By Greg Bates
ACN & Times-Press sports correspondent
Sammy Van Straten and Levi Snortum had storied wrestling careers at Shiocton.
The duo made back-to-back trips to state, but they both didn’t get their desired outcomes in their matches as seniors at the Kohl Center in Madison.
Van Straten, one year removed from a second-place finish at state, took fourth at 138. His goal was to be back in the title match for another shot at gold. Snortum came up one win shy of placing at 145, which was his personal goal.
“They both wrestled well,” Shiocton coach Eric Clausen said.
The pair leave Shiocton in the top 10 in all-time wins. Van Straten eclipsed the school record of 160 wins, finishing 161-26. Snortum wrapped up his career at 142-31.
Both guys had great starts to the state tournament, scoring opening-round victories on Thursday night to advance to Friday.
The win was big for Snortum (34-7), who lost his only match at state a season ago. To get over that hurdle was paramount. He pinned Lancaster’s Collin Lull in 3:46 to advance.
“I think when he got past that one then it kind of went back to, ‘OK, I achieved that goal,’” Clausen said.
In the quarterfinals, Snortum was beaten by a 13-4 major decision by Ladysmith’s Nathan Roach, who ended up winning the state title.
“The kid was strong, the kid was fast,” Clausen said. “Levi’s a strong kid, but the two kids that he lost to were stronger. We weren’t as strong as we probably should be at that weight class.”
In wrestlebacks later that afternoon, Snortum wasn’t able to bounce back. He lost 7-4 to Ithaca/Weston’s Gavin Burch to put an end to his career.
If Snortum would have won one of his final two matches, he would have placed in the top six and been on the podium.
“He was upset, and rightfully so,” Clausen said. “He’s been one of our main guys the past three years. We’ve counted on him and Sammy to do a lot for us as a team. Just to get him to place, that was my big thing this weekend. It would have been a win for us.”
Van Straten (45-6) took care of his opening-round opponent with ease, pinning Random Lake’s Joey Bock in 1:36. Van Straten also beat Mineral Point’s Logan Schmidt 13-7 in the next round.
Cruising to the semifinals, Van Straten ran into Coleman’s Jake Baldwin. Van Straten couldn’t solve Baldwin, losing 8-3. He took the loss hard because it meant he wouldn’t have a shot at a state title again.
“The kid’s tough; he’s strong, he’s big,” Clausen said. “He has the slide-bys, he just buried us on our feet. He just kept hitting slide-bys on us and we couldn’t stop it. Even after the match was over, I asked Sammy, we had talked about, he’s like, ‘I was actually trying not to tie up with the guy and I still found myself tied up with him.”
In the wrestlebacks, Van Straten took down Clear Lake’s Nick Sempf 3-0 to advance to the third-place match. There, Cochrane/Fountain City’s Max Dascher escaped with a 2-1 decision.
“I was expecting to see a little bit more of a ‘let ‘er rip’ kind of thing, but he still stayed pretty conservative on us,” Clausen said.
Clausen didn’t see any difference from Van Straten between his first two wins of the tournament and in his two losses. But Clausen knows there was a lot on Van Straten’s mind.
“I think there was a lot of stress on him coming in being a finalist last year, taking second,” Clausen said. “He puts a lot of pressure on himself. He’s pretty head strong.”
Fourth place was not what Van Straten had in mind when he went to Madison for the final time of his high school career.
“Obviously disappointment,” Clausen said. “I think in his mind he put himself at least third or better. I don’t think he missed out much on where he was thinking he needed to be.”
With Van Straten and Snortum graduating this year, the loss to the program will be immense. Clausen knows his younger wrestlers will have to step up and take the reins.
“We have some kids with some big-time potential to come in and do very well, but once again we need to get these guys in the weight room, get them stronger, get them some extra wrestling outside of the season,” Clausen said. “That’s one thing that’s always been our downfall, we don’t have guys that wrestle year-round. Our guys, I always call them part-timers – November through February and they’re done.”
If the Shiocton wrestlers put in the time in the offseason, Clausen is expecting big things.
Sammy Van Straten fights to keep wrist control of his opponent during his WIAA Division 3 match. – Photo courtesy of Tadd Krueger
Levi Snortum attempts to sit out and reverse the maneuver against him at the WIAA Individual Division 3 State Wrestling Championship in Madison. – Photo courtesy of Tadd Krueger
By Greg Bates