It was the ultimate test.
My team's best versus your team's best.
In the case of the Menomonee Falls wrestling team in its thrilling 33-25 WIAA team-state quarterfinal victory over area rival Oak Creek March 3 at the UW-Fieldhouse in Madison, that was a moment for the Indians senior trio of Matt Anderson at 120 pounds, Austin Lasanske at 126 and Eric Wunsch at 132 to answer the bell against the Knights' powerful state level trio of Mitch Landgraf, Matt Berlin and Veliko Kochiu, respectively.
Falls went into those final three matches down, 26-24, but after Anderson earned a stunning reversal on Landgraf to pull out a 2-1 victory, Lasanske used a first-period takedown as a linchpin for a 4-3 victory over Berlin and Wunsch dominated the state 132-pound runner-up Kochiu, 5-1, Falls had won its first state team tournament match in four trips to the event.
It was an emotional moment for coach Jim McMahon and his wrestlers.
"I wasn't sure if that match would be my last or not," said Lasanske, who was a three-time state individual tournament qualifier. "I hadn't been able to beat Berlin before, so I wanted to put this in the best possible light. We knew it would come down to the last few matches. Their powerhouses against our powerhouses. To pull out this win like this just shows how dedicated we were to winning."
McMahon was impressed by his senior leaders.
"It was going to come down to those three (against our three) and if you looked at all of those matches closely, you would have called Oak Creek the favorite in all of them, " he said. "But those were just awesome matches, awesome efforts. ...It was just a great dual meet.
Wunsch's victory at 132 was probably the highlight. He finished third last week in the state individual tournament while Kochiu was the state runner-up in the same class.
The Indians, who were short state-qualifying 138-pounder Noah Dakouras, saw their magic run out in the subsequent semifinal match, one that followed just 15 minutes after the finish of the Oak Creek bout.
No. 2-ranked Stoughton, which was the state runner-up last season, took a 21-3 lead after the first five matches and were able to hold off the tenacious Indians by a 40-21 count. In that dual, the Falls trio of leaders still did the job, all earning victories, including Anderson's impressive 9-8 win over the Vikings 120-pound state runner-up Tristan Jenny, who had beaten Anderson in the second round of the individual tournament the week before.
The pair will be teammates at UW-La Crosse next year.
Kaukauna eventually won its fourth straight state championship beating Stoughton in the final on March 4.
"I thought our kids hung in there very well against a really classy program (Stoughton), which has been doing (contending for state titles) for more than 50 years," McMahon said. "But I tell you, having to turn around and come off that high (of the win over Oak Creek) and get ready for the next match was just brutal, because that's a whole new level we were entering. That's a great wrestling team (Stoughton) we were taking on."
But Falls lifted its game to a whole another level against third-ranked Oak Creek team, which was making its first state team appearance in 10 years. The Knights had beaten the Indians in the Homestead Highlander Scramble a month ago, but Knights coach Matt Sommerville that that was a different Falls team back then and that his squad would need to be at its best to win.
It almost was.
Joey Colla at 138 pounds (9-0 major decision), Nate Berlin at 145 (9-1 major decision) and Jesse Kovnesky at 152 (9-3 decision) helped stake the Knights to an 11-0 lead.
Falls senior 160 pounder Josh McMahon, Jim's son, got the Indians on the board with a pin, but the Knights' Nolan Paar countered that with a stick of his own at 170 to make it 17-6, Knights. Jon Thomas started the Falls rally in earnest with a pin at 182 to make it 17-12, Both coaches pointed to the 195 and 220 matches as critical, and when the Knights' John Wright at 195 (6-4 sudden victory decision) and Enrique Acevedo at 220 (3-2 decision) pulled out wins to make it 23-12, Oak Creek, Sommerville was feeling good about things.
"Because going into those matches, we weren't sure that we could win either one," he said. "So when we came out with wins in both, I felt very comfortable."
But then Falls 285-pounder Logan Fallon came up with a pin, as did 106-pounder Ethan Pogorzelski, to put Falls ahead for the first time, 24-23. When the Knights' Randall Hunt pulled out a wild 14-9 decision over the Indians Alec Lind, Oak Creek was back up again (26-24) and feeling good going into its power trio.
However, the Indians had a power trio of their own.
"I was really comfortable going into 120, 126, and 132 with a lead," Sommerville said. "But I give a huge amount of credit to Anderson, Lasanske and Wunsch. They were ready, and they brought it against the best wrestlers we had. They've been doing it all season for them, and they had it again tonight."
Coach McMahon just saw it as an extension of a great last six weeks of the season, which included two invite titles, the Greater Metro Conference championship, a WIAA regional title, the team sectional dual meet victory over Nicolet and both Anderson and Wunsch earning top-four medals at the state individual tournament.
"Our kids have overcome so many obstacles this season," he said. "They always seem to find a way. They found a way to maximize points (for us) and to minimize points (against us)."
"We just didn't want to end our season with any regrets," said Anderson.
Falls was down 15-0 to powerful Stoughton before Josh McMahon got his team on the board with a 10-5 decision at 170. It was 21-3 when seniors Brandon Schaefer at 195 (9-1 major) and Donald Eruchalu at 220 (10-2 major) both won to make it 21-11, but that was the high water mark for Falls, as the Vikings would win the next three matches.
Anderson with his win over Jenny, Lasanske with his victory at 126 (5-0) and Wunsch with his win at 132 (12-1 major) still managed to put a sheen on things for the Indians as they finished their season.
"I thought we would have a really good team going into this season, but you can never predict the future," said coach McMahon. "Everyone kept finding a way right until the end of the season."
"It was maybe the best team we've ever had," added Wunsch. 'We couldn't be any prouder."