Shane Gantz was trying to do something no other Waukesha West wrestler had ever accomplished. Ultimately, Gantz fell short of his goal of winning the WIAA Division 1 152-pound state wrestling championship on Feb. 25 at the Kohl Center in Madison, but his success at West is undeniable.
Gantz (41-2), the No.1-ranked wrestler in the state going into the tournament according to Wisconsin Wrestling Online, fell to West Allis Hale's Peyton Mocco (46-3) in the finals, 5-4. Mocco took a 4-2 lead after a takedown with 35 seconds left in the second period, but Gantz escaped 7 seconds later to narrow in on Mocco's lead.
Once Mocco extended the lead to 5-3, Gantz registered another escape but couldn't take the lead. There were four blood stoppages called during the match.
Last week at the West Allis Central sectional, Gantz beat Mocco, 7-5.
"Last week, there was a little more scrambling going on," West coach Derrick Amrhein said. "We were able to get some points early, which kind of swung the match. Today it was just a battle. It's one match, and everything is on the line."
Mocco, a junior, won his first state championship.
"A guy at Mocco's level, it's hard to beat him once," Amrhein said. "We got him last week and worked hard all week. Shane wrestled a great tournament, beat a lot of the top-placing guys. Just 1 point away."
Gantz, who placed sixth last season, became West's third finalist in school history.
"I think it's going to help motivate guys," Amrhein said. "We're a program on the upswing, and with the way Shane wrestled his butt off the whole tournament, it's going to really help us down the road."
A video slideshow showing the area's state wrestling champions and the runners-up from the Milwaukee-Waukesha area. Christopher Kuhagen/Now Media Group
Hale coach Randy Ferrell credited Gantz's ability as a wrestler.
"Gantz is a heck of a wrestler," Hale coach Randy Ferrell said. "He's got the body type, the transition, the mobility, everything you have with that. Graduating, moving on to college, I think any college would be happy to have that young man."
After the sectional loss, Hale's coaching staff kept an eye on a possible matchup with Gantz in the finals.
"I thought it was a heck of a possibility," Ferrell said. "These two are one and two in the state for a reason. They went back and forth. Coming through, we looked at the brackets and how they come out, we saw that was a possibility. We were scouting a number of kids and were preparing a game plan for a lot of different kids, and this was one we felt comfortable with."
Gantz opened up the tournament Feb. 23 with an 8-3 victory over Sparta's Brett Von Ruden (29-14). In the second round, Gantz defeated Slinger's Adam Beine (52-4), 7-2. Gantz claimed a 5-4 sudden-death overtime decision win against Kenosha Tremper's Noah Jackson (51-30) in the semifinals.
"He just works his butt off every day," Amrhein said of Gantz. "He's never missed any workout, anything, in the three years I've been head coached. Everything he's got, he's earned through hard work."
Mocco became Hale's second wrestler to win a state title. Hale's first championship came from Joe Semrad in 1962 at 120. Semrad is the grandfather of West assistant coach Tyler Semrad.
Waukesha North's Drew Malicki, who took an unlikely road to reach state, fell in both his matches via pin. He met eventual state champion Tyler Dow of Stoughton in the opener.