For two decades, Bishop Dwenger and Snider have grappled annually for the SAC wrestling championship.
After watching the Panthers capture three straight crowns since 2018, it was the Saints that earned the ultimate prize this year.
Dwenger scored 258 points at the SAC Wrestling Tournament at Snider on Saturday edging out Snider, which finished with 242.5 points. Concordia finished third with 191.
“It means a whole lot,” Dwenger's Eli Hilger said of the team title. “We've been working at it for four years. This is the first time all the guys on the team right now have won it, so it's a really big deal for us. ... That really gives me a lot of joy that we were able to pull it off.
“It's always close. Every year, it's close. ... It was nerve-wracking.”
Either the Saints or the Panthers have won the SAC crown every year since 1999, when Northrop took the title.
Dwenger led by nine points heading into the finals and increased its lead when junior Elliott Cornewell pinned Wayne's Scott Lantz to grab the 113 pound individual title. Cornewell won his second SAC title after winning at 106 pounds in 2020 and improved to 29-0 this season.
Snider closed the gap with individual championships in the next three weight classes: Camron Lapsley (18-5) at 120, Caleb Lawson (21-2) at 126 and Reakus Shelton (22-1) at 132. Shelton captured his third straight conference title.
Dwenger bounced back with a championship at 152 pounds when Michael Tippmann got a late takedown to beat a familiar foe, Northrop's Brayden Mudrack, 9-7. Mudrack struggled with a bloody nose most of the match, which was paused multiple times to try to fix the problem.
“We knew (Tippmann) was a key cog to our lineup and to get him to the weight class, he's been very disciplined to get there,” Saints coach John Tone said. “He's had some battles over the years with Mr. Mudrack and they've gone back and forth, so he was very motivated today.”
That set up a hugely important match between Hilger and Snider's Mekhi Spencer for the 160-pound title. Hilger, the 2020 SAC champ at 152 pounds, had beaten Spencer twice before and was taken down early in the match, but rallied to win 4-3. Spencer (19-4) has been a runner-up in the conference meet three times.
“(Spencer) is a really good wrestler,” Hilger (25-1) said. “It's really hard wrestling somebody repeatedly, so that was the hardest part. ... It gets in your head a lot. That first takedown I gave up, I always give up a takedown right off the bat and I'm trying to get out of that habit. (You know) what he's going to do, but then again he knows what I'm going to do, as well.”
The Saints nearly had a fourth individual champion, but Concordia's Landon Jones kept that from happening. The senior took down Dwenger junior Simon Garrett (15-14) with three seconds left to win a thrilling 6-5 decision at 145 pounds.
“It was pretty exciting, knowing I could go out there and finish it with little time left and go six (minutes),” Jones (16-3) said. “My coach always just tells me to go six and that's what I did. I went neutral and knew I could win it there.”
One of the conference's best rivalries in recent years got its latest installment in the 195-pound finals when South Side's Keaton Grider (21-0) got a late takedown to beat Concordia's Cooper Harris, 3-2. Grider, a two-time SAC champion, has beaten Harris three times this season after losing to him four times in 2020.
“I just knew that I had to keep composed,” said Grider, who credited his teammates with giving him energy and support throughout. “I was riling him up, his fans were getting riled up. I just stayed mentally there. ... I avenged my losses all year this year, so it feels great. I had a mental block with him last year, he kept on beating me.”
106 – Byron Oliva, North Side
113 – Elliott Cornewell, Bishop Dwenger
120 – Camron Lapsley, Snider
126 – Caleb Lawson, Snider
132 – Reakus Shelton, Snider
138 – Xavier Sheehan, Concordia
145 – Landon Jones, Concordia
152 – Michael Tippmann, Bishop Dwenger
160 – Eli Hilger, Bishop Dwenger
170 – Jacob Kreager, Snider
182 – Sam Hudson, Concordia
195 – Keaton Grider, South Side
220 – Julante Hinton, Northrop
285 – Logan Nahrwold-Settle, Concordia