He may have been the first athlete in Monona Grove/McFarland wrestling co-op history to earn a spot at the WIAA Division 1 tournament, but that’s not enough for the 152-pound McFarland junior Zach Gunderson.
“As Zach said to me Saturday after watching the state finals, ‘back to work,’” co-head coach Karl Voeck said after Gunderson lost in the first round to eventual state champion Kaden Reetz of Madison Memorial.
Gunderson came back to win one match and lose another in the meet.
Gunderson, who entered the contest with a 40-9 record and more than 100 wins under his belt, fought hard against Reetz, who was undefeated in 43 bouts. He earned two points on a takedown in the opening minutes, but Reetz scored six off an escape, takedown and near fall to lead 6-2 after the first period. Reetz earned three more points in both the second and third periods to win a 12-2 major decision.
Things went better for Gunderson in his second match against Freddy Lehrke of D.C. Everest. He scored points on an escape and takedown to lead 3-1 after the first period. After a scoreless second period, Gunderson earned a pair of third-period points on a takedown to defeat Lehrke 5-1.
Yet, Gunderson’s journey at state ended in his next match against Cole Hansen of Mukwonago. Two takedowns and an escape gave Hansen a 5-1 lead, but Gunderson came back to outscore Hansen 5-3 in the third period after a reversal, escape and takedown. Yet, it wasn’t enough as Gunderson lost in an 8-6 decision.
Co-head coach Doug Peterson said the main goal going into the state tournament was helping to take the pressure off Gunderson and allow him to have some fun.
“One thing Karl and I wanted Zach to do was enjoy the moment,” Peterson said. “Section 227 was full of MGM fans for two days. We wanted him to enjoy the program he’s helped build on the mat.”
Peterson was also impressed with Gunderson’s level-headedness, work ethic and drive to be the best.
“It was a quiet ride back to McFarland after the loss, but 6:30 a.m. Monday morning, he was already back in the weight room training for what’s next,” Peterson said.
Gunderson will continue to wrestle at tournaments throughout the summer before starting high school football practice in August. He was named to the 2019 All-Rock Valley Conference defensive team at nose tackle.