Schoenfuss, Schoenherr, Bornbach collect third-straight titles for Tigers
By Paul Lecker
MADISON — The Stratford wrestling program, as good as it has been over the years, has never had a three-time state champion.
On Saturday night, A.J. Schoenfuss became the first, winning the 120-pound Division 3 state title. About 30 minutes later, Jeremy Schoenherr joined him, and about two hours after that, Kamren Bornbach became the third to accomplish the feat.
The Stratford trio, along with senior Mason Kauffman, who won his second state title in three years, had quite a night at the 2017 WIAA State Individual Wrestling Tournament.
The four Stratford champions own 11 of the program’s 19 all-time state individual wrestling titles.
“It’s so special growing up with these guys,” Bornbach said. “Since second grade, working with these guys, we push each other. Now we get to this level and how successful we’ve been, pushing each other in the wrestling room, it’s amazing. I’m so happy to be a part of it.”
Freshman Manny Drexler was the first of the five Stratford wrestlers to take the mat in the championship round in front a packed Kohl Center.
Drexler (41-4) was down 2-1 early in the first period before Koltin Grzybowski (41-3) of Coleman earned a takedown, turned him on his back, and pinned him at an even one minute into the match.
From there, the Tigers dominated.
Schoenfuss (35-5) was down 3-1 after two periods to Iowa-Grant/Highland’s Sawyer Sarbacher. He earned a point when Sarbacher was called for his second stalling penalty with about 20 seconds remaining and then flipped his fate with an improbable reverse just before the buzzer sounded to win 4-3.
Schoenfuss won D-3 titles at 103 pounds in 2015 and 120 last season.
“I was just burnt out, didn’t think it would be right to the end like that. I just used everything I had,” Schoenfuss said. “I used all energy I had left to try to get that leg-ride out, fighting with everything I could, and eventually I slipped out, got that two, and it just felt right.”
Schoenherr, a 113-pound champion two years ago and a 126-pound champ last season, battled Sammy VanStraten of Shiocton (46-4) to a 3-1 victory in the 138-pound title match.
Schoenherr earned a takedown in the first period and an escape in the second before VanStraten closed to within two on an escape with 33 seconds to go in the final period. Schoenherr was able to hold off numerous attempts for control from VanStraten to preserve the victory and finish the season a perfect 17-0. He was 41-0 last season and is now 101-3 in his career.
“It just means what I’m doing is working, and if I keep it up, I (could) win a fourth and do bigger and better things after high school,” Schoenherr said of winning his third state title.
Kauffman racked up his 131st-straight win on the mat with a furiously-paced 18-7 major decision over James Pfeiffer (39-5) of Cadott in the 152-pound championship.
Kauffman (32-0) had eight takedowns and a two-point nearfall to roll to the victory. All of Pfeiffer’s points came on escapes that Kauffman allowed.
“He’s so slick on his feet, and I just sit back and watch,” Stratford coach Joe Schwabe said. “He’s worked hard, and he deserves what he gets. When he goes at that level and speed that he can, it’s a blast to watch.”
After winning the 126-pound title in 2015, Kauffman qualified for last year’s state finals at 152 but was forced to forfeit due to a heart condition that landed him in the hospital following his semifinal victory. The Eastern Michigan University recruit reflected on his long road back to health and wrestling dominance after the win.
“It’s been a long, emotional journey back,” Kauffman said. “A bunch of hardships and it definitely wasn’t easy. I had a great support system though. There were a lot of times where I felt I couldn’t do it.
“This one means a lot more (than the first), just a long journey back and everything. There were a lot of setbacks, but I had a great support system, and they got me back on top.”
Bornbach (39-1) controlled Noah Wieczorek (41-5) of Clear Lake throughout the 220-pound championship.
Bornbach earned a takedown and a two-point nearfall in the first period and had two more takedowns in the second to build an 8-1 lead.
Bornbach, a senior, became the first four-time state medalist in Stratford history as he finished fifth as a freshman before winning 182-pound titles the past two seasons and the 220-pound championship this season. He is 172-14 in his career heading into the WIAA State Team Wrestling Tournament next weekend when the Tigers will head back to Madison.
“It’s amazing. It’s definitely how I wanted to go out,” Bornbach said. “For the last three years, it’s a great feeling knowing that I’m the best. It’s really hard as a defending champion. Then you win two. Everyone brings their best every time you wrestle, so it’s the sweetest the third time.”
The thought of having four state champions for the third-straight season had Schwabe all smiles afterward.
“A.J. pulled one out of the hat right at the end and got a win for himself,” Schwabe said. “That was hard work and preparation and determination to not give up. Jeremy followed suit and did what he always does, and Kam got to finish his way out. It’s neat for all of those guys as teammates, and in between Mason got his second title. … What a great night.”
Stratford will face Random Lake in a Division 3 semifinal at 10 a.m. next Saturday, March 4, at the University of Wisconsin Fieldhouse. The winner moves into the championship match against either Spring Valley/Elmwood or Fennimore at 3 p.m. Stratford beat Spring Valley/Elmwood in the semifinals before losing the D-3 championship match to Fennimore at last year’s state tournament via a tiebreaker after they battled to a 26-26 tie. Fennimore won the state title based on winning eight of the 14 total matches.
“We’ve got to turn the page tomorrow,” Bornbach said. “We’ll enjoy this tonight. Fennimore had a great individual tournament too, plenty of champs, and so it’s going to be a battle next week. We have to refocus and get ready for next week.”
(Hub City Times Sports Reporter Paul Lecker is also the publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com.)