Recalling the 2000 Sparta-Tomah Dual

Anyone who follows Sparta wrestling has probably heard tales of the dual between Tomah and Sparta back in 2000.  It had all the makings of a classic dual.  Two evenly matched teams.  A conference championship on the line.  A score so close that the winner of the last match would determine the dual winner.  Controversy in the final seconds of the last match of the night.  All the ingredients of a memorable dual.  Unfortunately for Sparta, things didn’t go the way they had hoped.  Whether or not the official screwed up the end of the dual is irrelevant now.  It will go down as one of the greatest duals in this storied rivalry and will always be immortalized on with an asterisk.

Over the last couple weeks, I asked a few of the people in attendance that night to tell me what they remembered about that dual.  We have people from both Sparta and Tomah and one thing is for certain after reading the comments–emotions were high, crowd noise was booming and the result still resonates with people to this day.

People’s memories of the night may differ, but video doesn’t lie.  Below is a video of the final minute of the third period and overtime of the controversial match.  Listen to the crowd noise and you be the judge about just what happened.  Hopefully, if we are all lucky, Tuesday evening’s dual will have half the emotion and crowd noise that this night had back on January 6, 2000.

Now that you’ve seen the video, read below to see some of the commentary of those present that night…

Lyle Blum, Sparta’s Head Wrestling Coach in 2000
Sparta Vs. Tomah – Do we need to say more?  When you become a member of Sparta Wrestling as a coach, athlete, parent, or fan you become a part of one of the great rivalries in this part of the state.  From day one as a coach in Sparta, I learned that beating Tomah was one of the ways our season’s success was to be measured.  We could have lost to any of the MVC teams and that would have been forgotten if we beat Tomah.  What I remember from that duel was more than just the matches.  I remember the focus in our athletes that week in practice.  I did not have to offer motivation – Tomah was the motivation.  I remember the non-stop buzz/talk about the Tomah duel starting at least two weeks before.  Students, staff, and fans were constantly wanting to discuss the matchup.  I remember sitting in [Mike Montgomery’s] office trying to figure out what we thought would happen and how we could increase our odds.  [Mike] was great!  He was able to analyze the matchups and provide me with suggestions.  In terms of the meet itself – I remember going into to Tomah and our JV got beat up pretty bad.  The building was packed and it just felt exciting.  As a wrestler it was simply awesome to be part of that kind of environment.

The fans were loud and the gym was packed.  As the meet went on, every match counted!  How we won and lost!  Every match was exciting and emotions went up and down throughout the duel.  Taylor’s match is what really stands out.  Not because it was the best match of the night or most exciting, but because of the the fact that it was the last match of the night and the winner wins the duel.  I don’t know what the score of the duel was or who else won or lost their match.  What I remember most is how an official mishandled a situation.  When Taylor was awarded the win in regulation the duel was done and WE WON – that is what I believe to this day.  The official raised Taylor’s hand, we celebrated, we shook hands , we wnt to the locker room,  End of MATCH.  The official in my opinion allowed the Tomah coaches and table workers to change his mind.  To award Taylor the win then take it away long after the match was wrong.  Taylor and all of you gave everything that night.  Then to reverse the decision in that fashion was wrong.  Taylor gave us a great effort that night and was put into a situation by an official who made a poor choice.  Our team won that night!!  After the duel I was simply in disbelief and to this day I still am.  I have never seen/heard of an officiating injustice of this nature.  Disappointment.  Not in the team.  The team was great!

Mike Montgomery, Sparta Activities Director in 2000
Sparta had clearly, and without any doubt won the match in a hard-fought, dramatic fashion.  To have it taken away from them a short time later was maddening and heartbreaking all at the same time.  It was an unfortunate example of an official losing control of the situation and being unduly influenced by the home crowd, home coach and home table workers.  Despite fruitless appeals to the W.I.A.A. it was not going to be corrected. The W.I.A.A. no matter how obvious or unjust, would never overturn the decision of one of their own officials.  My biggest disappointment is for the wrestlers and seniors that worked so hard and deserved a share of the M.V.C. Championship that year.  2010 is the year to make things right!

Bill Tourdot, Administrator in Tomah in 2000, now Sparta’s assistant coach
I was an administrator in Tomah at the time of the Sparta /Tomah match that ended in an uproar, with the heavy weight match deciding the winner of the dual.  I wasn’t coaching, and my kids were not wrestling, so I was just there as a fan and an administrator.  I remember the match ending in a flurry, the crowd was very loud and the official did not hear the horn.  The lady at the score table immediately started calling for the official but he did not hear her or look at her.  He then had them shake hands and raised the Sparta wrestlers hand.  The whole time the score lady was trying to get his attention.  The crowd started to come down because the match was over, but as the official walked over to the table the score person told him the horn had blown before he gave Sparta the points.  So he took away the points and made the wrestlers come back out.  I had to help get people off the mat because the score would now be tied and the match would go into over time.  We got the mats cleared and the Tomah wrestler shot on the whistle and got the take down to win.  I new there would be problems so I ran out to the official and escorted him to the locker room so no one would do anything.  At the time I wanted Tomah to win but even though, I still thought it was handled poorly.  The official should have went to the table before the kids shock hands and he declared a winner.  If he would have done that, people still would have been upset, but emotions would not have been so drastic for the wrestlers.  Once the winner was declared the match should have been over.

Adam Jessie, Sparta’s 112 pound wrestler that night
Although I was not a senior at this time, I did wrestle 112 that year on varsity. I remember the evening very vividly as though it is etched in my mind forever. I remember it was tight all the way down to the last couple of matches and we had to bump Taylor up to heavyweight in order to win the dual. I think he either got a takedown or a reversal near the very end of the match and the referee raised his hand and he walked off the mat and the meet was over and we had won the conference if I remember right. The Tomah coach then started talking to the ref and complaing that time had run out before Taylor had scored. Some of the team was actually already in the locker room already. So, in an unprecedented turn of events he called Taylor back and started an OT period and the Tomah wrestler ended up scoring and winning the match and thus Sparta lost the dual. It was one of the most disgusting scenes from my Sparta athletic career. I still have the VHS tape somewhere, but haven’t seen it since probably that year. Moving him from 189 to 275 was a huge deal then as he probably didn’t even weigh 189 and the 215 weight class was unheard of at that time. He wrestled his a$ off and got screwed. I even remember the referee having to be escorted from the gym by police officers. Of course, this was still back in the days when the entire gym would be packed with fans and the spotlight was the only light on in the gym. It was an unbelievble atmosphere. I only wish it could be that exciting nowadays.

Brian Jefferson, Member of the 2000 Spartan Team
I remember it pretty much the way Adam summed it up. I remember Taylor’s hand being raised, shaking hands with Tomah and walking towards the locker room. While all of this is happening the head coach for Tomah is going berserk over at the scorers table. After his temper tantrum it was OT. The rest is something I don’t like to talk about. In my eyes we got screwed. Maybe I am overreacting and bitter but conference championships aren’t something that come around very often, they are special and I feel like one was stolen from us.  That was definitely one of the craziest nights ever in my athletic career.  Blood pumping, an insane crowd and THE biggest rivalry I have ever been apart of. Now I am getting pissed off again, thanks Derek.  I ran into Dale Stafslien while I was helping with their Christmas tree.  I mentioned that night and he didn’t have a whole lot to say.  Anyway.  While that is something that stands out in my memory I have many more that are much more positive.  Derek’s mutant arm hair, the infamous kick to the mouth, tournament trips, “Roddicks” and many more.

Brent Schwarz, Member of the 2000 Spartan Team
To go from a tremendous high to a bitter taste in your mouth. Other things did happen earlier in the night that made it come down to that match. Like Jefferson I’d rather not talk about it. It’s a match I’m sure no one that was there that night will forget.

Dale Stafslien, Teacher at Tomah in 2000, Now Sparta assistant principal and JV coach
Jeff was the head coach and I broadcast the match on WBOG at Tomah. Like any Sparta/Tomah match we were all excited about it. From up in the loft in Tomah I remember the noise going into the last match, whoever won it, won the meet, it was tough to hear myself talk on the radio with Brian Winnekins. When it tied at the end I didn’t know a gym could get any louder and it just seemed to keep rising until the signal for that final point when the cheers and boos lifted the ceiling. It was a classic Tomah-Sparta dual where no one believes the other one beat them.  I haven’t heard this one talked about in Tomah as much as I have in Sparta, but I believe that rivalry keeps the two programs strong, neither wants to lose to the other.
Derek Montgomery, Sparta’s 152 pound wrestler that night
I remember the match going back and forth.  Mike Haas at 119 pounds wrestled a tremendous match against one of the Bloom brothers taking him to overtime.  There were so many close matches and my adrenaline was running all the way up until my match and through the matches afterwards.  I remember Taylor getting the takedown, his hand being raised, the team celebrating and then we went back to the locker room only to be told to come out a few seconds later.  Nobody knew what was going on and when the match restarted and Taylor was almost immediately taken down, we were dumbfounded.  The locker room was silent.  Nobody really knew what happened, but we knew we were robbed.  Video backed that up in the days following as well as the revelation that a number of rules were broken by the official.  My dad was the athletic director at the time and sent a letter to the WIAA, but they wouldn’t overturn an official even if the evidence was overwhelmingly in our favor.  While I’m disappointed that we were unable to put a banner up in the gym, I’m happy to be part of one of the most exciting duals in this rivalry’s history.
Jeff VonHaden, Tomah’s current head coach and head coach in 2000
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