Stoughton High School senior Brooks Empey has achieved a lot of wrestling accolades in his career. After the Vikings came up short attempting to become the sixth team since World War II to win four or more straight state titles, the sting of finality set in, though.
“It was tough, because we were so close and we came up short,” he said. “We had worked so hard for it and had to travel on a bus to another school for practice because of COVID and having to wear masks. I felt for all of the other seniors. I’m just happy we were able to compete and wrestle my senior year.”
Top-ranked Kaukauna beat third-ranked Stoughton 38-26 in a WIAA division 1 state championship match on Saturday, Feb. 20, at Kaukauna High School.
The Vikings won seven matches, but the Galloping Ghosts won four matches in the middle weights to capture the state title.
“The wrestlers on the mat gave us everything they had,” Stoughton co-coach Dan Spilde said. “The first two rounds they did everything they could to put us in a position to win a state title. Kaukauna was just too deep. We just didn’t have the firepower to beat some of their stronger kids in the middle weights.”
It marked the seventh consecutive year Stoughton and Kaukauna had met at team state. The Vikings had beaten the Galloping Ghosts three years running in the semifinals during their three-year championship reign. Kaukauna won three straight title matches against Stoughton from 2015 to 2017.
The Vikings’ quartet of wrestlers who finished the state team tournament unbeaten are senior Luke Mechler at 160 pounds, senior Rudy Detweiler (195), Brooks Empey (220) and sophomore Griffin Empey (285).
Stoughton rolled to a 51-30 win over Waterford in a Division 1 state quarterfinal match, then clipped Slinger 39-34 in a semifinal match to set up a showdown with the Galloping Ghosts.
The Vikings capped off their eighth straight state appearance with a silver trophy.
“It’s difficult to lose our final dual meet as seniors,” Mechler said. “We gave it everything we could. We had a great run.”
Brooks Empey, a four-time state medalist and two-time Division 1 state champion, has racked up a career record of 158-32. He set the single season pins record as a sophomore in 2019 with 43. He came up two pins short of breaking Hunter Lewis’ career pins record (112).
“I always thought the more important one was the career pins record,” he said. “I just wasn’t able to wrestle enough matches this year. I was teammates with Hunter and I always joked with him that I would break his record.”
Kaukauna 38, Stoughton 26
Stoughton showed its strength in the upper weights in the state title match against the Galloping Ghosts.
In one of the closest matches, heavyweight Griffin Empey defeated Kaukauna’s Alex Ashauer 3-2.
“He stepped up and found a way to win,” Spilde said.
Detweiler (195) defeated Kaukauna’s Trevor Stuyvenberg 8-2. Brooks Empey won when Kaukauna’s Bryant Correa was disqualified for his fifth stalling.
“It was the environment of the team state,” Brooks Empey said. “They didn’t want to give up too many points. It was like celebrating a pin without achieving a pin.”
Sophomore Trenton Dow (145) defeated the Galloping Ghosts’ Judah Hammen 10-3, and Mechler (160) beat Kaukauna’s Clay Wendzicki in a technical fall 17-2.
The Vikings also picked up two wins in lower weights, as freshman Cole Sarbacker (113) defeated Connor Smith 10-4 and sophomore Chance Suddeth (120) beat Bryan Winans 7-2 in overtime.
Stoughton 39, Slinger 34
The dual meet started at 160, and Mechler pinned Slinger’s Collin Ormiston in 1:29.
“It takes 14 guys to win a dual meet,” Mechler said. “Everyone went out there and put it on the line.”
Detweiler, who will play football at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater next fall, pinned Brennan Kind in 1:30 and senior Rose Ann Marshall pinned Brady Daniels in 1:07.
“He’s always been a horse for us and been dependable,” Spilde said of Detweiler. “He silently gets the job done. He’s not a big talker. He goes out to win and leads by example. It’s great to have someone lead by example when you have successful teams.”
Brooks Empey pinned Slinger’s Andrew Glaszcz in 49 seconds and Griffin Empey pinned Slinger’s Bobby Cleary in 40 seconds in a heavyweight match.
Suddeth defeated Slinger’s Carson Longdin in a technical fall 15-0 and Nicolar Rivera (138) defeated Carter Ziebell 9-1.
In a nail-biter, Sarbacker (113) lost to Division 1 individual state champion Noah Tonsor 4-3.
“Those two matches kept us within striking distance,” Spilde said of Sarbacker and Suddeth. “Cole had him on his back,” Spilde said of Sarbacker. “He is on top of his game.”
Stoughton 51, Waterford 30
Stoughton posted six pins to breeze by Waterford in a state quarterfinal.
Mechler pinned Waterford’s Jeremy Cherba in 56 seconds. At 195, Detweiler pinned Waterford’s Casey North in 1:19 and Brooks Empey pinned Seth Bjorge in 16 seconds.
At heavyweight, Griffin Empey pinned Waterford’s Nicholas Shaw in 20 seconds and Sarbacker pinned Brady Johnson in 1 minute. Rivera (132) pinned Luke Funk in 2:13. Stoughton’s Ethan Soderbloom (138) beat Bryce Konwent 11-4.
Both Marshall (106) and Suddeth (120) won by forfeits.
Mechler said he will remember the relationships with friends, coaches and community connections he built being a member and captain of the wrestling team.
“The Stoughton wrestling community takes care of everyone,” he said. “I will forever be grateful to be a Stoughton Viking.”
Mechler will take some time off and then gear up for the football season with practices starting March 8. He plans to wrestle in the UWW Juniors tournament in April in Las Vegas, Nevada and the U.S. Nationals Greco-Roman and folkstyle tournament in July in Fargo, North Dakota.
The senior class for the Vikings is one of the most successful in the history of the program with three straight state titles and a runner-up finish. Spilde said the Vikings’ senior class is one of the best the program has ever had.
“Rose Ann Marshall is truly a trailblazer in wrestling,” Spilde said.
Marshall will wrestle at Friends University next year. Senior Alex Wicks (126) suffered a concussion in the semifinals against Slinger and didn’t wrestle in the finals against Kaukauna.
Spilde said Wicks may not have the accolades or most career wins, but he will go down in history.
Wicks had a pin in last year at the state team tournament that clinched a state title for the Vikings.
“That’s why we have dubbed him with the name Wicks for six,” Spilde said.