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Panthers determined to come home victorious from state tourney

They say take one match at a time and the Ellsworth High School wrestling team is happy to do so when it comes to their next dual meet.

It will be in the semifinals in the WIAA State Team Tournament in Division 2 this afternoon. And it will be against the team which beat them last year for the championship, Luxemburg-Casco.

The meet begins at 1 p.m. at the University of Wisconsin Fieldhouse in Madison. The winner takes on either No. 8 Mauston, 12-1 overall, or No. 10 Chilton/Hilbert, 18-1 overall, in the finals which 6 p.m. later today. Chilton/Hilbert, champions of the Olympian Conference, is making its first appearance at state since 1998 while Mauston, South Central Conference champs, has its state first bid ever.

The No. 4 ranked Panthers, 13-5 overall, always get a rise in their competitive nature when facing the No. 1 ranked Spartans, 15-3 overall. But perhaps the blood is flowing quicker and adrennaline pumping faster for the Purple in this particular match-up after what happened in last year's state finals.

The Spartans whipped up on the Panthers like no Division 2 team had done to them since 1997 by a 41-13 score. Not only did EHS suffer a beat down in the final score but had points taken away from them do unsportsman like conduct to make for a forgettable and ugly weekend in 2012.

"We can't let what happened down here last year ever happen again," state champ and team captain Jens Lantz said. "We're not just going for wins, we're going for bouns points. We're going to the max for everything we can."

Given such a mindset it is perhaps a good thing Ellsworth faces the Spartans immediately instead of having to worry about another opponent.

"I like the fact we can just focus on L-C and nothing else," Ellsworth state champ Gabe Frandsen said.

But just because Ellsworth is amped up doesn't mean Luxemburg-Casco is going to back down. The Spartans also feature a pair of state champions in upper weight wrestlers Luke Dietsche at 220 pounds and Newton Smerchek at heavyweight along with state runner-up Jordan Pardowsky at 170, fourth place finisher Dan Domer at 195; state qualifiers Mason Berceau at 126 and Dylan Blemke at 152 and a 40-plus match winner in Austin Worachek at 145.

EHS head coach Chad Steldt said much is going to depend on match-ups and the starting weight class, just like a good dual meet should.

"All of that's going to factor in. We have to get match-ups favorable to us to do our best," Steldt said. "And we have to do the extra amount we're capable of. When you have an even match-up between two teams, often times that's what decides the outcome."

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