Finishing matches used to be a problem for Logan High School senior wrestler Christian Kapanke.
The talent, according to Logan/Central co-op coach Doug Leclair, was always there.
The focus, according to both Leclair and Kapanke, was the issue.
“He was ahead in a lot of the matches he lost,” Leclair said. “He would give up unnecessary points at the end of a period or get beat in the third, and that was a problem.”
Kapanke said he was just never all in on the sport.
When February — tournament season — rolled around, he’d start thinking about baseball. He couldn’t find a sense of urgency.
Well, Kapanke (37-2) has located the urgency as a senior, and it is changing everything about the way he’ll be ending his high school wrestling career.
“This is my last chance at this,” he said Tuesday before practicing for Saturday’s WIAA Division 1 Waunakee Sectional. “I think my focus is a lot better right now.”
The most recent example came last weekend, when Kapanke won the 152-pound bracket at the Baraboo Regional by recording an 8-0 championship win over Reedsburg’s Bryce Bierman.
Bierman ended Kapanke’s junior season at the regional level and beat Kapanke again during a dual tournament in Reedsburg, Wis., earlier this season.
Bierman (36-8) beat Kapanke 9-7 back in December, but Kapanke was ready to turn the tables in Baraboo.
“I didn’t have him figured out the first time we wrestled this year,” said Kapanke, also a football and baseball player at Logan. “I knew what I wanted to do this time.”
Kapanke — whose only other loss came at the hands of Tomah’s Travis Von Haden in a dual meet on Dec. 14 — took a 2-0 lead after the first period and rode his way into extending the lead throughout the second.
“What he would normally do to start the second is defer, but I game him this (thumb up) because I thought that was the better option,” Leclair said. “He rode that kid like a donkey, turned him a couple times, and it didn’t take long to see that he knew it was over.”
What awaits on Saturday is another likely match with Bierman in the second round and Middleton’s Kevin Meicher (4-0) and Sparta’s David Hayes (33-9) on the other side of the bracket.
The top two in Division 1 advance to the individual state meet at the Kohl Center in Madison on Feb. 22-24. Kapanke wants to be one of those qualifiers, but he knows he has to keep his focus from beginning to end in every match he wrestles.
While it hasn’t happened nearly as often this season as it did before, Kapanke has struggled from time to time. One example was the loss to Von Haden.
Von Haden closed his deficit with a takedown in the closing seconds of the second period and broke a 3-3 tie on another takedown with 38 seconds left in the match.
“It was a mental lapse that came back from last year,” Kapanke said. “I got called out in front of the whole team with (Leclair) saying this is what happens when you don’t close out matches.”
It rang true to the entire roster because Kapanke is the best it has. If a lapse like that can hurt him, it can hurt any of them.
“It didn’t feel good, but we have a lot of young wrestlers on our team, and they needed to hear that,” Kapanke said. “I’ve changed the way I wrestled that day and have stuck to that ever since.”
Kapanke beat Hayes at last week’s regional and beat Holmen’s Wyatt McCutchen — another local qualifier — during an MVC dual meet. Meicher, a Division 1 state runner-up last season and Bi-State Classic champion this season, will be another issue, but Kapanke has to get there first.
“All of the talk from his teammates and friends is about going to state, but I think we’ve slowed that down,” Leclair said. “He knows nothing is guaranteed, and he has to put in the work to make that happen this week.”