Heavy hitters: Cooney wins league wrestling title
Oconomowoc's late surge lifts Raccoons to first league wrestling title since 1998
Joe Nettesheim spent his 170-pound match waiting for just the right moment. When it came, it was the last moment available.
The Oconomowoc sophomore staged an improbable takedown as the buzzer sounded against one of West Bend West's top wrestlers, Billy Anderson, and took a 2-1 decision that initiated a wild change of course for the Raccoons. Competing in a matchup that would determine the Wisconsin Little Ten Conference championship, Cooney won the final five flights and surged to a 44-24 road win that sealed up its first conference title since 1998.
Anderson, who came in ranked 12th in the state at 160 with a record of 33-3 to Nettesheim's 17-10, scored his only point with a second-period escape. With the two wrestlers in neutral as time wound off the clock, Nettesheim surged forward for a takedown as time expired.
"I knew there were 20 seconds left when we restarted after we went out of bounds," Nettesheim said. "I was just going out there trying to do my same stuff. Recently, I've been trying to work on my throws, and one was open so I went for it. I was trying to do a sweep to high cross (during the match), and that wasn't working. After he got out (for the escape), I knew it was going to be a close match, so I wanted to keep it close and then go for it."
The win pulled Oconomowoc to within 24-21, and momentum could not have more clearly favored the Raccoons. Sophomore Richard Kuehl followed with a pin at 182, freshman Brett Samson did the same with a second-period pin at 195, and junior Nick Gomez clinched the match at 220 with one bout remaining when he registered a tech fall to give his team a 38-24 lead. Senior Michael Mohr capped the match with a second-period pin at heavyweight against Tom Gilbert in a rematch of last year's WLT championship match.
The Raccoons had not won or shared a conference title since winning seven straight, a string that ended 15 years ago.
"We've probably had more talented teams in the past, but this is by far the hardest working team not even that I've been on, that I've seen," said senior Eric Lease, who recorded a 16-5 win at 145 pounds. "We have so many raw, talented, young kids, so we started from the ground up and we got 1 percent better every day, and by the time it added up, we were 100 percent better. The strides we made were unbelievable."
The match started at 106, and early returns favored the host Spartans. After pins at 106 and 113, West's Armando Manreso edged Nathan Kingston at 120, 5-4, and helped his team take a 15-0 lead.
"We've been in that situation before, so we just knew we had to battle," Lease said. "Each match got a little better, and by the time it got to Joe, he wrestled one of their best wrestlers and he kept it close. I looked up at coach in the third period, and it's 1-0, we knew we could get it. You could feel the electricity jolt through everything."
Before that moment, the Raccoons were just missing extra bonus points. Nick Brenning (120) and Brandon Laughlin (132) dominated by 14-0 and 13-1 counts but just missed getting a tech fall or pin despite multiple nearfall situations. Cody Jensen held off a pin at 138 but was dealt a tech fall by Jon Goetz, and Lease defeated freshman Garrett White, 20-6, surrendering several escapes in the quest for a tech fall or pin.
Down 20-12, Logan Ballering then trounced his way to a pin at 1:45 in the 152-pound match, pulling his team to within a pair.
"They made a bump, made a decision to get more points back, and Logan went out there and pinned him up, and that was a pretty big momentum thing," Cooney coach Steve Olson said, referring to a maneuver by West that bumped Jack Rettler up to 160 from his traditional spot at 152. "That didn't work for them the way they thought, and Allen Dowe gives up a major."
Dowe lost to Rettler, 16-4, but now it was Oconomowoc holding off the extra bonus points. Then came Nettesheim's shocker against Anderson.
"He's peaking, he doesn't get flustered, he's good on his feet, on the bottom, riding," Olson said. "He's an all around good wrestler and I thought he wrestled a perfect match. When it came down to 20 seconds left, 1-0, on your feet, you pull the trigger and go for it."
With three key wrestlers in the upper weights as just freshmen and sophomores, the Raccoons have succeeded with a nontraditional model.
"The upper weights have really completed this team," Olson said. "We've always had good light weights and middle weights. The workout room has been awesome.
"I had (the dual) down to a couple scenarios. It was going to be tight. I thought we could win but we had to keep our points to majors and decisions. I did not expect this, but we cleaned up at the end."
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