Titans secure second straight Coulee title


            Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau freshman Braden Peterson defeated Kayden Kast of Westby in their 165-pound match at West Salem High School last Saturday during the 2024 Coulee Conference wrestling tournament.     (Times photograph by Benjamin Pierce)


            Sophomore Logan Conrad checked with the official as he pinned Viroqua’s David VanLoo during a 138-pound match at last Saturday’s Coulee Conference wrestling championship meet at West Salem High School.       (Times photograph by Benjamin Pierce)

The Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau/Melrose-Mindoro wrestling team didn’t take its 2023 Coulee Conference championship lightly.

The Titans knew as soon as the 2023-24 season started a few months ago that a repeat was going to be difficult, and injuries, roster changes, a tough conference schedule and other obstacles tested the team for much of the season.

Those challenges made last Saturday’s awards ceremony even more rewarding than the Titans expected, as the G/M co-op saw seven wrestlers win individual Coulee titles to put the finishing touches on their second consecutive conference championship.

Arcadia finished third at the tournament with 182 points, behind only G/M with 344 and West Salem’s 299. Westby finished fourth with 114, followed by Viroqua (78) and Black River Falls (68). Multiple Coulee schools — including G/M and Arcadia — begin the postseason with a Division Two regional in Richland Center this Saturday.

As numerous Titans were recognized for first or second-team all-conference awards, coach Pete Peterson told the Times in the corner of the gymnasium at West Salem High School on Saturday that his team showed character in a big test.

“We’re wrestling at a really good level,” Peterson said, adding that The Clash tournament a few weeks ago provided the team with a gut-check.

“You can see a team kind of go two ways, either give in or buck up and get after it. And they’ve really bucked up. I’m just really impressed with the overall effort, the attitude in the room and them getting after it.”

Part of the team’s continued success this season comes from wrestlers who have been there before — Colton Koss won his second straight conference title at 106 pounds, as did Jackson Blaken at 144 pounds.

Other Titans to win their weight classes were Koda Purney (113 pounds), Jayce Stetzer (132), Gunnar Johnson (157), Braydon Lockington (215) and Cisco Jimenez (285).

Both Johnson and Blaken went 5-0 on Saturday, while Stetzer and Kremer each had four wins.

Jimenez, a G-E-T senior, earned his title with a pair of pins and said finishing his conference career with his first title was a “best” way to do it. He believes the team could continue to impress.

“It’s just another stepping stone for what the future holds for us,” Jimenez said of a Coulee title. “We keep getting better for sure.”

The G/M team also had five other wrestlers who competed in the championship match but lost to take second place. Among those included Aaron Dunigan at 175 pounds, Landon Windsor (150), Layne Fry (138), Gunnar Kremer (126) and Brody Banse (120).

Braden Peterson finished fourth at 165 pounds for the Titans, who don’t currently have a 190-pound wrestler after seeing multiple athletes get hurt this winter in that weight class.

Despite those challenges, the Titans have higher aspirations.

“We’re not satisfied,” Peterson said. “One of our goals is always win the conference, but that’s not our big goal. … our goal now is to get as many kids as we can onto the sectional and as many kids as we can on to state, shoot for that team title and see what happens.”

Arcadia did not have any individual champions, but Ony Zaragoza (106) and Landen Pehler (113) each finished second in their weight class for the Raiders. 

Teammates David Aguilar (175), Efren Hernandez (150), Derek Tamke (144), Logan Conrad (138) and Matthew Badillo (126) placed third.

Logan Breska, 33-9 this season, avenged an earlier loss to West Salem/Bangor’s Gavin Loging in the 120-pound bracket by beating him with a 6-4 decision on Saturday but took third after losing to Banse by a 9-4 decision.

Arcadia’s Nicolas Esteban took fourth at 157 pounds, as did teammate Eric Rodriguez at 215 pounds. Austin Fernholz (165) finished fifth.

As a young team coach Steve Schank described as “scrappy”, Arcadia believes anything is possible this weekend at the regional.

“Some of the top teams in the state are going to be there, so we’re just going to try to battle. I could see us getting a few kids through, but it’s going to be tight,” Schank said. “I’ve seen us come back and beat several kids that we lost to at the end of the year, so that makes me feel good about the direction we’re going.”

 

Titans edge Vikings in nonconference dual

By Andrew Dannehy

Times Editor

Five consecutive wins gave the Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau/Melrose-Mindoro wrestling team a lead it would not relinquish in a matchup against a pair of area powerhouse programs. 

While G/M never trailed after the fourth match of the evening, the dual still came down to the final competition as the Titans held a 31-28 advantage over the Vikings. The last match had some turns as the two wrestlers combined to score 27 points, but it was G/M’s Gunnar Johnson (165) who scored a 17-10 win over Emerson Lau-Melby. 

Holmen won the first two matches as Jonathan Lamprich (175) pinned Braden Peterson in 3:39 and Blake Goyette (190) defeated Aaron Dunigan, 8-6. 

The Titans won the next five matches, including three pins. The run began with a pin by Braydon Lockington (215) over Mason Helgerson in 3:27, then Cisco Jimenez (285) stuck Jagger Jepson in 1:27, putting G/M ahead 12-9.

Colton Koss (106) and Koda Purney (113) both won their matches with Koss escaping with a 2-0 win over Brock Needham and Purney scoring a major decision, 8-0, over Kaleb Runde. Brody Banse (120) put the Titans ahead 25-9 by pinning Ryder Matthison. 

Holmen ended the G/M run with a pin by Noah Henderson (126) over Gunnar Kremer, but the Titans were able to keep the lead throughout the rest of the dual.

After Jayce Stetzer (132) defeated Holmen’s Camden Thiele, 10-6, the Vikings made the score close with 10 straight points. Don Ammerman (138) defeated Layne Fry, 11-3, and Preston Kratochvill (144) pinned Scott Johnson to cut G/M’s lead to 28-25.

The teams split the next two matches with G/M’s Jackson Blaken (150) topping Colin Griffin, 11-4, and Holmen’s AJ Alesch (157) defeating G/M’s Landon Windsor, 9-7, in overtime. 

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