PRAIRIE DU SAC — There wasn’t much of a difference between the Baraboo and Sauk Prairie wrestling teams on Thursday night.
The teams went toe-to-toe in a Badger North Conference dual at Sauk Prairie High School. In the end, seven-time defending Badger North champion Sauk Prairie had enough in the tank, hanging on for a 30-26 home win over Baraboo.
“As we were coming into this, we were like it’s going to be one of those kind of dual meets where it comes down to the wire,” Sauk Prairie head coach Scott Smith said. “We were able to pull out some key victories there. ... All 14 matches was all guts. And not just guts by Sauk Prairie, guts by Baraboo as well.”
Baraboo head coach Joe Bavlnka took away plenty of positives a close loss to a Sauk Prairie team that typically has their number.
“I’m real proud of the guys,” Bavlnka said. “Last year we came in here and got beat 65-3. We come back a year later and it comes down to the last two matches. We got some pride back. We’re definitely going to use this as a motivator moving forward the rest of the season and years to come.”
The Eagles jumped ahead early, opening up a 21-0 lead after Hayden Caygill (113 pounds), Zeke Smith (120), Dylan Herbrand (126) and Gavin Lankey (132) won by decision.
“It was nice to get off to a good start with our lower weights,” Smith said. “Their lower weights are feisty and tough, but we have a little more experience than them and that was the advantage in the lower weights.”
Caygill earned a pin in 5 minutes, 14 seconds, while the other three matches were battles, as Smith pulled out a 10-5 decision over Brandon Jesse, Herbrand earning an 11-9 overtime win over Eli Davidson, and Lankey picking up a 4-3 decision over John Gunderson.
“What it really boiled down tonight, I think we lost four one-point matches or something like that, two overtime matches,” Bavlnka said. “If we win one of those, we win this dual.”
Baraboo climbed back in the game back in it and pulled within 21-18 after Braydon Scarborough won by a 15-0 technical fall at 160 pounds.
“A kid like Braydon Scarborough coming out and getting a technical fall,” Bavlnka said, noting that Scarborough is wrestling up a weight class. “He’s had kind of a long journey with wrestling, and here he is, he comes out and he puts us in position to win. We needed that win and he gets a tech fall.”
The T-Birds stayed within striking distance until Sauk Prairie’s Reece Bierstaker won by a 5-3 decision over Tyson Fry at 220 pounds.
“220 to seal the deal was giant,” Smith said of Bierstaker’s win. “A lot of even matchups, a lot of tough kids on both Baraboo and Sauk Prairie. I’d say the fans got their moneys worth, it was just one of those nights where it was a battle.”
“It hurts when you get this close, and they wrestled their butts off,” Bavlnka said. “We competed at a very high level. The great thing is that’s how kids grow. You face adversity like that. You get put out in a gym with a packed house and you wrestle hard like that, and that’s the way you grow as a person.”
Sauk Prairie improved to 3-0 in Badger North duals this season, also notching convincing wins over Portage and Mount Horeb.
Baraboo entered the night 1-1 in Badger North duals, beating DeForest on Dec. 1 before falling at Waunakee on Dec. 8.
“Sauk and Waunakee are picked to win conference,” Bavlnka said. “And here we are. We battled Waunakee last week, that came down to the wire and this one was even closer. So we’re getting close to that point where we’re knocking off the top teams.”
Both teams will participate in invitationals on Saturday, with Baraboo heading to Richland Center and Sauk Prairie competing in Fond du Lac.
“We’ve just got to bounce back and use this as a motivator,” Bavlnka said.