Big success at state for SCF wrestlers

Above The Fold Media | For the Leader
St. Croix Falls wrestlers and coaches at the state wrestling meet in Madison.
Marko, Gaffey win first-place trophies; three others reach their division’s championship match
MADISON – The last time St. Croix Falls had this level of success in the individual state final, its members today were still a decade from existing. 
The Saints sent five wrestlers to last weekend’s WIAA Division 3 state finals, with three reaching their division’s championship match and two returning with a first-place trophy. Kole Marko, 145, and Tanner Gaffey, 285, won state titles while Luke Thaemert added a runner-up finish to conclude the 2019-2020 season, just days after funeral services were held for former teammates McKinley Erickson and Kegan Koshiol.
"Overall, we did the best we’ve done at the state tournament since 1991,” St. Croix Falls coach Joe Raygor said. "That was the last time we had three (wrestlers) in the finals with two champions. 
"But the accolades of winning aren’t what I’m most proud of, (it’s) how the kids came together and fought for each other, the community, and Kegan and McKinley.”
Marko had a pair of difficult matches before his division final. He opened with a match against Coleman’s Sam Kuchta and needed additional time to finish with a 7-5 sudden-victory decision, then edged Kolton Tesarik, Mishicot, in a 4-3 decision to win the semifinal. 
Marko then earned a 2-0 win over Garnett Stebane, Brillion, to earn his second consecutive state title, with a single move.
"Kole scored a takedown in the final seconds of the first period which put him in the driver’s seat,” Raygor said.
Gaffey won three matches by decision without surrendering a single point. He opened with a 2-0 win over Clay Berra, Aquinas, and won the semifinal match 6-0 over Evan Grubbs, Kenosha Christian Life, to reach the final, where he faced a familiar foe. 
Gaffey drew a first-place matchup with Ladysmith’s Wade Stanger, who’d lost only four matches this season – all to Gaffey. The Saints heavyweight made it five consecutive wins over Stanger with a 3-0 decision to win the title. 
"Tanner kept great position and kept to the game plan,” Raygor said. "Tanner’s physical strength and ability to win the little positions make him tough to beat.”
Luke Thaemert, 106, nearly added a third state title for St. Croix Falls, making it to the first-place match with three wins. He pinned Isaiah Wagner, Princeton-Green Lake, in 1 minute, 49 seconds and followed with a 6-0 win over Ray Lemieux, Coleman. 
In the semifinal, Thaemert won via sudden victory over Nolan McKittrick, Royall, to reach the final, where he lost a 6-0 decision to Braden Sonnentag, Cadott. 
"Luke will go out as a 140-plus-win wrestler and a two-time state place winner,” Raygor said. "He’s an all-time great wrestler and leader for the Saints.”
Mason Will, 120, won two matches to finish sixth in his division. He started with a 5-3 win over Logan Turben, Westby, but was sent to the consolation bracket with a loss to Cash Stewart, Poynette, in 5:49. A 5-2 win over Tarrin Riley, Mineral Point, kept hopes alive for a top-five finish, but a loss in 2:45 to Colten Klemm, Manawa, and an 8-1 decision to Jericho Hesler, Shiocton, ended Will’s tournament run. 
Bennett Bergmann, 152, had a close 7-5 opening-round loss to Ryan Roy, Wabeno-Laona, which eliminated him from competition. 
"Words will not express how proud I am of the boys who competed down at Madison,” Raygor said. "The boys had to endure immense loss in the last week and still try to perform to their best of abilities. They showed grit and perseverance like I’ve never seen before.”
Division 2
Spooner-Webster’s Carter Melton and Luck/Frederic/Grantsburg Siren wrestler Taedon Nichols had opening-round wins in the tournament, though both were stopped shy of the first-place match. 
Melton, 182, opened with a 10-7 win over Kade Wenninger, Tomahawk, but a loss to Lucas Schumacher, Port Washington, sent him to the consolation bracket, where he took an 8-1 loss from Jacob Summers, Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau. 
Nichols, 120, pinned Tristen Gilbertson, Belmont-Platteville, in 2:42 to win his first match, then was sent to the consolation bracket with a loss by major decision to Tommy Larson, East Troy. Nichols was then eliminated from the tournament with a loss to Treyton Ackman, Spencer-Columbus Catholic, in 2:22.

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