The 2020-2021 season presented a lot of challenges for the Lodi prep wrestling team. Besides an abbreviated schedule, which did not include a tournament until the postseason, the Blue Devils had to split up their practices into several groups in different locations for health precautions during the pandemic.
“It was a season unlike any other, and hopefully a season in which we’ll never have to endure again,” Blue Devil coach Cody Endres said. “I am thankful to all of those who worked tirelessly to make this season a possibility. From the wrestlers, to the parents, the coaches, the administration, the school board members, and the decision makers across the state who allowed a wrestling season to happen. So many people thought we couldn’t have a safe and successful wrestling season here in Lodi, and we did.
“The most challenging part of COVID was not being able to be together as a team,” he added “We had to be split in three different locations, and three different times, with three different sets of coaches and wrestlers. In this program the team matters, so to be away from one another all year was extremely daunting.”
The challenges did not slow the Blue Devils down, as they thrived during the strange season. They advanced three wrestlers to the WIAA Division 2 state tournament and all three placed.
“For our team our biggest success was to have, finish, and compete at a high level during the postseason,” Endres said. “Through all the trials and tribulations we faced, I am immensely proud of each team member for their contributions, sacrifices, and commitments to the program this season. Everybody played a part in ensuring we will look back on the 2020-2021 Lodi wrestling season with fond memories and accomplishments.”
During the shortened regular season, Lodi went 3-3 in duals. The Blue Devils captured wins over Janesville Craig (41-36), Jefferson (66-18) and Watertown Luther Prep (68-12), but dropped close duals to Janesville Parker (40-36), Mineral Point (52-18) and Portage (40-30).
With no conference tournament this season, the Blue Devils then set their sights on a long postseason run.
Lodi continued its remarkable regional steak with their 27th straight title. The Blue Devils won the Richland Center Regional by 25 points, 215.5-190.5, over second-place Adams-Friendship.
The Blue Devils had 113-pounder Parker Heintz, 120-pounder Owen Breunig, 126-pounder Chandler Curtis, 145-pounder Zane Licht and 182-pounder Jacob Benson win regional titles, while Dean Finney was the runner-up at 132.
Levi Ness (106, third), Evan Stevenson (152, third), Ashton McDonald (160, third), Will Long (170, third), Noah Johnson (195, third), Mason Lane (138, fourth), Ben LiChucki (285, fourth) and Kaleb Bowman (220, fifth) also placed at the regional tournament.
Lodi just missed out on qualifying for the state team tournament after finishing third at the Richland Center Sectional.
Curtis and Licht both claimed sectional titles, while Heintz placed second to punch his ticket to state.
The Blue Devil trio all placed in the top four at state.
Licht had a remarkable state tournament run and garnered second place, while Heintz and Curtis both placed fourth.
“We will remember all of the highs and lows of the season,” Endres said. “From thinking we wouldn’t have a season, to thinking we may not have a postseason, to winning a regional title, and placing sixth as a team at the individual state tournament. All seasons have moments of highs and lows but this season was even more extreme. We had some moments that hurt, and still hurt. However, they will only prepare us that more for the future.”
Licht was voted the Blue Devils’ MVP, while Ness earned the Most Improved award. Curtis, Heintz, Licht and Wyatt Ripp were named captains for the season.
Benson was Lodi’s lone senior this season.
“We’re so pleased with the season that Jacob had,” Endres said. “It wasn’t always easy, but to watch him win a regional title was extremely rewarding. We’re excited for all of the things Jacob will accomplish in the future. He is a kind, compassionate, and caring young man and we need more young men like him in our world.”
With all but Benson back next season and talented group of eighth-graders coming up, Endres is excited for next season.
“We just can’t wait to get back to wrestling in a hopefully post-COVID world,” Endres said. “Having our team back together is the thing we’re most looking forward to. We bring back 30 guys, bring a great freshman class in, and have leaders throughout the program. Getting us all back together next year will produce some great things.”