By Paul Lecker
STRATFORD — The Stratford wrestling team is once again putting together a magical season.
After numerous tournament wins, including its fourth-straight Division 3 title at the Bi-State Classic in late December and sweeping through the Marawood Conference dual meet schedule, Stratford begins its quest for postseason accolades Saturday when it hosts the Marawood Conference Tournament beginning at 10:30 a.m. at the Stratford High School gymnasium.
The Tigers are searching for their fourth-straight Marawood title and ninth in program history after having won five in a row from 2000-2004.
While Stratford is the favorite to win another conference title, coach Joe Schwabe said he knows it will not be easy.
“We are really looking forward to this year’s conference tournament,” Schwabe said. “With an eight-year rotation, it is Stratford’s turn to host, and we can’t wait. We hope to add a new special light show for the finals and have great showing.
“Winning this tournament will not be easy with two other state-ranked schools (Athens and Pittsville) in the conference and tough individuals from the remaining five schools. I tell those that ask, ‘Other schools practice hard too,’ and we will need to have our A game to be successful on Saturday.”
Senior Kamren Bornbach will be looking for his fourth-straight individual conference title, having won at 182 pounds the past three seasons. He will wrestle at 220 this season.
Bornbach, along with the other seniors, would love to finish off their conference career with another title.
“Our seniors are a very strong group of athletes that train hard and have earned their success,” Schwabe said. “The seniors are hoping to win their fourth outright title.”
Stratford has not been at full strength all season as two of its four state champions from last year, Jeremy Schoenherr and Tyson Kauffman, have missed multiple matches with injuries.
Schwabe said the Tigers did not participate in one dual or tournament where they had their projected, strongest lineup, but incredible depth helped the team pull through. He added they may not have everyone back this week either, but Stratford hopes to be at full strength heading into the WIAA Division 3 regional Feb. 11 at Athens and beyond.
“Last year the kids had a great individual sectionals as well as team sectionals,” Schwabe said. “They were able to maintain that momentum into the individual state tournament, which ended up being nothing short of spectacular for us. That performance will be tough to repeat, but we will see what happens.”
If the Tigers win the regional team title, they would compete at the team sectional at Amherst on Feb. 14. The individual sectional is at Shawano on Feb. 18, the individual state tournament will be held at the Kohl Center in Madison on Feb. 23-25, and the state team tournament is at the UW Fieldhouse in Madison on March 3-4.