There were so many great stories for the Menomonee Falls wrestling team coming out of the WIAA individual sectional at Oconomowoc on Feb. 18.
The Indians tied their school record with seven individual state meet qualifiers, and almost each and every one had a tale to tell.
Senior 120-pounder Matt Anderson collapsed into his father's arms in tears of joy after he won his wrestleback for second against 2016 state qualifier Cooper Hunt of Homestead for his first state berth.
"So much has gone wrong (in my career)," he said. "I lose a wrestle-off (to fellow qualifier and senior Austin Lasanske) two years ago, so I don't even make varsity. and then I lose last year (at sectional) by 2 points to a guy who was an eventual state runner-up. I've come so far. I just wanted to win so badly, it just brought me to tears."
Senior 220-pounder Brandon Schaefer, a two-time state qualifier, who missed much of the season because of a knee injury suffered in the football season and only became medically cleared -- reluctantly -- about three weeks ago.
"My doctor said it was OK to wrestle, but probably not smart to do so," he said, "but I was motivated to come back because I love my teammates and I love wrestling. I've been careful, and the fact that I'm doing well and that the team is doing so well makes it all worthwhile. I'm just happy to be a part of all this."
Senior 195-pounder Donald Eruchalu, who only committed to wrestling completely right after the Indians lost a tough dual meet by 1 point to Greater Metro Conference rival West Allis Central at the start of the 2015-16 season, costing the Indians the league title. He had been sitting in the stands for that dual and immediately realized the mat was where he belonged.
He lost his sectional final and then waited out the results of the third-place match. When he realized that he wasn't going to face a wrestleback and his state berth was secure, Eruchalu happily accepted some friendly punches to the shoulder as his smile grew wider and wider.
But the best story belonged to the Indians' final qualifier, senior Josh McMahon. He's had so many injuries the last four years, it's a wonder he's even out at all.
When he defeated Nick Fiorita of Oconomowoc in his 160-pounder wrestleback for second, he raised his arms in triumph, walked off the mat, slapped five with a few of the assistants and then marched straight into the arms of his father, Indians head coach Jim McMahon, for a massive hug that only fathers and sons who have worked toward the same goal for so long could understand.
"Head, shoulders, knees, hip, he's been through it all, but he's still going to state," said his mom and Jim's wife, Lisa McMahon, not mentioning the stitches above the eye and the broken nose Josh endured earlier this season.
"This is the best reward for all the hard work," said Josh. "I've been wrestling, basically since I could walk, and I finally put it all together. ... It's a family tradition."
His older brother, Jake, had been a a two-time state qualifier for the Indians.
Jim, who spent Sunday, Feb. 19 officiating a youth tournament with aspiring official Josh, said he will remember that hug for a long, long time.
"I'm not going to lie," he said. "I'm very happy for my son. He stuck it out. He's a tall, skinny kid, and he grew up so fast. He stuck it out (through all the injuries), and this year I was hoping he would have a great year and then the second match, he gets the stitches in the eye and then he breaks his nose and I was thinking, 'Oh my God, is he ever going to catch a break?' But he gained confidence, started to get better, and now here he is."
In short, it was a great week for the Indians, who also defeated Nicolet in the team sectional dual Feb. 14 for a fourth state team tournament berth in five years. They will send six seniors and one sophomore to the state individual meet at 3 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23.
Heading to state will be Anderson at 120 (46-5), three-time qualifier Austin Lasanske at 126 (43-6), three-time qualifier and returning state runnerup Eric Wunsch at 132 (40-6), sophomore Noah Dakouras at 138 (37-12), Josh McMahon at 160 (37-10), Eruchalu at 195 (32-10) and Schaefer at 220 (13-2).
As we head into the state wrestling meet JR Radcliffe recaps the top five storylines that came out of the sectional meets across the Milwaukee area. The state meet begins Thursday, Feb. 23, at the Kohl Center in Madison. JR Radcliffe/Now Media Group
The Indians will carry the same attitude they've had all year to state.
"I'm excited to get to the Kohl (Center)," said Dakouras. "We want to do well there, so we'll get back into the grind, get back to work and see how it goes."
The sensational sectional continued a marvelous five-year run of state qualifying for the Greater Metro Conference champion Indians, who also advanced seven to state in 2014 and have qualified 27 wrestlers total for the WIAA test since 2013.
It's part of an amazing last month for Falls, which includes four major meet titles in its last five outings including the GMC tourney and the WIAA regional crown.
"I got this from the (Wisconsin) Badgers," said Coach McMahon. "I asked them 'What's our story going to be this season? How is our book going to finish?' I can tell you we've added some great chapters."
Lasanske was the only sectional champion for the Indians, as he downed Marquette (pin), Sussex Hamilton (pin) and Pewaukee (7-1 decision) opponents.
He's 0-2 in state matches so far, so he has a simple goal.
"I'd love to get on the podium (top six) but I've got to get that first one," he said.
The rest took seconds, including Anderson and Josh McMahon, who won wrestlebacks. The Indians could have had two more qualifiers, but freshman Ethan Pogorzelski at 106 (42-8) and junior Alec Lind at 113 (31-19) lost wrestlebacks. Others wrestling at sectional were senior Kevin Staron at 145 (11-110 and junior 285-pounder Logan Fallon (38-9).
"This is a good group of kids and I'm really happy for them," said Coach McMahon. "We'll look to get up there and see if we can win some state medals."