Braysen Ellis

Braysen Ellis gains position against his semifinal opponent on Saturday. Ellis was one of five Waunakee wrestlers to advance onto the WIAA State Individual Tournament.

For five Warrior wrestlers, the season continues on for one more week.

Kolby Heinz, Sam Lorenz, Braysen Ellis, Berhett Statz and Colton Grindle all advanced onto the WIAA State Individual Tournament. All placed second on Saturday in Verona at their sectional meet.

WIAA Individual Sectional

For Lorenz at 132, Ellis at 138 and Grindle at 170, their loss in the first-place match ended their day. Each had already beaten their potential opponent in a wrestleback for second place – Lorenz against Vince Polhamus of Sparta, Ellis against Nick Coplein of Reedsburg and Grindle against Aiden Estes of Baraboo – meaning their spot at state had been won.

For Heinz at 120 and Statz at 145, however, they needed a win in their second-place matches to clinch their spots.

“It’s a little nerve-wracking, but you get pretty motivated after losing in the championship,” said Statz. “I was definitely ready to wrestle. I just came out there and took care of business.”

Statz didn’t surrender a point in his match, winning 5-0 over Dylan Ellefson of La Crosse Logan/Central, while Heinz pinned Yanzong Xiong of Madison East in 4:44 to clinch his spot.

“I’ve seen him already three times,” Heinz said of Xiong. “I’ve beat him all three times, but two were really close. Even the week before, we went into overtime at regionals. I knew I’d have to come out super tough if I wanted to beat him.”

Also earning a spot in his second-place match was Jayden Freie at 106. Freie was unable to get the win, however, dropping his match against Jaxon Pernot of Mount Horeb 10-0.

Three Waunakee wrestlers finished just short of a berth at state, placing third: Nick Schweitzer at 126, Kaden Hooker at 160 and Dan Ford at 182.

Schweitzer and Ford both won their third-place matches after dropping matches in semifinals, but were denied wrestleback chances for second place when their potential opponent was their semifinal opponent. Hooker was unable to compete in his third place match after sustaining an injury in semifinals, relegating him to a fourth-place finish on the day.

Earlier in the week, Waunakee wrestled in the WIAA Team Sectional against Holmen, with the winner advancing onto team state.

WIAA Team Sectional

After Dan Ford’s 7-2 victory in the second match of the night, the Warriors were in the fight. Waunakee was down 6-3 but had 12 matches remaining to make up the deficit.

Six consecutive pins for Holmen – five of which came in the first round – brought a swift end to Waunakee’s hopes for a team win. Lorenz, Ellis and Statz all earned wins – Lorenz and Statz via pin – but the outcome was already decided.

Waunakee won just four of the 14 matches on the night, falling by a score of 55-18.

For Waunakee’s five advancing wrestlers, however, the season lives on for one more week.

Though Ellis is a first-time competitor at state, he’ll have the luxury of four teammates with experience wrestling in the Kohl Center.

“Treating it as any other tournament, because it really is no different,” said Lorenz of the key to having success at state. “The environment is obviously different, but when you think about it, it’s the same-sized mat as we always wrestle on.”

Both Lorenz and Statz have earned spots on the podium in previous years, and they’re eager to return. Heinz, Ellis and Grindle all hope to make their first trip to the podium on Saturday, as well.

The Warriors will begin the first of three days at the Kohl Center on Thursday; start time for Division 1 is scheduled for 3 p.m.

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