2014-15 MVC Champions: Behind the Banner


With a 65-6 victory over Logan on Thursday evening, the Sparta wrestling team wrapped up consecutive MVC titles for their third time in the 26 year history of the conference.  Overall, the title was Sparta’s eighth, which is two short of Holmen’s 10 and two ahead of Tomah’s six.

Sparta had seven undefeated wrestlers in conference action, which does not include Corey Zimmerman at 4-0.  Two others finished 5-1.  Those going undefeated included John Roddick, Jaden Winchel, Brett VonRuden, Brock Polhamus, Ryan Wisniewski (5-0), Logan VanTassel and Walker Polhamus.  Hayden Krein and David Hayes both finished 5-1.  Corey Zimmerman stepped up to competing at the varsity level later in the season and went 4-0 in conference matches and is a big reason why the team has been on a roll this past month.

Also contributing to Sparta’s MVC success was Christian Lamon (2-0), Sam Forbes (1-3), Trygve Zurflh (1-1), Austin Zwiefel (3-0), Keyshawn Stewart (3-2) and Devon Smith (0-4).  Overall, the Spartans were 65-12 in conference matches this year.

The tremendous amount of individual success in conference will likely result in a lot of individual conference accolades.  The Spartan record for MVC first team wrestlers in a single season is five, which has been done six times (1992-93, 1993-94, 2002-03, 2003-04, 2006-07 and 2013-14).  The conference record for most first team members on a single team is seven by Holmen during the 1995-96 season.  There is a good chance that Sparta could equal that and it’s not out of the question to see up to eight Spartans earn first team honors.  It’s been a banner year for the Spartan wrestling program.

Let’s look back at the duals throughout the MVC season…

  • Thursday, December 18th at Onalaska  –  Spartans win 66-12 against the Hilltoppers with Onalska’s only points coming via forfeits at 195 and 285. Only three matches were actually wrestled and all of those ended in first period pins by the Spartans.  The win improves Sparta’s all-time record against Onalaska to 29-0 with 17 of those victories seeing the Spartans score at least 60 points.
  • Thursday, January 8th against Aquinas  –  Sparta reaches the 60-point level again in a 60-18 victory over the Blugolds.  Aquinas scores 12 of their 18 points via forfeits at 195 and 106.  In matches wrestled, Sparta earns six pins in seven matches.  Three of those pins are first period pins.  Sparta wins their 10th straight against Aquinas and improves to 22-4 all-time against them.
  • Thursday, January 15th against Holmen  –  The Spartans hammer Holmen 48-26 in a matchup of what many predicted to be the top two teams in the MVC this year. The Spartans win 10 of 14 matches including seven by pin–six of the first period variety. Hayden Krein and Jaden Winchel pick up pins in under 40 seconds while Corey Zimmerman picks up a tough 3-1 victory against a tough Trevor Plomedahl at 106.  At 113, Sparta’s David Hayes gave Holmen’s Tanner Schultz (ranked 3rd at 106 in D1) all he could handle in a match that saw Hayes leading for almost half of the six minutes.  Hayes ended up losing 10-6, but hung with one of the best freshman wrestlers in the state. The victory over Holmen was the Spartans’ seventh in their last nine duals against the Vikings.
  • Thursday, January 22nd at La Crosse Central  –  Again, Sparta cracks the 60-point barrier with a 60-15 victory over the Raiders.  Five pins and among 11 overall wins proved too much for Central who boasted a number of highly ranked wrestlers.  The marquee matchup of the night pitted Central’s Connor Williams (ranked 7th at 152 in D1) and Hayden Krein (ranked 5th at 152 in D2).  Krein was leading the match before being reversed to his back in a five point match that was the difference in a 7-4 victory by Williams. 220-pounder Keyshawn Stewart picked up his first non-forfeit conference victory of the year with a 10-5 overtime victory.
  • Thursday, January 29th against Tomah  –  Sparta earns their largest margin of victory over their rivals since the 1993-94 season with a 53-15 shellacking of the Timberwolves.  In the win, John Roddick tied Matt Tourdot for the program record for wins at 159.  Jaden Winchel absolutely destroyed Tomah’s Hunter Pierce (32-5, ranked 10th in D1) by a 16-2 score.  Brock Polhamus continued his solid season with a 6-1 victory over Casey Curran (14-5).  Overall, Sparta won 11 of 14 matches with six of those coming by pin.  The victory over Tomah was Sparta’s sixth straight in the rivalry.
  • Thursday, February 5th at La Crosse Logan  –  In what might be the most complete dual victory of the season, the Spartans won every match wrestled while seeing their wrestlers defeat a trio of tough Ranger grapplers.  John Roddick surpassed Matt Tourdot for most victories in program history at 160 with a 9-0 victory over a tough Jaren Poff. Brett VonRuden rode Dylan Smith for the entire third period en route to a 2-0 record against Logan’s Smith who entered with a 23-3 record.  Then there was Brock Polhamus defeating Nick Houlihan (HM D1) by score of 9-2 at 152 pounds.  There were 13 matches wrestled and 13 Spartan victories.  Logan’s only points came by way of forfeit at 285.  Included in the 13 wins were six pins, a technical fall and two major decisions.  Bonus points for days. The 65-6 win over Logan marked the second most points Sparta has ever scored against the Rangers.  Sparta won 67-12 and 67-9 during the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons, but those duals included multiple losses by the Spartans.  Sparta may have scored two less points tonight, but this match was a more thorough and dominating victory compared to the 2009-10 and 2010-11 wins.  Overall, the Spartans are now 26-6 all-time against Logan.

The Logan dual wraps up an incredible run for this year’s seniors.  John Roddick, Brock Polhamus, Logan VanTassel, Walker Polhamus, Corey Zimmerman, Justin Marx and Kobe Culpitt have been part of teams that have gone 22-2 in MVC action since they were freshman during the 2011-12 seasons.  Roddick is in line to become Sparta’s third three-time conference champion joining Troy Lietzau and Kody Seekamp as the only wrestlers to hold that honor in program history.  Brock Polhamus is poised to earn his second first team honor–something only 15 other Spartan wrestlers have ever done.

While this is Sparta’s eighth MVC championship, it might be their most dominating one.  The average margin of victory in conference duals this year was 43.3 points with the closest dual their 48-26 victory against Holmen.  The margin of victory average is the result of a couple of things.  There were a lot of forfeits against Onalaska and Central, but there was a bigger reason too.  Sparta picked up bonus points via pins at a rate that has to be among the highest in program history.  In the six MVC duals, Spartan wrestlers earned 34 pins in 61 conference matches.  That’s right.  In more than half the MVC matches Sparta wrestled, they walked away with six points from pins.  Here’s the breakdown…

  • Onalaska  –  three matches wrestled, three Spartan pins
  • Aquinas  –  seven matches wrestled, six Spartan pins
  • Holmen  –  14 matches wrestled, seven Spartan pins
  • Central  –  11 matches wrestled, six Spartan pins
  • Tomah  –  14 matches wrestled, six Spartan pins
  • Logan  –  12 matches wrestled, six Spartan pins

The only dual where Sparta failed to pin half the guys they wrestled was against Tomah and they still earned six pins.  This ability to generate bonus points was huge for a team that was often forfeiting two or three weights.  The pin frenzy didn’t stop in conference action as the team routinely pinned opponents in tournaments and is one of the reasons they have finished in the top five at every tournament they’ve wrestled in this year with the exception of the Chula Vista Duals.  Two of those top five finishes include championships–at the 43-team Northern Badger Classic and their own Sparta Invite.

Not only have the seniors impressed over their four years in the program, a few underclassmen are set to make their mark. Brett VonRuden became just the second freshman in Spartan history go undefeated in conference matches. He joins sophomore Jaden Winchel as the only members of that class. Speaking of Winchel, his second undefeated conference season in as many years has him on pace to join Eric Jetton, Ben Thornton and Tyler Laudon as the only wrestlers in MVC history to earn four conference championships.  That’s a long ways off, but Winchel has set himself up to join a select group.  Freshman Hayden Krein finished 5-1, but was extremely close to being 6-0 and looks like he could join the ranks of the multiple-MVC champions list for the Spartans.  At 160, Ryan Wisniewski has broken out with a great sophomore season and is set to earn his first All-MVC honor after his 6-0 season.  At 113, freshman David Hayes was impressive going 5-1 in conference action and looks to be a force for years to come.

So it’s been an impressive season thus far, but there is a lot of wrestling yet to be done and arguably the most important wrestling.  Sparta will rest up until they return to action on Saturday, February 14th in Mauston for regionals.

Congrats to the Spartans on an outstanding conference season and best of luck to them as they start on the path to the Kohl Center.

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