By Greg Bates
ACN & Times-Press
The wrestling season didn’t officially get underway until mid-November, but last June the members of the Seymour wrestling team had a feeling this was going to be a successful 2017-18 campaign.
The Thunder make its annual trek to Minneapolis to compete in a team camp at Augsburg University. After doing well in the camp, Seymour seniors Nick Sherman, Thomas Peters and Flynn Schneider got together and talked about checking off a major goal in their final season: winning the Bay Conference title.
“I think when we went to the team camp this summer that it was pretty known by all of us that it was possible to do, so just going to practice every day knowing you have a chance was pretty cool,” Sherman said.
So, when Seymour beat Green Bay United on Thursday, Feb. 1, the Thunder captured its first conference title since 2009.
“When we won it, it definitely felt pretty good,” Sherman said.
The three aforementioned seniors – Sherman (195) and Peters (160), who are both captains, and Schneider (152) — have been the staple on this year’s team, combining for a record of 70-28. But it’s Seymour’s balance of upperclassmen and underclassmen that got the job done.
“We’re young, but there’s also a lot of talent that came in,” Seymour coach Mark Schmoll said. “Overall as a group they’ve really gelled as a team. The fact that they care about each other and the overall success of the team has been an important aspect of how we’ve been able to come together and be successful as a group.”
Coming into the season, Schmoll knew a conference title was a very realistic goal as long as the wrestlers continued to work hard.
“But you never know, there’s lot of things that can happen as far as injuries or where people are going to fall into weight classes and things like that,” Schmoll said. “Overall, all of those things kind of took care of themselves and we had a lot of selfless efforts out of kids in order to accomplish the goal. We had some kids wrestling in four different weight classes in order to fill them and get our best matchups.”
Seymour, which is 12-6 overall, has had a steady season. It placed runner-up in back-to-back weekends in early December in dual tournaments at home and at Weyauwega-Fremont. The Thunder got into the meat of its schedule in January and placed sixth and seventh, respectfully, at Sauk Prairie and Sheboygan North.
Half of Seymour’s 18 wrestlers are freshmen, which is remarkable in itself. That group of athletes was quite accomplished during its middle school days.
This year’s Big 3 of the freshman class have been nothing short of phenomenal. Wyatt Kaczrowski (113) has a 31-5 record, Blake Linsmeyer (106) is 16-4 and Javon Leisgang (145) is 22-14.
“It’s not real often that we get as many freshmen as we do,” Schmoll said. “Some of them are experienced and have been wrestling since they were kindergartners, but we also have a handful that are out for the first time. It’s kind of a nice combination of kids.”
Mix in junior tri-captain Jeremiah Baranczyk (132), who is 16-16, and sophomore Brady Eick (182), 29-8, and Seymour has solid nucleus of wrestlers up and down its lineup.
The Thunder have three wrestlers who are ranked in the top 10 in weight classes in Division 2, according to WIwrestling.com. Peters (160) and Kaczrowski (113) are both ranked No. 5 and Eick (182) is No. 9. Sherman (195) is honorable mention.
“Each year we’ve had at least one if not a couple of guys ranked, but as important as anything is confidence,” Schmoll said. “When kids see themselves listed among the best in the state, it really helps to boost that confidence so that when they go out onto the mat they believe in themselves and expect to win instead of the other way around. That confidence helps just in the way that they carry themselves and as far as leadership for the team.”
Winning the conference title for the first time in nine years is a big accomplishment for Seymour.
“In a lot of ways there’s a new fire that has been lit as far as the wrestling program,” Schmoll said. “Over the past several years our numbers have been down a little bit – not that there was any lack of effort from the kids we had – but it’s difficult to compete especially in a dual meet competition for the conference title when you’re forfeiting weight classes.”
Seymour has been able to fill 12 of the 14 weight classes consistently all season. But the bigger weights, 220 and heavyweight, have been a challenge. Zach Gerhardt came in late and has been able to provide a body at 220.
It’s been a fun season for Sherman and the ideal way for him to cap off his senior year.
“The team dynamic of it has been better than what it’s been in the last four years, from my perspective,” Sherman said. “We’re 14 guys, but we all get together and we have a good time together and we’re all pretty close friends.”
Seymour, which competed in regionals on Feb. 10, is now hoping to be well represented at sectionals in Oconto Falls on Saturday, Feb. 17. A good showing could mean a large contingent of athletes make it down to Madison for state. There isn’t a wrestler on this year’s team that has competed at state.
“Getting three or four down to state would be a really great year, but probably more realistically two or three,” Schmoll said.
Regardless of how many wrestlers advance to state, this season will go down as a success for Schmoll.
“It’s an exciting time right now for Seymour wrestling because our numbers are back on the upswing, and we’ve got back some people coaching that haven’t in a while and overall things are just kind of clicking right now,” Schmoll said.
By Greg Bates