On Saturday, March 11, Menomonee Falls wrestling coach Jim McMahon took his wife out for lunch.
"That's something you don't get to do during the season," laughed McMahon, a veteran of 15 campaigns with the Indians.
McMahon and the Indians also had a good time on Monday, March 13, when they were honored by the school board, but the emotions were likely a little different on on Tuesday, March 14, when McMahon and his staff said good-bye to a storied senior class at the banquet. The group finished with a nearly-perfect closing six-week run to the season, arguably one of the best in program history.
It will mark the end of a powerful era for Falls wrestling for the longtime practice partners, teammates and friends. McMahon's favorite quote about this group concerns the fact that they liked dual meet tournaments better than individually bracketed tournaments "because they'd rather be sitting in the chairs (at a dual meet tourney) cheering on their friends."
Seniors Austin Lasanske (three-time state meet qualifier) and Josh McMahon (McMahon's son and first-time qualifier this season) are perfect examples of that attitude.
"It was the funniest thing (at a tournament earlier this season)," said coach McMahon. "Josh and Austin are best of friends. They hunt and fish together. Do everything together. Josh was wrestling (at this tournament), and she (my wife) points over to Austin and says, 'He's jumping up and down and cheering (for Josh) more than anybody else.'
"The kids developed good karma. They started thinking, 'I'm going to go out there and win, but if I don't, then my buddy will win and pick me up.'"
That thinking was pervasive, McMahon said, and there was a lot of reason for cheering going on as senior leaders like Matt Anderson (120 pounds, 52-7 on the year); Lasanske (126, 46-8); Eric Wunsch (132, 47-7); Kevin Staron (138-145, 11-12); Josh McMahon (152-160, 39-11); Ryan Callan (182, 6-12); Brandon Schaefer (195-220, 14-4); and Donald Eruchalu (195-220, 33-13) kept the mood positive and the success coming.
They needed that. The Falls season began with low numbers as Falls had a disproportionate number of athletes not return to the team. Furthermore, injuries, particularly to returning state qualifier Schaefer, shortened up the team early on. It was a shaky start to say the least.
The nadir was reached just before winter break when in a nonconference road dual, the Indians were thumped by Sun Prairie.
"Their coach and I are good friends, but we were so banged up by the time of that dual I almost called him to cancel it," McMahon said, "but we went on, and they're a really good team. They finished second at their (WIAA) regional to (state runner-up) Stoughton. It wasn't a good moment."
Rally and victory
But about a week or so later, the Indians were at the Northern Exposure Dual Meet tourney in Merrill. They were still short-handed, but it was a much different result. They went 5-0 on the first day, winning their bracket. A major rally and victory over the eventual North Shore Conference champion Port Washington team was the highlight.
They lost to two stronger teams the next day, but the mood and attitude had undeniably changed. The team got healthy, the lineup solidified and they gained momentum.
It set up a marvelous closing run for the Indians that included the victories in the South Milwaukee and Sheboygan South Invitationals; the Greater Metro Conference dual-meet title; and an emphatic championship in the GMC tourney.
This remarkable recently completed WIAA tourney run included a fourth regional title in five years, a team sectional win over Nicolet that secured the fourth state team tournament berth in five years, a school record-tying seven individual qualified for the WIAA state individual tournament (including emotional first-time moments for Anderson and Josh McMahon, both who got big time hugs from their fathers afterward).
Other first-time state performers included sophomore Noah Dakouras at 138 and Eruchalu at 195.
It continued at the state individual tournament when Anderson earned fourth at 120 pounds and Wunsch, a 2016 state runner-up, came back to claim third.
This amazing journey concluded at the state team tourney at the UW-Fieldhouse in Madison on March 3 when the Falls anchor performers of Anderson, Lasanske and Wunsch rallied the Indians against the best performers on the third-ranked Oak Creek team and earned Falls its first state team victory in four tries.
That Falls subsequently lost later that night against eventual runner-up Stoughton mattered little as the Indians had their formal stamp of legitimacy.
"Those final weeks were something," said coach McMahon. "One thing I've learned, and this is among the most difficult things as a coach, is that you have to be patient. It is extremely difficult to do. No matter how much you want to win in December, you want to win more (the important meets) in January and February.
"So you try to enjoy the moments. You don't know what the future holds for everyone. We're very fortunate that the kids came back from injury that we were able to put them in the right weight classes because that is sometimes a challenge."
The senior group responded to all the challenges. In their four seasons, they were part of teams that won a combined five GMC dual-meet and tournament titles, three WIAA regional titles, three state team tournament duals and also qualified an impressive 24 wrestlers to the WIAA state individual tourney.
Wunsch, who is headed to the Air Force Academy, will leave with two state medals and over 120 career wins while Lasanske will also have over 120 wins and Anderson will claim the school single-season record for wins (52).
Amidst all the good news, coach McMahon is not sure there will be a 16th season for him. Josh is headed off to college, and much has been accomplished. He also has a lot of faith in chief assistants Andy Rutke and Nick Patenaude and the rest of the staff. He will meet with athletic director Ryan Anderson this week, talk with the family and then make a decision.
"It takes a team of coaches to get things done," he said. "It's hard coaching practices and fun coaching meets."
He's built a powerful legacy of success and friendship.
"I'm very happy for our seniors," coach McMahon said. "It's difficult to stay together sometimes, but this group had good depth and things worked out well in the end. Almost everybody had a positive taste in their mouths at the end."