had close to 30 wins on the season.
Returning state meet qualifiers include freshman Randall Hunt at 106, Kochiu, sophomore Joey Colla at 138, junior Jesse Kovnesky at 152 and sophomore Paar at 170. The Knights had a 13-1 overall dual-meet record.
"All the things are in place to have another successful season next year," said Sommerville. "We just need the kids to commit to getting better over the next nine months. We anticipate that Kenosha Bradford and Burlington will be very tough next season, which means we have to work harder in order to compete with them (on the sectional level)."