Melrose-Mindoro/G-E-T's Hunter Kastenschmidt (right) ties up with Durand's Jake Zeilinger during their 220-pound semifinal match at a recent tournament in Cadott, Wis. Zeilinger won by fall, but Kastenschmidt won his final match to place third at the event.

NATE BEIER, Special to the Chronicle

The Melrose-Mindoro/G-E-T wrestling team has flirted with a WIAA team state appearance in the past, and this season they’re determined to set a date.

The Titans had their chance to make it to Madison in 2015, but their season ended with a 64-6 loss against Ellsworth in the first match of team sectionals. Another chance came last season, but a second match-up with No. 1 Ellsworth once again ended their pursuit. This season, co-coach Pete Peterson is set on taking the team to the state team meet and achieving some milestones along the way.

“Well, we hope to win conference, and looking down the road, we want to get to team state,” Peterson said. “Out of the last three years, we lost to Ellsworth twice (in team sectionals) and we want to move on to the next level.”

The path, however, changes this season. The Titans and Panthers have been separated and will compete in different sectionals, and Melrose-Mindoro/G-E-T’s next chance to meet Ellsworth would be at the Division 2 state tournament should both qualify.

So far, the Titans are proving that they’re in it for the long run. Melrose-Mindoro/G-E-T came out victorious at the 18-team Richland Center Invitational in December and added another victory to its resume after winning the Cadott Invitational.

The Titans, who are ranked eighth in Division 2 by Wisconsin Wrestling Online and have more than 30 wrestlers, talent and depth at every weight. The Titans feature four state-ranked wrestlers, two of which have state experience.

Junior Julian Purney and senior Jack Marley are returning from a trip to state last season and have a combined record of 43-9 this season.

“They’ve been workout partners since Julian was a freshman and Jack was a sophomore,” Peterson said. “Part of their success is they’ve made each other so much better. They get after each other in practice and that drives them ... you’re only as good as your partner pushes you.”

Purney finished his sophomore season by placing second at state in the 120-pound class. Ranked fourth at 126, he has compiled a 21-4 record this season. Reaching that level of success is something that he attributes to his state performance last season.

“It really motivated me,” Purney said of competing at the state tournament. “I got crushed at state finals, but now I know how to accomplish my goals. You learn more from losing than you do from winning.”

Ranked sixth in the state (120) with a 22-5 record, Marley is no stranger to stepping up on the bigger stage. Last year Marley made the trek to Madison for the individual competition, which ended with one win and two losses.

Besides Purney (21-4) and Marley (22-5) , the Titans bring plenty of other top-flight wrestlers. Jacob Summers is ranked sixth at 145 and Sam Jansen is 12th at 220. Colton Sime (113, 17-7), Jaden Anderson (152), Landon Lockington (182, 17-8), Bryce Burns (195, 15-4) and Josh Marciulionis (285) have all earned honorable mention in the state rankings.

Although the Titans have more wins than losses, those numbers are not the team’s top priority.

“Our coach said it best,” Marley said. “He’d rather have us go 10-10, 50 percent, and wrestle good kids and take good competition rather than be the kid that’s 18-0 and hasn’t taken tough competition. You have to wrestle against people and compete against people that you want to be like.”

The Titans are set to travel Arcadia on Thursday, Jan. 18, and return on Saturday, Jan. 20, for Arcadia’s 15-team tournament before taking on Holmen, which is ranked first in Division 1, in a dual at UW-La Crosse.

Although the busy schedule means hard work and high-level of competition, the Titans are prepared for whatever comes their way.

“We work harder than any other team,” Purney said. “In practice we push each other and don’t take breaks, it’s good for us. Everybody is looking forward to making this season great.”

“Well, we hope to win conference, and looking down the road, we want to get to team state.” Mel-Min/G-E-T coach Pete Peterson on his team’s goals