For such a young athlete with many more challenges to face, McFarland junior Zach Gunderson has accomplished a significant amount in his three years on the Monona Grove/McFarland boys wrestling co-op.
Earlier this year, he snared his 100th career victory. Now, he can add a Badger Conference championship to his list.
The 152-pound competitor pinned two opponents at Watertown and won the championship match in a decision to pick up his first league title Feb. 8.
In 2019, Gunderson took second place at 145 pounds and was third in the WIAA Division 1 regional round, putting him into the sectionals. Unfortunately, he fell short on making it to the state tournament at the Kohl Center.
While Gunderson wants to make that next giant step to state, he knows there is still a lot of wrestling remaining and needs to approach it one match at a time.
At Watertown, Gunderson drew a first-round bye before defeating junior Justin Sanchez of Milton in a fall at 2:32.
After that, he took on Stoughton senior Trent Carpenter and brought the match to a quick end with a pin at 47 seconds. That left only Oregon freshman Seth Niday in his path.
Niday had won 27-of-35 matches in his first year on varsity, but Gunderson’s experience paid off as he took the conference title in a 7-3 decision.
Gunderson, who has a 35-5 record heading into the Saturday, Feb. 15, regionals at Sun Prairie, was not the only MGM wrestler to do well at conference.
Heavyweight workhorse Kristian Schlicht took third place despite getting off to a slow start.
After drawing a first-round bye, Schlicht battled Stoughton freshman Griffin Empey, who boasted a record of 32-13. Empey won the match in a 5-2 decision.
Yet, Schlicht recovered with wins in his next two matches to set up a rematch with Empey for third place. This time, Schlicht defeated the freshman in a 1-0 decision. Schlicht has a record of 31-9 entering regionals.
At 113 pounds, MGM’s Jake Denman was awarded fifth place after a 9-1 major decision over David Williams of Portage.
Cole Weaver finished sixth at 126 pounds as he was defeated in the fifth-place bout by Hunter Kieliszewski of Milton in a 9-2 decision.
Guenther Switzer also took sixth at 220 pounds as he fell short in the battle for fifth against Milton’s Jordan Hergert, who pinned Switzer in 42 seconds.