Hamilton owns wrestleback round
Chargers send school-record six grapplers to state tourney
The wrestleback round of the Division 1 wrestling sectional at Arrowhead on Saturday had become the Sussex Hamilton invitational, and this time around, the Chargers were cashing in.
Eight times in the past two seasons, Hamilton wrestlers had finished in third place at the sectional, narrowly missing one of the requisite top two places to qualify for the year-end state meet. After sending just a single wrestler each of the past two seasons, a full compliment of six wrestlers will be making the voyage to the Kohl Center in Madison this time, largely thanks to a four-for-four performance in the heart-stopping wrestleback round featuring winner-take-all contests for second place.
"It's going to be a party in Madison," said senior Bobby Holzem, whose win in the wrestleback over Tyler Palzkill of Germantown at 138 pounds represented one of the four victories in that round.
Holzem qualified for state as a freshman but hasn't been back until now. He narrowly got there in spectacular fashion Saturday, surrendering a takedown to defending state champion Adam Yde of Arrowhead in the finals with 10 seconds to go and falling, 6-4. Holzem rebounded to make quick work of Palzkill, landing a pin in his final match of the day.
"(I've been thinking about this) pretty much ever since I didn't get back sophomore year," Holzem said. "It was embarrassing to go as a freshman and then not get back there again. It's pretty much the biggest goal I had."
He won't be going alone, joining Kevin DuVall, Nick Knoebel, Mike Konvalinka, Ben Hollnagel and Phil Flegner. Hamilton has qualified five wrestlers for state multiple times, but not since 1998.
DuVall had to battle back.
In the wrestleback at 113 pounds, the senior fell behind by a 7-3 score early in the second period but swiftly took a 10-8 lead before pinning Aaron Daly of Menomonee Falls in the third.
"When I went into the match, I wasn't mentally stable," DuVall said. "I calmed myself down during the match. I beat him last week (in the regional), so I knew if I wrestled smart and not sloppy, I could pull out the win. I was very nervous, because I almost got put on my back a few times."
DuVall wrestled mostly JV last season, and he's not the only wrestler to work his way up.
"DuVall, Flegner, Hollnagel and Konvalinka were all JV guys as freshmen," coach Doug Pulvermacher said. "They're all program guys and all came through the system, and now as seniors, to see them going to state is awesome. Kevin DuVall was an 81-pound freshmen a few years ago and Mike Konvalinka won three JV matches as a freshman. For him to be 42-2 going to state tournament, I can't say enough for these kids."
Konvalinka just had to kill a little time.
The 195-pounder had a 6-2 lead on Arrowhead's Zak Ryder in the final, but Ryder battled back to tie. With 21 seconds to go, Ryder elected to concede an escape point and restart in neutral. Konvalinka didn't allow another takedown and won the sectional title, 9-8.
"I wrestled him last week and he just kept cutting me, he was better on his feet," Konvalinka said. "Riding is probably my strong spot right now. So when I got the choice to go up in the third period, I was ecstatic. I had the lead, all I have to do is ride him out. I got a little too high, he reversed me, and that's how it got to 8-8."
Konvalinka was eliminated in the first round of last year's sectional, and when he started the year 1-2 in a scrimmage, he wasn't sure he'd have the firepower to get to state.
"I just worked my butt off," he said. "The way the season has been going, I expected to get here."
Flegner just had to hold on for dear life.
With a 9-4 lead, Flegner was turned to his back by Germantown's Brandon Goesch in the final 15 seconds, forcing Flegner to stave off a pin.
"It's a suicide move (he made); he's got nothing to lose, and he hit it," Flegner said. "Every time I went down in that match, I was thinking 'I have to go to state, I have to go to state.' That was driving me the whole time."
Flegner had dominated a match with Goesch in the regional, but the rematch proved to be a lot closer with more on the line. Flegner had already gone through some drama on the day, winning a 6-4 semifinal over Ben Reagan of Wauwatosa, scoring the decisive points just before the buzzer.
Knoebel, Hollnagel march on
After watching his five teammates qualify, the lone Hamilton wrestler appearing in last year's state meet punched his own ticket, when Knoebel won the final HHS wrestleback at 145 pounds. He took down Max Nelson of Wauwatosa, 9-3.
"All these guys are my best friends and it's so great to see them actually make it," Knoebel said. "It was a little less nerve-racking (this time around). You know you can do it again, but still, pretty much the whole year, you're wrestling year round for this one day."
Hollnagel's path was the least congested. The senior dominated his way to two tech falls, including a 19-3 win over Danny Krause of Germantown for the sectional title, and was able to skip the semis when Jake Nelson of Arrowhead defaulted on account of injury sustained in his quarterfinal.
"For me, (Nelson) was my first match I ever had and he pinned me, so I was looking forward to that," Hollnagel said.
He wasn't talking about freshman year. He was talking about fourth grade.
"I remember that," he said with a grin. "I've been thinking I would get him someday. We've always been one weight class apart."
Hollnagel endured a rocky freshman year during a stint on varsity and broke his pelvis as a sophomore. As a junior, Krause pinned Hollnagel in the regional.
"I beat him in overtime last week, so that felt good," Hollnagel said.
Brett Neverman (106) and Loren Hesselgrave (120) also competed for Hamilton, falling in the first round.
Cagers ready for home stretch
Navigating the calm before the storm, Sussex Hamilton's girls basketball team (15-3) took care of business in wins over Germantown (58-42) and West Allis Hale (54-24) last week.
Now comes the real fun, with four big-time challenges to close the season.
Before it embarked on challenges against state-ranked Arrowhead (Feb. 21), dangerous Brookfield Central (Feb. 24), pesky Waukesha West (Feb. 27) and fellow Greater Metro front-runner Divine Savior Holy Angels (March 1), Hamilton won by sizable margins against teams with losing records.
"We talked a lot about playing up to our standards," Hamilton coach Dan Carey said. "Every team is still searching for improvements; we're not different than anybody else."
Jenny Shernell was a force against Germantown, scoring 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting and hauling in nine rebounds. Mackenzie Latt had 26 points on 10-of-19 shooting.
"She was so good, the best game I've seen her play," Carey said of Shernell. "She was confident, assertive, finishing everything and making every free throw. Jenny has really had a nice year for us."
Latt scored 14 points against Hale, and older sister Danielle Latt added five points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals.
"She's so good at the little things, but we value them as big things," Carey said of the older Latt. "She's so consistent in that area - rebounding, defense, toughness in the paint. She had a handful of rebounds, took a couple of charges. She's a really good glue player for us."
Carey said his team hasn't rested on its laurels with its sustained success this year, especially given the gamut ahead.
"If anything, the West Allis Central (loss) really got us back on point; we've been so locked in on our goals and the process of trying to keep things simple," Carey said.
Chargers secure .500 record
The Hamilton varsity boys basketball team kept West Allis Hale winless in the Greater Metro Conference on Friday and simultaneously assured itself of a .500 regular season.
Playing at Hale, the Chargers defeated the Huskies, 67-50. West Allis Hale is 0-13 in the GMC and 5-16 overall.
Hamilton now stands at 11-10 with a 6-7 record in the GMC. Only a game at home against Brookfield Central remains, and the Lancers are one game back of West Allis Central for league lead, sporting a 10-3 mark in conference.
Tony Gumina scored 19 points for the Chargers and had six rebounds against the Huskies. He went 7 for 7 at the free throw line. Brady Ellingson scored 15 points for Hamilton and Brandon Hagenow had 11 points, five rebounds and four assists.
"I thought we really shared the ball (14 assists), and when we have, we've been pretty successful," HHS head boys basketball coach Andy Cerroni said. "We got a really good game all-around from Tony Gumina, and Jake Knueppel came in and brought all kinds of energy."
Nick Patterson ended up with nine points for the Chargers. Austin Kendziorski, Jake Knueppel, Aaron Konop and Mitch Willer completed scoring for Hamilton, who will play at Homestead in the opening round of the WIAA Division 1 regional at 7 p.m. March 2.
"We got everyone some playing time. All these guys have worked extremely hard and it's important to reward them. This was a team effort all the way and a nice victory heading into the next two games we play."
Homestead turned into a major player this season, entering the week with an 18-3 record and 11-2 mark in the North Shore Conference, with one of those losses coming against undefeated Germantown. A Feb. 17 loss to Whitefish Bay knocked the Highlanders out of the title picture, but they still secured the No. 2 seed under second-year coach Marquis Hines, who won three straight state titles at the helm of the Milwaukee Vincent girls basketball program.
The Chargers have the seventh seed. An upset win would propel the Chargers into a March 3 game against either Waukesha North or Arrowhead.
It's a draw
A look at the opponents for Hamilton's six state qualifiers at state Thursday:
113 pounds - Kevin DuVall, Sr. (37-8) vs. Steven Cygan, Green Bay Preble/East, Jr. (39-7)
126 pounds - Phil Flegner, Sr. (34-11) vs. Justin Scherkenbach, Muskego, Sr. (42-1)
138 pounds - Bobby Holzem, Sr. (39-6) vs. Mason Geary, DeForest, Sr. (37-2)
145 pounds - Nick Knoebel, Jr. (38-8) vs. Jared Scharenbrock, Sun Prairie, So. (46-0)
152 pounds - Ben Hollnagel, Sr. (34-7) vs. Kolya Hawksford, Hudson, Sr. (42-3)
195 pounds - Mike Konvalinka, Sr. (42-2) vs. Bryce Agg, Oak Creek, Sr. (26-12)
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