EagleHerald/Brian Bell
Coleman wrestling coach Kevin Casper (left) speaks at the Cougars’ welcome home celebration after they won the 2020 WIAA Division 3 team state championship Saturday night at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis.
EagleHerald/Brian Bell

Coleman wrestling coach Kevin Casper (left) speaks at the Cougars’ welcome home celebration after they won the 2020 WIAA Division 3 team state championship Saturday night at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis.

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MADISON, Wis. — There is no “I” in the word team, but after Saturday’s WIAA Division 3 state championship wrestling match between Coleman and Fennimore at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis., that one single letter will always hold a special meaning to the Coleman wrestlers.

In what can only be described as a perfect storybook ending to an amazing season, Coleman and Fennimore found themselves tied at 26 after the final match and it had to come down to tiebreakers.

“Everybody was on pins and needles,” Coleman coach Kevin Casper said. “I’m pulling out the rulebook because usually it’s decided by who wins the most matches or gets the most pins, but I’m going to our statistician and I ask her ‘who has the most pins? One to one coach. Whose got the most tech falls? One-one coach. Whose got the most majors? Nobody got a major.’ So then I’m thinking oh boy what’s going to happen here.”

The Cougars held a 26-20 lead heading into the final match at 132-pounds, and if Coleman had forfeited as it had for most of the season, Fennimore would be the state champions but senior Nate Chang — who hasn’t wrestled all season — stepped up and wrestled Fennimore’s individual state champion Alex Birchman.

Chang cut down from near 170-pounds to 132 just to help his team and it came on the biggest stage. He was pinned by Birchman in 3 minutes, 25 seconds to tie the match at 26, but since it was not a forfeit, it played a massive role in keeping the Cougars alive in the end.

“If we don’t have that and have to forfeit we are not here with the gold trophy, we have the silver because the criteria right before the one we won on was forfeits and thank god we didn’t have to forfeit at 132,” Casper said.

There was a lot of trying to go down the list at the scorer’s table to try seeing what criteria would be the one that decided things in the end. Nine spaces down the list — at Criteria i — read ‘most total first points scored.’

Coleman 14, Fennimore 13.

“At first when the guy at the scorer’s table said it the Fennimore coach kind of disputed it so we had to go through it again, and after they came to the same conclusion and said ‘Coleman is the winner’ that’s when I went bouncin’ off the team,” Casper said. “You can’t write a book any better about how this season ended. This group of kids is the true meaning of a team and I could not be more proud of them.”

After starting out the 2010s with a dominant run that saw Coleman win state championships in four of the first six years and bring back runner-ups in the other two, the Cougars had not returned to the team state tournament since 2015 when they finished in second place to Spring Valley/Elmwood.

The 2019-2020 Cougars worked through a grueling season that featured many trips to tournaments and dual matches, and by winning all of those matches that might have seemed meaningless at the time, it allowed Coleman to put itself in a position to attain the No. 1 seed in the 2020 WIAA Division 3 team state tournament.

Coleman had no issues with Random Lake in the first round matchup as the Cougars had the match enough in hand that they forfeited the last three matches and still won 40-36 to advance to the finals against Fennimore.

Karson Casper (138) started the championship match off with a 15-0 tech fall over Maximos Miles to get the ball rolling for the Cougars and Sam Kuchta (145) followed up with a 5-2 decision win over Aidan Nutter.

“How Sam got away from a few of those takedowns to eventually get the win I have no idea,” Casper laughed.

After two straight wins for Fennimore, Coleman’s Cole Klimek (170) got the Cougars back in the win column with a 4-3 decision win over Mason Miles, but Fennimore’s Will Ahnen won a tech fall (19-2) over Coby Den Ruyter (182) to halt the momentum. In one of the losses at 160-pounds, Coleman’s Jakob Horton scored the first takedown giving the Cougars two points to their total for Criteria i — which they used to win the state title.

The Cougars’ Johnathon Bieber (195) and Shamus Mclain (220) followed with wins as Beiber won a 6-5 decision over Logan Klaas and Mclain pinned Cameron Winkers in 51 seconds to give Coleman a slight advantage.

“We made a decision at 182 to put Coby in because he just has a way of not getting pinned, and he got close but didn’t get pinned and that was huge for us,” Casper said. “Jakob’s takedown added up in the end and then Johnny came back for a huge win and Shamus is just a pin machine.”

In the heavyweight match (285), Spencer Karban was defeated 8-2 by Aaron Ragels, but after the first period the match was tied 0-0 and Karban scored the first points on a reversal, adding to Coleman’s first points total and making a huge impact in the end.

Ray LeMieux (106) picked up a big win for the Cougars with his 6-4 decision and Coleman’s John Nowak (113) and Chance Gruber (120) were able to keep Fennimore from getting any big bonus points with a pin or tech fall and fell by decisions of 7-0 and 6-0, respectively.

“If you would have watched the kid John wrestled in the match before that one you would understand how incredible it is to not give up a major decision to him,” Casper said. “Chance got a kid that was a two time state champion and again, to not give up a major to him was huge for us.”

Will Beiber (126) nearly sealed the win for the Cougars in the second-to-last match against Macoy Fitzgerald.

“We were hoping for a major and Will was trying so hard and he almost had it, but that kid got the take down and it ended with Will winning an 8-3 decision so we pretty much knew we were going to tie going into the last match unless Noah pulled something out of his hat,” Casper said.

It came down to criteria, Coleman was crowned the 2020 WIAA Division 3 state champions — and they did it in a true team effort.

“Every single person on this team, even if they didn’t wrestle in these final matches, helped lead us to where we are today,” Casper said. “I can’t say enough about this team and what they accomplished.”

The Cougars have now started the last three decades off with state championships after winning in 2000, 2010 and now they have added their 11th and coach Casper’s sixth in 2020.

COLEMAN 27, FENNIMORE 26

138: Karson Casper C tech. fall over Maximos Miles 15-0. 145: Sam Kuchta C dec. Aidan Nutter 5-2. 152: Mason Lull F dec. Owen Kinzinger 5-1. 160: Nick Blaschke F dec. Jakob Horton 3-2. 170: Cole Klimek C dec. Mason Miles 4-3. 182: Will Ahnen F tech. fall over Coby Den Ruyter 19-2. 195: Jonathon Bieber C dec. Logan Klaas 6-5. 220: Shamus McLain C pinned Cameron Winkers :51. 285: Aaron Ragels F dec. Spencer Karban 8-2. 106: Ray Lemieux C dec. Brett Birchman 6-4. 113: Jayden Glasbrenner F dec. John Nowak 7-0. 120: Luke Blair F dec. Chance Gruber 6-0. 126: Will Bieber C dec. Macoy Fitzgerald 8-3. 132: Alex Birchman F pinned Noah Chang 3:25.

COLEMAN 40, RANDOM LAKE 36

132: Will Bieber C pinned Skylar Koch 1:07. 138: Karson Casper C pinned Parker Scholler 1:26. 145: Sam Kuchta C major dec. Hayden Scholler. 152: Joey Bock RL pinned Jakob Horton 3:06. 160: Aiden Vandenbush RL pinned Ramiro Cortez 1:28. 170: Samuel Schwabe RL pinned Cole Klimek 4:32. 182: Jonathon Bieber C dec. Brock Upson. 195: Coby Den Ruyter C pinned Miguel Acuna :28. 220: Shamus McLain C pinned Owen Kies :42. 285: Spencer Karban C pinned Jordan Arendt 3:30. 106: Ray Lemieux C dec. Mark Szombathelyi 4-0. 113: Tanner Birenbaum RL won by forfeit. 120: Jackson Averill RL won by forfeit. 126: Ethan San Felippo RL won by forfeit.