EagleHerald/Brian Bell
Shamus Mclain of Coleman fights for position with Stratford’s Trevor Dennee during Saturday’s WIAA Division 3 195-pound state championship match.
EagleHerald/Brian Bell

Shamus Mclain of Coleman fights for position with Stratford’s Trevor Dennee during Saturday’s WIAA Division 3 195-pound state championship match.


MADISON, Wis. — When Coleman sophomore Karson Casper went up to embrace his coach after winning a hard-fought WIAA Division 3 state championship, the hug meant a little bit more to both of them than it would to most.

Karson’s coach is his dad, Kevin, and on Saturday in front of an almost sold-out crowd at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis., Karson’s takedown with three seconds left in overtime gave him a 4-2 sudden victory over Auburndale’s Dylan Baird and his first state championship in his young career. It also brought the Casper family a state title they have been chasing since the early 1970s.

“I have coached several state champions and they are all special in their own way, but this one definitely is a little extra special. Between me and my brothers back in the early 70s and now with Karson getting the job done and being the last son and still a long career ahead of him, I couldn’t be more proud of him,” Kevin said. “The emotions came out a little more than they normally would have once he scored that takedown because this is something that both of us have hoped and dreamed about since both of us were little, and to be by his side along the way as his coach makes it that much better.

“He’s definitely got bragging rights on us now.”

Coleman’s Shamus Mclain got down early in his 195-pound state title bout and trailed by as much as 7-1, but battled back to get within 7-4 before eventually losing a decision to Stratford’s Trevor Dennee and settling for second place.

“Shamus trailed early but in the second period if there was about 10 or 15 more seconds on the clock I think he would have scored a pin,” Casper said. “He made a move on his opponent and had him in a bad spot but unfortunately the time ran out on him.”

Three other Cougars — John Bieber (182), Sam Kuchta (145) and Spencer Karban (285) — won medals at state as well in the consolation bracket.

“I’m very proud of everyone this weekend,” coach Casper said. “Sending 10 wrestlers to the state finals is awesome and having five of them bring back medals is special. These kids are the true definition of a team in that they care about and take care of each other on and off the mats.”

Last year, Casper suffered an early exit at the state finals after losing his first round match as a freshman at 132-pounds. After a year of growth, and a slight adjustment to his wrestling style, Casper is at the top of his weight class in Division 3 — and the road to get there was not easy.

In his first match of the weekend on Thursday, Casper went up against the No. 1-ranked wrestler in the state in Division 3 in Fennimore’s Aidan Nutter and that match was just as exciting as the state title match was. Tied 5-5 in the last 15 seconds of the match, Casper caught Nutter off guard and scored a takedown to get a 7-5 win and advance to the semifinals.

“Last year at state I thought I lost on kind of a controversial call so I made sure to come back more prepared. I switched up my style a little bit to add more hand-fighting and get a little more explosive at times and that really helped,” Karson said. “After I got past the first kid in the quarterfinals I was pretty confident I would be able to make it to the finals even though I knew the semifinals wouldn’t be easy, but he was the top-ranked kid in the state so I felt good.”

In the semis, he breezed by Poynette’s Gunnar Hamre, winning by 10-1 decision to set up Saturday’s title match with Auburndale’s Baird setting up a rematch of the sectional final a week prior.

The championship was closely contested as the two wrestled to a 0-0 tie heading into the third period.

“The first period was a lot of hand fighting. It was a physical matchup and it’s not easy to beat some two straight weeks,” he said. “I chose bottom in the second and got to my feet a few times but (Baird) kept bringing me back down. I don’t remember how many times but it seemed like every time I tried to get up he kept getting me down and that can wear you out, but I was just trying to make it to the third and see if I could make something happen.”

In the third period, Casper took a 2-0 lead after he turned an arm bar into a near fall, but Baird answered with a reversal to tie it 2-2 with a minute remaining and the two needed overtime to settle the score.

At this point in the match, all of the eyes in the Kohl Center were on the Division 3 mat as Baird suffered a cut in the first period and the match had to be stopped for blood multiple times, so both other matches were already finished and everyone was locked in on mat 3.

With time winding down and in front of a raucous crowd, Casper defended a move from Baird, shot himself at him and scored a takedown with three seconds left as the crowd erupted.

“To win it is special, and then to win it in such dramatic fashion with everyone in the arena watching, you dream about something like that as a kid and I’m very happy it came true for Karson,” Kevin said.

“He has worked so hard for this. He is up at five every morning and puts in two workouts a day. It’s truly an unreal feeling.”

After falling in the semifinals on Friday to eventual state champion Trett Joles of Boyceville, Beiber breezed his way to a third-place medal by blowing through the consolation bracket. He won a 10-1 major decision over Weyauwega-Fremont’s Ben Strehlow and then pinned Rosholt’s Reece Anderson in the third-place match.

Karban avenged a quarterfinal loss to Kenosha Christian Life’s Evan Grubbs in the fifth place match by winning a 6-3 decision and Kuchta fell in his fifth-place match to Hunter Bruhn of Phillips for a sixth-place medal.

“It was unfortunate the draw some of the guys got. I really think all of them were the second-best wrestler in their bracket, but they drew some two-time state champions and that’s not easy to overcome,” Casper said. “John responded really well to his first round loss, Spencer got some revenge after losing in the quarterfinals and Sam had a really good weekend. All of these kids have a lot to be proud of.”

Coleman will now prepare for the team state finals this coming weekend in Madison. The Cougars are in a bracket with defending state champion Fennimore, Stratford — who previously had defeated Coleman the last four years in sectionals — and Coleman’s first round matchup, Random Lake.