Heading into the second half of the season, Muskego wrestling coach Sean Fortmann is excited about his team's prospects.
His optimism was fueled by the Warriors' performance in the large and prestigious Bi-State Classic on Dec. 29-30 at La Crosse.
Muskego tallied 1441/2 points for seventh place in Division 1, which was won by perennial power Hudson with 3381/2 points. Division 1 featured 21 teams, including Holmen, Pulaski, Burlington, Wausau West and Tomah from Wisconsin, along with schools from other states.
Balconi, McGuire third
Fortmann feels particularly good about Grant Balconi at 195 pounds and Jorin McGuire at heavyweight after they both claimed solid third places in their classes.
Balconi went 7-1 over the two days, and he avenged his lone loss.
He started with two pins and a decision to reach the quarterfinals, where he was pinned by Drew Midby of Hudson in 1 minute, 35 seconds. He won three straight consolation matches to work his way back to the third-place match, where he again faced Midby.
This time, he posted a 12-4 major decision over Midby to secure third place and boost his season mark to 17-4.
'Grant had an amazing tournament,' Fortmann said. 'He lost to Midby on a silly move, but he learned from his mistake and put the hammer down in the third-place match. This tournament was good for him.'
McGuire posted a 6-1 record for the tournament to lift his overall mark to 17-3.
After an opening bye, McGuire recorded three pins to reach the semifinals, where he was pinned by eventual champion Skyler Kurt of Lodi in 5 minutes, 16 seconds. McGuire then won two consolation matches by pin to wind up third.
'If he wrestled (Kurt) again, I think he could have won,' Fortmann said. 'Any time you can finish third here, it's an accomplishment because this is a meat grinder of a tournament.
'This was his first time in the semifinals of a tournament this large, and it's a learning process. This was a good experience for him, and he will be better for it.'
Wintheiser earns place
The only other place for Muskego came from Tom Wintheiser at 120 pounds, who was 10th with a 5-3 record.
'Taking 10th doesn't sound like much, but his class was stacked and deeper than the others,' the coach said. 'He was just 1-2 last season at the Bi-State. He has made huge strides, and I am super impressed with him. He has come a long way.'
Other Muskego wrestlers who lost earlier in the tournament were Parker Bevilacqua (106), Tyler Schanen (113), Tyler Huckstorf (126), Adam McNally (138), Blake Grube (145), Vinny Nazario (152), Connor Kretchman (160), Gavin McNally (170), Addison Price (182) and Brian Schroeder (220).
'I am excited for the whole team going into the second half of the season,' Fortmann said.
Muskego takes on Kettle Moraine at 7:15 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 7, in a Classic 8 Conference dual meet at home and then competes in the West Allis Hale Invitational at 8 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 9.