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Leading up to Thursday’s big South Central Conference dual with the Nekoosa co-op, Wisconsin Dells wrestling coach Jim McFaul went over all the different scenarios in his head on how the match would play out. In each of those scenarios, McFaul had his Chiefs finishing on top

And while McFaul was ultimately correct, his team needed to work extra hard to get that victory. After a surprise loss in the opening match of the night at 220 pounds, Wisconsin Dells had to win five of the final six matches, including a pair of pins from senior Hunter Stenson and sophomore Langston Brown in the final two matches of the night, to pick up a 37-33 victory over the Papermakers at Wisconsin Dells High School.

The victory was anything but a sure thing after Wisconsin Dells senior Kayleb Galloway was pinned by Nekoosa freshman Jimmy Schaefbauer in the opening match at 220 pounds. Galloway moved up to face Schaefbauer, and was trailing 5-4 heading into the third period before Schaefbauer pinned him in 5 minutes, 4 seconds.

“I underrated (Schaefbauer). He’s a lot tougher than I thought. He’s a big kid. I thought Kayleb would be able to handle him. He had just a little bit too much size for him,” McFaul said. “(Galloway) worked hard. He only weighs about 185 (pounds), so he’s giving up a lot of weight there.”

The loss threw a wrench into McFaul’s plans, but the Chiefs were able to recover thanks to some clutch performances along the way. Sophomore Will Van Dinter got the Chiefs back on track with his 9-1 major decision victory over sophomore Gavin Hall at 106 pounds, which paired with Kevin Coughlin’s forfeit victory at heavyweight to give Wisconsin Dells a 10-6 lead.

The lead didn’t last long though, as the Papermakers won the next three matches, all via first-period pins, to take a 24-10 lead. Needing to stop Nekoosa’s momentum, the Chiefs turned to sophomore Jade Herzer at 138 pounds. Herzer delivered, as she pinned Nekoosa freshman Juan Torres in 2:27 to trim the lead to 24-16.

“She’s a gamer,” McFaul said of Herzer. “That was a big spark for us to get that one.”

Nekoosa got some of those points back when senior Craig Elsen fought his way to a 12-7 victory over junior Gavin Kingsley in an exciting match at 138 pounds. Elsen was leading Kingsley 9-1 after two periods, but Kingsley was able to put Elsen on his back and nearly pinned him midway through the third period. Elsen eventually escaped and held on for the victory.

“I expect to see them wrestle again in the conference finals and hopefully we’re done with (Elsen) until the state tournament,” McFaul said.

In one of the bigger matches of the night, Wisconsin Dells junior Marty Koenig was an 8-2 winner over senior Brant Hall at 145 pounds, which trimmed the Nekoosa lead to 27-19.

“Marty did a great job, just a real solid match,” McFaul said. “That was huge for us to get that win. That was one I would have taken either way. I didn’t know who was going to come out on top.”

Wisconsin Dells continued to close the gap with junior Billy Dethloff’s 8-5 victory over sophomore Sawyer Kniprath at 152 pounds, making the dual meet score 27-22.

Up next at 160 pounds was Nekoosa’s Aden Elsen. Knowing that the Nekoosa senior would be handful for anyone on the Wisconsin Dells roster, McFaul sent out sophomore Elijah Leonard to face him. Leonard did a good job staying off his back, but was eventually caught and pinned in the closing seconds of the second period, upping the Nekoosa lead to 33-22.

With three matches left, Wisconsin Dells needed to win all three of them, and pick up some bonus points along the way. Getting the first of those wins for Wisconsin Dells was senior Maverick Platt at 170 pounds. Platt was leading Nekoosa sophomore Ben Elsen 10-6 with time running out when Elsen got a late takedown to make it 10-8, but he didn’t have enough time to get any back points, allowing Platt to hold on for the victory.

McFaul said it was a scary moment seeing Platt get thrown late in the match.

“There is 13 seconds left and all he has to do is not tie up, and everybody is screaming that to him,” McFaul said. “But it’s easy to be over here (on the sidelines) and tell him what to do. All of sudden you’re in it, and you don’t know what to do.”

Stenson was up next at 182 pounds, and he needed just 1:07 to pin senior Ryan Dougherty, cutting the Nekoosa lead to 33-31. That set up a winner-take-all match at 195 pounds between Brown and Nekoosa sophomore Michael Wilson Jr. Brown dominated from the opening whistle, pinning Wilson in 19 seconds, sending the home crowd into a frenzy.

The victory was one the Chiefs needed if they were going defend the South Central Conference championship they won last season. The Papermakers figured to be Wisconsin Dells’ biggest competition in the conference this season, and now the Chiefs just need to beat Mauston and Wautoma to finish undefeated in the conference duals. If the Chiefs can accomplish that, they can win a second straight SCC title if they finish first or second at the conference meet on Feb. 2.

“It’s a huge win for us in the conference,” McFaul said. “I feel a lot more confident going against Wautoma and Mauston. It puts us in a lot better spot.”

Chiefs take second at Ithaca/Weston Invite

Following the comeback win over the Papermakers, Wisconsin Dells produced a strong performance at the Ithaca/Weston Invite on Saturday.

The Chiefs racked up four first place finishers en route to taking second at the 10-team tournament. Wisconsin Dells scored 224 points, just finishing eight behind team champion Viroqua (232) and 18.5 ahead of host Ithaca/Weston.

Leading the way for the Chiefs was the quartet of senior Hunter Stenson and juniors Gavin Kingsley, Marty Koenig and Langston Brown, who each captured individual titles. At 170 pounds, Stenson faced little trouble as he improved to 18-6 on the season, picking up a pair of pins and a decision victory.

Koenig similarly rolled to his title at 145. After recording pins in his two opening matches, Koenig knocked off Ithaca/Weston’s Monty Jennings, 7-2, to improve to 22-6 on the year. Kingsley continued to shine after returning from injury with a perfect 3-0 record on the day.

He earned a pair of pins before edging out a 14-10 decision over Richland Center’s Warrick Wolf in the title match at 138. Kingsley now sits at 10-5 on the season.

Brown made quick work of his first two opponents as he rolled to first period pins to reach the title match at 182. It was far from easy but he prevailed in the championship match, holding off Viroqua’s Paul Nickelotti, 13-12, to take home the gold and improve to 17-4.

Along with the four individual winners, the Chiefs had three other top-3 finishers. Senior Kevin Coughlin and junior Billy Dethloff each took second at 285 and 152, while senior Luis Bautista was third at 220.

220 pounds: Schaefbauer, N, pinned Galloway, 5:04. 106: Van Dinter, WD, def. G. Hall, 9-1. 113: Gellerup, N, pinned D. Kosterman, 0:55. 120: Thurber, N, pinned Eliz. Leonard, 0:36. 126: Koran, N, pinned J. Kosterman, 1:10. 132: Herzer, WD, pinned Torres, 2:27. 138: C. Elsen, N, def. Kingsley, 12-7. 145: Koenig, WD, def. B. Hall, 8-2. 152: Dethloff, WD, def. Kniprath, 8-5. 160: A. Elsen, N, pinned Elij. Leonard, 3:52. 170: Platt, def. B. Elsen, 10-8. 182: Stenson, WD, pinned Dougherty, 1:07. 195: Brown, WD, pinned Wilson, 0:19. 285: Wisconsin dells received forfeit. At Wisconsin Dells.

Team scores: Viroqua 232, Wisconsin Dells 224, Ithaca/Weston 205.5, Richland Center 141, Pecatonica/Argyle 133, Blair-Taylor 126.5, Poynette 101, De Soto 59.5, River Ridge/Cassville 57, Spring Green River Valley JV 18. At Weston.