Prairie wrestlers place five, Koenig wins third state title

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Rhett Koenig shows his excitement after winning his semifinal match to advance to the final. Koenig did so with a 6-3 decision over returning State Champion Hart from Winneconne.

Rhett Koenig, a junior, stands atop the podium of the WIAA D2 132# class. Koenig has now won three State titles.

Rhett Koenig controls Hart of Winneconne in his semifinal match.

The PDC Blackhawks wrestlers and coaches pose for a picture on the floor of the Kohl Center prior to Saturday's Parade of Champions. Front row: Coach Jake Heuston, Rhett Koenig, Drew Hird, and Luke Kramer. Back row: Coach Cory Koenig, Coach Jon Quamme, Brogan Brewer, Maddox Cejka, Coach Kevin Lenzendorf, Ryder Koenig, Blake Thiry and Head Coach Mike Rogge.

Blake Thiry “shelves” his opponent while working for a takedown. Thiry was wrestling Kilgas of Brillion.

Drew Hird uses a front headlock and threads the needle to turn and pin Sippel of Kiel in the second period in his preliminary match Thursday evening.

Luke Kramer works for a takedown in his preliminary match Thursday evening. Kramer would get the takedown and get a second period fall against Hall (Amherst). This would also be Kramer's 100th career win.

Maddox Cejka uses a tight waist while elevating his opponent's ankle in his preliminary match Thursday evening. Cejka would go on to win by technical fall 17-2 over Papenfus (Plymouth).

On Thursday, Feb. 24, Prairie du Chien 145# wrestler Luke Kramer won his 100th career match at the State Tournament. Kramer, a junior, won his 100th match with a second period fall over his Amherst opponent. In doing so, Kramer becomes just the 17th wrestler in the history of PDC wrestling to have 100 wins. Congratulations Luke!

The 79th annual WIAA Individual State Wrestling Tournament was held Thursday, Feb. 24 through Saturday, Feb. 26. The Kohl Center and the Madison area were a popular place with wrestling enthusiasts converging from all corners of the state. Prairie du Chien was represented by a contingent of seven wrestlers with quests to win a State Title. 

Wrestling action started on Thursday night for five of the Blackhawks. At 126#, Ryder Koenig, a two-time state qualifier, faced Dessellier (Kiel) and would be defeated by major decision 13-1 to the eventual State Runnerup to end Koenig’s state tournament. At 138#, Drew Hird would face Sippel (Kiel) and would win by fall in 3:45. At 145#, Luke Kramer, wrestling in his third state tournament, would have an opening match to remember. Kramer would face Hall (Amherst) and would pin him in 3:43. With the pin, Kramer also became the 17th wrestler in the history of PDC wrestling to earn 100 career wins.  At 152#, Maddox Cejka, a returning state placewinner, would score often against Papenfus (Plymouth) on his way to a 17-2 technical fall in 5:36. At 170#, Brogan Brewer would wrestle a tough match against Brockman (Freedom), but would come up short in a 5-1 defeat to the eventual sixth-place finisher. This would end Brewer’s state tournament.

The quarterfinal round kicked off Friday morning wrestling. At 132#, Rhett Koenig would win by major decision 12-2 over Fink (Baldwin-Woodville). At 138#, Drew Hird would wrestle tough, but would lose 6-1 to Wolfe (West Salem/Bangor) who would be a State Runnerup. At 145#, Luke Kramer would lose by major decision 13-5 to VandeHey (Freedom) who would end up as State Runnerup. At 152#, Maddox Cejka would lose by fall in 2:55 to Licht (Lodi) who would go on to be the State Champ. At 195#, Blake Thiry would lose by major decision 18-5 to Matthias (Two Rivers), who would go on to finish in third place. 

Friday afternoon was consolation; round one. This is a very important round. If you win, you secure a third through sixth-place finish. If you lose, your tournament is done. At 138#, Drew Hird would get back on track with a 4:43 fall over Schmidt (Baldwin-Woodville). At 145#, Luke Kramer would pick up a nice win by decision 3-0 over Tylee (Amery). At 152#, Maddox Cejka would win by decision 5-1 over Hull (Waupun). At 195#, Blake Thiry would face a familiar foe in Horne (Darlington/Blackhawk) and come away with an exciting 3-2 win in tiebreaker two. 

The excitement would build for Friday night as the semifinals approached. For many fans, this is considered to be the most exciting round of the tournament. At 132#, Rhett Koenig would toe the line against Hart (Winneconne). Hart was a State Champion last year at 120#, so this match was expected to be a good one. After giving up the opening takedown, Koenig would go to work with a couple of escapes, a couple of takedowns, and a very convincing rideout to secure a 6-3 victory to advance to Saturday night’s State Finals.

Saturday morning was the consolation semifinals and finals. If you win in the semifinals you get the opportunity to wrestle for third. If you lose, you fall to the fifth-place match. In the semifinals, Drew Hird at 138# would lose by major decision 13-0 to Hart (Winneconne). At 145#, Luke Kramer would lose by decision 1-0 to Alexander (Wrightstown). At 152#, Maddox Cejka would lose by decision 6-4 to Joniaux (Luxemburg-Casco). At 195#, Blake Thiry would lose by major decision 18-5 to Grewe (Abbotsford/Colby). In the fifth-place matches, Drew Hird at 138# was defeated by major decision 11-2 to Tomazevic (Seymour). At 145#, Luke Kramer would pick up a very good win by decision 4-1 over Schuh (Monroe) in a match Kramer had lost at sectionals. At 152#, Maddox Cejka would be defeated by decision 6-2 to Wasley (St. Croix Central). At 195#, Blake Thiry would lose by decision 5-3 to Kilgas (Brillion).

All of this wrestling would lead to Saturday night’s finals, starting at 5:30 with the Parade of Champions and National Anthem. At 132#, Rhett Koenig would face an opponent he had beaten three times this year in Owen Seffrood of Darlington/Blackhawk. All three match-ups had happened in the last three weeks with the SWC/SWAL finals, Regional finals, and Sectional finals, which have been Seffrood’s only losses of the year. In period one, there would be a lot of ties with a few shot attempts combined, but no finishes for a scoreless first period. Koenig would win the coin toss and take down to begin period two. Koenig would work a stand up and get an escape 14 seconds into the period. Koenig would then work his ties to get a takedown with 1:09 left in the period. Seffrood would counter with an escape 10 seconds later to make the score 3-1. Koenig would get in on a shot again, but wasn’t able to finish. At the start of period three, Koenig would intentionally concede a point and put Seffrood on his feet. The strategy worked well, as Koenig was able to once again control the ties and get to his shot for a takedown at the 1:14 mark and a 5-2 lead. Koenig would put on a tight ride, hardly letting his opponents hips or head off the mat for the remainder of the match. At the 9-second mark, Seffrood would be called for stalling and give up another point to make the final score 6-2 for Koenig’s third consecutive State Title!

Fast facts for 

Prairie wrestlers 

A few facts from the State Tournament and the individual careers of these fine wrestlers:

-Junior Rhett Koenig joins a list of just 79 wrestlers all time in the State of Wisconsin to have won three State Titles.

-Junior Rhett Koenig becomes PDC’s first three-time State Champion. Koenig also secured PDC’s fifth State Title (Mike Lenzendorf, Tyler Hannah, Rhett Koenig x3).

-Junior Maddox Cejka (6th in 2021, 6th in 2022) joins a short list of PDC wrestlers to have placed at least twice at the State Tournament (Matt Rogge 2x, Bradyn Saint 2x, Mike Lenzendorf 2x, Clayton Beers 2x, Taylor Elliott 3x, Traeton Saint 3x, Rhett Koenig 3x).

-Blake Thiry becomes PDC’s ninth freshman to qualify for the State Tournament. Thiry also becomes just the fourth freshman to place at State (Taylor Elliott, Clayton Beers, Rhett Koenig).

-Maddox Cejka and Ryder Koenig, a junior, join a PDC list of 17 wrestlers to qualify for multiple State Tournaments.

-Freshman Blake Thiry, sophomore Drew Hird, and juniors Luke Kramer, Maddox Cejka, and Rhett Koenig join a PDC list of 34 State Placewinners.

-Junior Brogan Brewer joins a PDC list of 61 State Qualifiers.

-PDC pairs of brothers to have wrestled in the same State Tournament: Saint (Traeton and Bradyn), Rogge (Nick and Matt), Koenig (Rhett and Ryder).

Up next for the Blackhawk grapplers will be WIAA D2 Team State, hosted by UW Madison at the Fieldhouse on Saturday, March 5. The Hawks are making a third consecutive trip, following last year’s State Runnerup finish. 

The opening round will start at 10 a.m. PDC, the #4 seed, will face #1 Amery, in a rematch of last year’s State Finals. The other match-up will be #2 Luxemburg-Casco vs. #3 Winneconne. The winning teams will square off for the State Title at 3 p.m. Go Blackhawks!

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