Take the easy road, be happy with what you've got or keep going for more.
That's the dilemma senior Menomonee Falls wrestlers Matt Anderson at 120 pounds and Eric Wunsch at 132 faced after they both lost their second-round matches in the WIAA State Individual Tournament on Feb. 23 in Madison.
Anderson was making his first trip to state and Wunsch, who had been a state runner-up at 120 last season, was making his third.
After long careers with many honors each, it would have understandable if they had chosen the first option, but that's not what they did.
Anderson (50-7) battled back to claim fourth place, falling only to 2016 113-pound champion Dylan Koontz of Stevens Point in the third-place match, 5-2, on Feb. 25, while Wunsch (45-7), who had basked in the glory of the "March of Champions" prior to his state runner-up effort in 2016, did him one better, fighting all the way back to third just a few moments later.
Wunsch got a bit of revenge in the process as he defeated Kaukauna's Trent Leon, 8-6, in that placement match. Leon had defeated Wunsch, 8-3, in their second-round bout Feb. 23.
"That was a fun match," said Wunsch. "It was important to do that (medal). I took every match one at a time, trying not to have any regrets, really make the most of things. I took second last year so I came back and wanted to do the best that I could, go for the championship, and if I couldn't get the championship, I would take the next best option, which in this case was third."
Anderson's thoughts were similar; only his sense of urgency was more palpable.
"It was hard at first (losing in the second round)," he said. "But this was my only shot so I thought I might as well give it my all. The goal was to get on the podium, have no regrets. It was such a great night. The original goal was to be a state champ, but I look back on everything now and I know I gave it everything I had."
The pair of state medals continues an impressive six-year run for the Indians, where they have earned eight state individual medals. They have earned medals in five of those years and in three of those seasons (2013, 2014, 2017), they have claimed two medals each.
In earning his second medal, Wunsch joins two-time 106-pound medalist Aaron Daly (second in 2013, sixth in 2014) as the only two Falls wrestlers to earn two state individual places.
Anderson and Wunsch were part of a seven-man contingent at state (see Sports Shorts for details on their efforts). Coach Jim McMahon said the achievements of both were impressive, a real test of character.
"It was very enjoyable weekend," he said, "because doing that (coming through the back draw) can sometimes be harder than going to the finals, because every match is a serious challenge. You're going to have to beat some really good kids (to get a medal)."
Team state up next
The Indians will now prepare for the WIAA State Team Tournament at 5:30 p.m. Friday, March 3, at the UW-Fieldhouse in Madison, where they will face No. 3-ranked Southeast Conference champ Oak Creek in a quarterfinal. If they win that match, they will advance to a state semifinal later that night against the winner of second-ranked Stoughton and Waterford.
The state championship will be at 3 p.m. Saturday, March 4.
McMahon said the Indians, with their strong "team-first" mentality, are looking forward to the dual with Oak Creek. This is their fourth try at the state team tournament and they're looking to win their first match.
"It was interesting," said McMahon. "I surveyed the kids last year and of 32 kids, 30 of them preferred to be in dual-meet tournaments rather than individually-bracketed tournaments. They love being with their friends, sitting in their chairs (on the bench), cheering each other on. It's a real tribute to them."
His current team, which goes in with a dual meet record of 22-3, is pumped for the match, too.
"I think we have a real good shot at Oak Creek," said Anderson. "It would be great to win our first match ever (at team state)."
"Definitely, the two medals give us more momentum to get going and get after it," added Wunsch.
The individual tournament was a great requiem for Anderson's career. His 50 wins may be a single-season school record.
He defeated a Mukwonago opponent, 4-0, in his opening-round match before falling to eventual state runner-up Tristan Jenny of Stoughton, 7-4, in his quarterfinal. He came back in a Friday, Feb. 24, consolation match to pin a Burlington opponent (3:00) and defeat a Reedsburg opponent (9-4) to get himself into the medal matches.
There, he defeated Kaukauna's Brandon Michsch, 10-8, before falling to Koontz.
"It was a heck of a last match," said McMahon. "Fifty wins. Wow. That is a lot of matches. Just amazing. It shows you can never know what's really going to happen."
"Having someone like Eric around made me feel more comfortable before and during the tourney," said Anderson. "He's someone who knows what's going on."
Wunsch himself was all business. He downed a Holmen opponent, 10-6, in his first bout before falling to Leon their first go-around. In his Feb. 24 bouts, he defeated a Kenosha Tremper opponent (6-2) and edged a Merrill foe, 1-0, to get into the medal round.
He downed Cedarburg's Sam Boerner, 4-2, in his consolation semifinal before his rematch with Leon. There, he got a takedown and nearfall at the end of the second period to take an 8-6 lead, and then rode out Leon the entire third period for the win.
The final few seconds were wild, said McMahon.
"Leon got his feet, but then Eric held him in the air for the final eight seconds," McMahon said.
"That was a fun match," said Wunsch.
"That was a very satisfying win for Eric and the program," said McMahon.
Just like the entire weekend was for Falls.