For the first time in the 50-plus year history of the Viroqua High School wrestling program, the Blackhawks had three grapplers finish in the top three in their respective weight brackets at the Division 2 WIAA state tournament.
Cale Anderson at 106-, Ryan Hannah at 145- and Tyler Hannah in the 170-pound weight, each placed third at the 75th annual tournament held at the Kohl Center in Madison Feb. 22-24. Josh Frye, wrestling in the 113-pound bracket as a sectional champion, lost a pair of opening round matches and did not place in his first appearance at the state tournament. Frye’s loss in the consolation round was by a nail-biting 1-0 score, keeping the VHS sophomore from advancing to the medal round.
A series of heart-breaking one-point losses also kept the trio of Blackhawk third-place finishers from possibly reaching the Saturday night finals.
Anderson (49-4), like Frye, qualified for state as a sectional champion but was defeated in his opening round bout by a 4-3 score by Tommy Larson (47-4) of East Troy. Larson would move on to win the championship at 106. The talented young VHS freshman then battled his way back through the consolation bracket, winning three straight matches to earn his place in Saturday night’s podium ceremony.
The consolation journey for Anderson began with a 4-1 decision over Tyler Gamble (31-7) of Whitewater as Anderson built a 4-0 advantage with a takedown in each of the first two periods, before hanging on for the win.
Anderson rallied from a 4-2 deficit to Ashland’s Jared Stricker (44-2) in the consolation semifinals to tie the score at 4-4 with an early third-period takedown, then allowed a free-escape to trail 5-4. Confident in his own take-down ability, Anderson grabbed a 6-5 lead controlling Stricker with about a minute remaining in the match to secure the win. Stricker entered the tournament with a 43-0 record.
The third-place bout gave Anderson an opportunity to avenge an early season 3-0 loss to highly-ranked Lucas Joniaux (43-8) of Luxemburg-Casco and the “always-scrambling” young Blackhawk did just that, building an 8-2 lead after two periods, then closing out with an 8-5 victory.
The 49 wins by Anderson sets a school record for wins by a freshman at VHS.
Ryan Hannah took a different route to his third-place medal, competing as a second-place finisher out of the sectionals, Ryan won his preliminary round bout by a 4-0 score over Ryan Cody (36-12) of Ripon. Hannah earned a 5-1 quarterfinal victory over Max Ward (45-3) of Elkhart Lake-Gl./Howards Grove to advance to the semifinals.
Jared Lansing (41-6) of Ellsworth, however, would deny Ryan Hannah’s quest at reaching the state finals for a third straight year, with a late takedown and a 2-1 win over the VHS senior. The Friday night battle began with a scoreless first period, before Hannah twisted to an early escape in the second to grab a 1-0 lead. Ryan would hold the lead until Lansing registered a takedown with just two seconds left in regulation to take the 2-1 lead. Hannah immediately rolled out of the ensuing start position for an escape as time ran out, but the officials ruled it occurred too late.
Ryan Hannah, who won a state championship as a sophomore at 132 and placed second last year at 138, then showed his frustration with a dominating 11-1 win over Andrew Forsythe (30-5) of North Fond Du Lac/St. Mary’s Springs.
The third-place match pitted Ryan Hannah against Ward once again, his quarterfinal opponent. This time around would prove to be more challenging, as the two seniors battled to a 1-1 overtime tie, through regulation and the first overtime, before Hannah was awarded a stalling point in the second OT and an escape in the third, to earn the hard-fought 3-1 win and a third-place medal.
Hannah finishes his four-year varsity career at VHS with a school record 184 wins and just 18 losses and four appearances at the state tournament, including a first-, second- and third-place finish. The win total breaks the record previously held by Taylor Henry of 177 victories. Teagen Miller (46-2), who split with Hannah in the regional and sectionals, won the title at 145.
Tyler Hannah took a similar route as older brother Ryan to the Saturday night podium and a third-place medal. Tyler, a VHS sophomore, also entered the state meet in the preliminary round, by virtue of a second-place finish out of the sectionals.
The younger Hannah (50-5) won his preliminary round match in dominating fashion with a 6-0 victory over Jacob Hoier (32-13) of New London, with a second-period escape and takedown, before closing out the bout with a three-point near-fall in the final period.
Tyler Hannah then picked up a 6-4 decision in the quarterfinal round over Joe Lindsley (30-8) of Campbellsport, taking a 2-2 tie into the final period before receiving a stalling point and earning a take-down to grab a 5-2 lead. Lindsley then responded with a reversal, before Truck gained a late escape to secure the win.
Once again, however, an extremely frustrating one-point loss, 4-3 to Dillon Martin (44-5) of Wautoma/Wild Rose, in the semifinals would end Tyler Hannah’s quest for a spot in Saturday night’s championship bout. It was time for revenge for Martin, the state’s No. 3 ranked wrestler at 170, who had lost to Hannah at the sectional by a 3:51 pin. This time around Martin stayed off of his back and away from Hannah and held a 3-1 lead, before Tyler bull-rushed Martin for a takedown early in the third period to tie the match at 3-3. Assuming he could secure another takedown, Hannah allowed a free release and gave up the lead at 4-3, but Martin chose to literally run away from Hannah over the final 1:30 of the match. To most everyone’s astonishment, no stalling warnings were issued, and the victory awarded to Martin.
The younger Hannah also showing his frustration in being knocked out of the championship bracket, rallied for a pair of pin wins in Saturday’s consolation matches. Tyler, wrestling all season with a wrist injury suffered at the end of the football season, turned a 9-1 lead into a 3:39 pin win in the consolation semi’s over Garrett Hecht (38-12) of Somerset, followed by a sudden victory win with a pin over Dakota Brockman (41-9) of Freedom. With his wrist and fore-arm heavily taped, and in obvious discomfort, Hannah fought through the pain to earn a spot on the podium and a third-place medal for the second time in his high-school career.
Of note, River Valley’s Shane Leigel, who defeated Tyler Hannah by a decision in the sectionals, went on to pin his way to the championship at 170. Hannah was the only wrestler to avoid a pin versus Leigel all season.
Eric Anderson, winding up his 24th year as VHS coach, shared these comments about the four state qualifiers:
Frye: “I am extremely proud of Josh on an outstanding season and accomplishment to finish his sophomore season at state…Josh is a very hard worker who I know will be motivated to return next year to bring home a medal.”
Anderson: “Cale wrestled very aggressively, and I was very proud of his freshman season…he has worked very hard in preparation for this season and it paid off with an excellent first year.”
Tyler Hannah: “Tyler wrestled the entire season with a broken bone in his wrist that was diagnosed a couple of weeks ago…injury from football…he never missed a practice, weight lift or match due to the injury and competed at a very high level. Third at state two years in a row is impressive as a sophomore especially at one of the upper weights and dealing with the injuries that he did.”
Ryan Hannah: “Ryan established himself as one of the top wrestlers ever in Viroqua wrestling history…one of the smoothest wrestlers I have ever coached…he has amazing ability and a huge heart…is very dedicated, reliable-team leader-excellent role model…you just don’t replace a kid like Ryan…a true pleasure to coach.”