Greenfield— A landmark anniversary was celebrated in grand fashion by Whitnall's wrestling team on Jan. 12.
The Falcons marked their 50th year of wrestling by welcoming back over 25 alumni from as far back as the early 1970's, including John and Jim Zelinski, Paul and JJ Zizzo, Ryan Strong and Matt Schenke, all among the top 20 in career victories.
Also returning was Richard Kiedrowski, the founder of the program and the head coach from 1960 through 1976.
At the same time, it was parents' and senior night, with this year's Falcon veterans being honored.
Thus inspired by successful wrestlers both past and present, the current team went out and routed Wauwatosa, 59-12, to boost its dual mark to 5-1 in the Woodland Conference and 18-7 overall.
"The whole night was kind of fun," said current coach John Quinlan, who is in his 27th season with the Falcons. "We had the alumni show up and the original coach come out. That part was nice."
Kiedrowski, now 73 years old, also enjoyed the festivities. "It's like old home week," said the former coach, who also taught at Whitnall for 35 years before retiring in 1995. "It's been a lot of fun and it's good to see a lot of old familiar faces. It has worked out very well."
He reminisced a bit about the beginnings of the program, when President John F. Kennedy was in office. "The first year, we had about 25, 26 people out," he said. "Gradually, it built up from there.
"I can remember some very good young people that we had on our squads, like the Lex twins (Tim and Randy) in 1976 and the Perea twins (Roger and Dick) from 1964. We had guys like Dwayne Olson (1975), Brian McKenna (1975), Jim Penoske (1975), Jim and Rich Stillman (1965 and 1964, respectively) and Tony Tamel (1964).
"Bruce Tonsor (1974) was very good as a heavyweight. He took third in the state. Les Kubeny (1974) took second at state at 145 and Jerry Helmle (1975) had an excellent career here. We had some good wrestlers. It's a lot of good memories."
For the past 27 seasons, Quinlan has been creating his own memories. "They kind of made me interim head coach when I was 20 years old, about six days before the first match of the year, and I guess I'm still the interim coach," he said with a chuckle.
Quinlan, now the team's co-head coach with Craig Austin, has carried on the success of the Whitnall program without missing a beat. Since 1986, he owns a 150-27 conference dual record and a sparkling 417-144 overall dual mark, with 10 team conference championships and numerous individual conference and WIAA sectional crowns.
"John has done a nice job with the program," Kiedrowski said. "He's built it up real well, and he's got some really good kids out now. This is something that has been building every year, and it gets better every year. I am very proud of that."
For his part, Quinlan was quick to praise the athletes and their parents. "I don't think it's a coincidence that we tied in parents' night along with the alumni tonight," he said. "They (the parents) are big supporters of us, they push their kids to do well and they're always helping out whenever they can.
"If (the kids) are getting support at home, and believing in what we're trying to do in the program, that makes it all that much better. We've been blessed to have a lot of good, hard-working kids as well."
The work ethic of Falcon wrestling was shown during the dual against Wauwatosa by junior Evan Olson in his 140-pound match. Olson fell behind 4-3 early in the third and still trailed by that score until literally the final second, when he scored a reversal to pull out a 5-4 victory. "I wasn't sure how much time was left, so I pretty much just went all-out and came out with (the victory)," he said.
Quinlan said about the match, "It showed he didn't stop working for the whole six minutes. He's trailing at 5 minutes, 58 seconds, but got the points when he needed them."
Scoring pins for Whitnall were James Taylor at 189 pounds, Josh Langenohl (215), Kameron Bourgeois (112), Ruben Garcia (119) and Troy McGee (130). Also notching decisions were John McGee (160), Nathan Barnhart (171), Matt Price (135) and Mason Howard (145). Price trailed 2-0 going into the final period before rallying for a 5-3 triumph.
The Falcons will next compete in their own Zelinski Duals at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, paying homage once again to their glorious past.
Some of the achievements of the Whitnall wrestling program since 1986:
45 team tournament titles
90 individual conference champs
64 regional champs
33 sectional champs
58 state qualifiers
10 state place-winners
2 state champions
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