Hatchet wrestlers make podium finish at WIAA D2 State Championship Heavyweight: Tony Matti finishes runner up, Eric Decker takes 4th

By Matt Turkiewicz

Over this past weekend, three Hatchet wrestlers competed in the WIAA Division 2 Individual State Championship and two managed podium finishes at the Kohl Center.

State started in Madison Thursday, Feb. 27th and finals ended Saturday. Competing for the Hatchets were Kade Wenninger at 182 pounds, Erik Decker at 195 pounds, and Tony Matti at Heavyweight. All three boys competed Thursday night in the Division 2 preliminary matches.

At 182 pounds, Wenninger wrestled Carter Melton of Spooner/Webster. After the first period, Wenninger received choice and started in the bottom position. After getting caught in a cradle, Wenninger scored a reversal and two near fall points to bring the score to 7-7 to start the third period. Melton started on bottom and scored a quick escape to give him the 8-7 lead. With seconds left in the match, Wenninger locked up a bear hug, but could not convert and gave up a final takedown to end the match 10-7, in favor of his opponent. Wenninger finished his season with a 36-10 record and an Individual Regional championship.

At 195 pounds, Decker wrestled Jacob Peacy out of Port Washington. Decker came out firing with two different takedown attempts fended off by his opponent. Peacy got in an attack of his own that ended with a scramble stopped for a potentially dangerous call.

More hand fighting followed until Decker defended a shot attempt and went around for two points. With Decker leading 2-0 at the start of the second period, Peacy opted to start on bottom. After riding tough to start the period, Decker secured an arm bar and earned a pin 59 seconds into the second period.

Friday morning, Decker met undefeated Tyler Hannah of Prairie Du Chien. Decker was caught in a lateral drop and fell to the eventual State Champion. To finish off Friday, Decker wrestled Abram Helsell of Lomira. After snapping Helsell down, Decker went around and scored two to start the match. Decker rode out the first period.

To start the second period, Decker chose to start on bottom and scored a quick escape. Decker scored on another snap and got behind to take a 5-0 lead. After being called for stalling on top, Decker let Helsell up and scored another takedown. Decker led 7-1 before the third period. To start the third period, Helsell chose to start neutral. Decker scored his fourth takedown before letting him up again. Decker scored two more takedowns to win 15-5 and secure a place on the podium.

Saturday morning, Decker wrestled Kale Hopke of Amery. The first period entailed plenty of hand fighting and shot attempts by both wrestlers, but ended tied at zero. Decker chose to start on bottom in the second period, and was rode out by Hopke. To start the third period, Hopke elected to start on bottom and was let up by Decker to give Hopke the 1-0 lead. After more hand fighting and a stall warning on Hopke, Decker converted on a bad shot by Hopke to earn a takedown and ride out to win 2-1 and advance to the third place match.

In the third place match, Decker met Bryce Burns of GETM. Burns won by fall in the second period, Decker finished his season 4th on the State podium with an overall record of 38-11 and his third Individual Regional title.

At Heavyweight, Tony Matti returned to State for the second straight year. Thursday night, Matti wrestled Tyler Krizan of Stanley-Boyd/Owen-Withee. After unsuccessful shot attempts by both wrestlers, Matti scored on a failed fireman’s attempt by Krizan. Krizan was warned for stalling on bottom as Matti rode out the period, taking a 2-0 lead into the second period. To start the second period, Matti chose to start on bottom. In unusual fashion at Heavyweight, Krizan unexpectedly started leg riding on top. Krizan put on a tough ride before Matti scored an escape with less than 15 seconds left in the second period.

To add to his score, Matti scored on an edge of the mat lateral drop to take a 5-0 lead into the last period. To start the third period, Krizan chose to start on top. After more tough riding by Krizan, Matti forced a scramble and came out on top to score the reversal. Matti rode out the rest of the period to win by way of a 7-0 decision.

Friday morning, Matti wrestled Evan Ladwig of Plymouth. After hand fighting the whole first period, they ended tied at zero apiece. To start the second period, Matti chose to start on bottom. Matti scored a quick escape. After a shot attempt by Ladwig, Matti fought off the attack, and they remained neutral. Ladwig got in on another attack, Matti fought it off, and hit a shot of his own to score the takedown. Ladwig chose the bottom position, with Matti holding a 3-0 lead to start the third period.

After starting tough on top, Matti gave up the escape to Ladwig. With time running out, Ladwig attempted a lateral drop, which Matti stopped and landed on top to score another takedown and earn a 5-1 decision to advance to the semifinals.

In the semifinals, Matti met Michael Douglas of Belmont/Platteville. After little offense by both wrestlers, the first period ended tied at zero.  To start the second period, Matti chose the bottom position. Matti forced a locked hands call to score the first point of the match. After restarting, Douglas was hit with a stall warning on top. On the ensuing restart, Matti scored an escape to take a 2-0 lead. Once neutral, a pushout by Douglas forced a stall warning on Matti.

More hand fighting ensued before Douglas scored on a snatch single to tie the match at two. Matti scored an escape with seconds remaining to take a 3-2 lead into the third period. Douglas chose bottom to start the period. Douglas scored an escape to even the match at three. After some more hand fighting, Douglas ended up behind Matti, but on the mat return, separated his hips and allowed Matti to hit a switch for the takedown. Matti was hit with stalling again on the ride and gave up a point.

On the restart, Douglas got to his feet and forced another stall call on Matti, who ran him out of bounds to end the third period tied at five apiece. In Sudden Victory Overtime, the two hand fought more, with neither one amounting any offense to force tiebreakers. To start the first 30-second period, Douglas chose to start on bottom. After a tough ride out by Matti, it was his turn to start the second 30-second period on bottom.

Douglas gave Matti the escape to try to earn a takedown on his feet. Matti blocked all attempts by Douglas to win 6-5. In doing so, Matti became the first Hatchet wrestler since Kaleb Kaminski in 2016 to make the State Finals and was looking to become the first State Champion since Hatchet Assistant Coach Dane Borchardt accomplished the feat in 2015.

In the finals, Matti met Gabe Wertel of Denmark in a rematch of the Sectional Semi Finals the week before. Matti fell to Wertel 11-5 and laid claim to the State Runner Up position at Heavyweight. Matti ended his season with a 44-5 record, his third Conference Championship, his third Individual Regional Championship, and as the Sate Runner Up.

Congratulations to all the Hatchet wrestlers on their hard work and accomplishments following one heck of an impressive season.

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