It was a day full of success for the Baraboo prep wrestling team at Saturday’s WIAA Div. 1 Regional, as eight Thunderbirds walked out of Baraboo High School as sectional qualifiers.
Jacob Kimfbeck, Pablo Ramirez, and John Gunderson all became regional champs on the day, while five others advanced as well.
“It was by far our best day of wrestling all year,” Baraboo coach Joe Bavlnka said. “We came away with three champs and beat some really good kids. The kids really stepped up in pressure-filled situations. It was a lot of fun.”
Bavlnka was especially impressed of Kimpfbeck, who came into the meet with a 29-10 record but cruised through the 195-pound bracket to become regional champion. After a bye, the senior had a quick pin over Sparta’s Madden Connelly (:42) before pinning Holmen’s Kyle Burkhardt at the 2:46 mark in the championship.
“Jacob is a senior, and this was his first year wrestling varsity all year long and he keeps getting better and better. In the finals he just went out there and gave it everything he got. He got in a scramble situation and ended up on top and took the pin. He’s a kid that’s put a lot of time in the weight room all year, just trying to get better athletically.”
Beating any wrestler from Holmen was an accomplishment, as the Vikings came into the meet as the top ranked team in the state and became regional champs with a team score of 282.5. Sparta took second (188.5), followed by Baraboo (178), Tomah (166), Reedsburg (107.5), La Crosse Central/Logan (88), Portage (74), and Onalaska/Luther (51.5).
“They’re ranked number one, and I think they definitely deserve that because they’re probably the best team we’ve seen all year,” Bavlnka said of Holmen. “Sparta has some very good wrestlers, are good together as a team too, and then Tomah always seems to wrestle really well at this time of the year. So our regional was definitely one of the better ones in the state.”
Gunderson meanwhile, continued his already impressive freshman season with a sweep in the 132. After an opening bye, Gunderson (37-7) took down Tomah’s Owen Walters by a 5-0 decision before also shutting out Reedsburg’s Caden Fry, winning 6-0.
“I think John, a lot like (Kimpfbeck) is locked in and wrestling really well,” Bavlnka said. “He does all the things as a wrestler that makes him successful. He really dominated on Saturday.”
Two-time state qualifier Pablo Ramirez (41-5) did what was expected on Saturday in the 138, going 3-0 on the day to become regional champ as well. The junior started things off with a pin over Onalaska/Luther’s Gunner Santos (3:39) before defeating Sparta’s Kyle Erickson 6-2. In the first place match, Ramirez had a back-and-forth match against Holmen’s Tanner Schultz but won the scramble game to piece together an 8-4 victory. It was only Schult’z sixth loss of the season.
“For Pablo, that finals match against Schultz, I think Schultz has won bi-state a couple of times. To get that victory, Schultz’s been ranked in the top four all year at 138. I’d say for Pablo it was his best win of his career right now so that was a lot of fun to see,” Bavlnka said.
Baraboo’s result was somewhat heartbreaking for some. With the top four finishers in each weight division advancing, four T-Birds fell just short of the cut, taking fifth place to end their seasons. Carter Stapleton took fifth in the 106, Michael Perez went 2-2 in the 170, while Carlos Chavez took fifth in the 152. Eli Davidson, who amassed 31 wins this year, ran into a star-studded 126-pound bracket and ended in fifth as well.
‘If you look at his weight class, the two guys in the final are ranked top four in the state in the 126. And the next two kids had over 30 wins so the first round we knew would be a big match for him,” Bavlnka said. “Eli is a tremendous worker, he had a great year. You always want kids to keep going when they’re quality caliber. But with this tough regional, sometimes that happens.”
Bavlnka said fortunately, all four wrestlers who took fifth are underclassmen.
“Eli is a sophomore, and Carlos Chevez is a freshman so they’re going to have more opportunities moving forward here. Their careers are still ahead of them and this was still a good building block for them moving forward,” he said. “Carter Stapleton took fifth but he’s only a freshman so he’s had a good year stepping in at 106. He killed that spot; won some big matches.”
Other sectional qualifiers for Baraboo included freshman Brandon Jesse who took third in the 120, sophomore Tyson Fry who took fourth in the 220, and junior Joe Schick who took third in the 285. One of the highlights of the day came from senior Malaki Ringelstetter (15-19), who was trailing La Crosse’s Dallas Kapanke 7-3 in the opening match of the 145. Kapanke came in with a record of 27-11 and controlled the pace for the first two periods, but Ringelstetter locked up a cradle with less than 30 seconds left in the final period and pinned Kapanke at the 5:37 mark to pull off the upset. The win ultimately punched a ticket to sectionals for Ringelstetter, as he went on to lose his next two matches but won the fourth place match over Kapanke by rule to take fourth place.
Baraboo had one second place finisher, as sophomore Aiden Estes (26-7) advanced with a went 3-1 result in the 182. Estes pinned Portage’s Brandon Andrews (1:38), and won 13-8 over Onalaska/Luther’s Zach Udermann before falling by pin to Holmen’s Isaac Lahr (2:44). Estes capped things off with a 10-2 win over Reedsburg’s Brady Fry.
The eight sectional qualifiers will travel to Waunakee on Saturday for a WIAA Div. 1 Sectional.