BACK TO BACK
Rau wins 2nd state title
The WIAA Division 2 state championship wrestling match at 220 pounds Saturday night at the Kohl Center in Madison featured the same matchup as the Great Northern Conference title bout in Medford on Feb. 8.
Medford’s Jake Rau won the GNC match over Antigo senior Nick Roller 5-2, and Rau made sure nothing changed in Saturday’s state final, jumping out to a 6-0 lead and pinning Roller at 5:38 to clinch his second straight state championship in the weight class.
With Saturday’s win, Rau now owns two of Medford’s 12 WIAA individual state championships and became only the third Raider to own multiple titles. Josh and Jordan Crass both won three titles from 2002 to 2004.
“It means that all the hard practices and workouts and everything paid off,” Rau said moments after ending his season at 38-2. “You always work for this by the end of the year. That’s how I got here, just going through all the workouts and not giving up.”
“Very satisfying and well deserved, I couldn’t be happier,” Medford head coach Brandon Marcis said. “Athletes like him don’t come around every year.
They’re special kids. I’ve been coaching him since seventh grade. It will be weird without him that’s for sure.”
Rau’s return route to the finals didn’t feature a great deal of suspense. He took charge of his quarterfinal match with Appleton Xavier’s Mac Strand in the second period, getting a reversal and pin at the 3:24 mark early Friday afternoon. Later that night in the semifinals, Rau entered the third period tied 2-2 with senior Marcus Orlandoni of North Fond du Lac/St. Mary’s Springs. But he had the advantage of starting the period on the bottom. He took the lead with an escape and got a clinching takedown late to win 5-2.
Roller carried some momentum into the finals after winning his sectional bracket the previous weekend in Oconto Falls and getting pins in his first two state matchups. He got a big one in the quarterfinals Friday afternoon against Neillsville-Greenwood-Loyal freshman Gunner Hoffman, reversing a 2-1 thirdperiod deficit and pinning Hoffman in 5:16. Roller dominated the first period of his semifinal match with Omro’s Kyle Dietzen and pinned him at the two-minute period expired. Hoffman was 2-1 against Rau this season, leading to some anticipation for a fourth meeting in the final, but that didn’t happen.
“You come all the way to Madison, drive all those hours and end up wrestling somebody that’s an hour away,” Rau said Friday night after the All-GNC matchup was set. Rau and Roller have wrestled each other several times coming up together through the youth, middle school and high school ranks. “That just shows how good our conference, our sectional and our regional are. A lot of state-caliber kids. That’s what we need and that’s how we ended up here.”
“I really like it, I really do,” Marcis said Friday night. “I know there’s a lot of academies and stuff down south. I think there’s a lot of good caliber wrestlers down south, so we want to do everything we can to keep competitive up north. Any time we have two GNC guys in the finals, that speaks for our area.”
The title match started with Roller (45-6) trying to set a fast and physical pace. Rau had to fight off a couple of solid shots before seeing an opening and getting the match’s first takedown late in the first period to take a 2-0 lead.
“I knew he was going to come out guns blazing,” Rau said. “He had a couple of good shots. I defended him well. But I wasn’t really prepared for that first big flurry.”
Rau chose the bottom to start the second period and got a reversal with 1:22 left. He wasn’t quite able to get back points but he went into the third period comfortably ahead 4-0. The wrestlers started the third period in neutral positions. Rau got control of Roller’s legs near the edge of the mat and got a quick takedown to extend his lead to 6-0.
“We knew we wanted to come out physical,” Marcis said. “We knew (Roller) was a little nervous. Jake’s got the experience. Before he went in I told him just go out there and use confidence. He got through that first flurry, you know (Roller) is going to come out strong there. After that, he got it in control and went to his good basic stuff. He got us out of position a couple of times, but I think that with the experience Jake has, he never floundered. He just stayed true to our methods and never got out of position.”
Roller did escape and then got his only takedown, making things interesting for a moment. Rau, though, escaped and then took care of business, getting the last takedown and pin of his high school career.
“I knew I had the lead,” Rau said of Roller’s last-gasp flurry. “I knew I didn’t want to continue to fight it and end up getting put to my back, so I just let him get the two. I was still ahead and I knew I could get out so that’s what I had to do. I had to get out right away and that’s what I did.
“I felt him throw, so I sunk my hips way down. Once he got to his back, all I could think was just squeeze and just hold him there,” Rau added. “I ended up getting the fall. When I was looking at his shoulder, I kept looking at the ref thinking, ‘just slap the mat.’ Once I finally got it, I was just happy, sad, every emotion in the book was out there.”
Rau finishes his prep career with three state appearances, three Great Northern Conference titles, three sectional appearances with one title, a regional championship and a 139-27 four-year record.
“The journey was amazing,” Rau said. “I don’t think the journey starts a couple years ago. I think it started when I was three. Wrestling all those years in youth, and to make it to the state finals five times and lose. I knew I had something to prove out here. I wanted to win the state title. I did it my junior year. I should be able to do it my senior year. The journey was amazing.”
Early state action
Medford’s first competitor at this year’s state tournament was senior Zeke Sigmund, who took the mat Thursday night in a 145-pound first-round match. Sigmund’s third state appearance, unfortunately, was a short one as he ran into a buzz saw named Braeden Scoles.
An impressive combination of size, strength and quickness, the Kewaskum freshman jumped ahead of Sigmund with a first-period takedown and three-point near fall. He defended Sigmund’s best shot midway through the second period and got a takedown and near fall out of that to go up 11-0 before Sigmund got a point on a technical violation.
Scoles locked on Sigmund’s head, took him down and got a near fall to complete the 16-1 technical fall at the 4:43 mark.
Scoles (41-3) proved the opening-round win was no fluke as he won three more matches, including a pin 44 seconds into overtime to beat defending state champion Aidan Medora of St. John’s Northwest Military Academy in the final, to win the state championship.
“He had a really tough draw,” Marcis said. “That goes back to what I was saying about the academy wrestlers. How many freshmen can come up and tech fall an experienced senior like Zeke? Obviously that’s disappointing, but you get the draw you get. You get what you earn and sometimes you don’t even get that. I think in this case, Zeke had a good career and I think he earned more than that. It just didn’t work out. I think he’s got a lot to prove yet. He says he’s going to keep wrestling in college, which I think is a great idea for him. Where, I don’t know, but I think the future is bright for him. He’s been an amazing athlete, it’s been an honor to coach him. It really has.”
Sigmund finished his Raider career 133-37 with three Great Northern Conference titles, four sectional appearances including one championship and three regional championships. He was the GNC Wrestler of the Year last season.
Rau’s quarterfinal match with Strand, a junior, Friday afternoon was scoreless until he got his reversal and pin in the second period.
“He’s pretty strong for how young he was,” Rau said. “I couldn’t get to my moves on the feet. He kinda knew I liked the front head, so he stopped that. As soon as he stuck that arm deep on bottom, I just clamped it down, dipped over and kept him to his back. I had an arm bar in and I was trying to step it over. He was just really strong. He kept elbowing down. Once I finally took one big step and drove the shoulder to the head, he kinda went over.”
“That was a little combination that he just magically put together at Bi-State,” Marcis said. “We teach it, but the way he’s been putting in the legs, breaks a guy down and then he gets the arm and goes to a bar, I told him we’re going to start teaching that combination and we’re going to call it the Jake Rau onetwo punch.”
Orlandoni was the fourth-place finisher a year ago at 195 pounds. He came out aggressively in the semifinal match, but Rau kept himself out of harm’s way and got the initial takedown in the first period. The period ended with Rau leading 2-1. Orlandoni got an escape in the second period to tie it. With the choice to start the third, Rau felt good about his chances.
“He didn’t take me down to the mat the period before,” Rau said. “He kinda bent up my elbow quite a bit. It was hard to get that back, but once I got it back, I controlled the hands, he ended up getting a little heavy on top, I stood up and I just blocked him out from there. I got that stalling call, but that’s why you get two of them. I wasn’t really too worried about that. Then that last takedown secured it with 30 seconds left. Wrestlers that don’t get out of position don’t lose, that’s what (Marcis) told us the first day he was here in seventh grade.”
Rau said the bonds he formed with his teammates, particularly his senior teammates, and with Marcis, who coached the seniors through two years of middle school wrestling and their four years of high school, will be what he misses most.
“Those guys are like my brothers. I love them to death,” he said. “Some of them didn’t make it here, but they’re still champions in my eyes. Every practice they were hustling right with me. I was just able to show it out on the mat more than they can right now.”