Tourtilott to represent Hawks at state tourney

Junior is 170-pound sectional champ
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Leader photo by Jacy Zollar Shawano Community High School freshman Colten Herm was defeated by Appleton North’s Omar Zaidan in the quarterfinal match at the WIAA Division 1 sectional tournament on Saturday.

Sam Tourtilott is having a season of firsts on Shawano’s wrestling team. The junior qualified for his first sectional tournament, won the 170-pound sectional championship and is headed to Madison for his first WIAA Division 1 state tournament.

“The feeling is overwhelming,” he said. “I still can’t believe it’s happening, but it’s starting to become more real to me as I continue practicing this week.

“Being at sectionals for my first time was really fun. It was awesome having all my teammates there cheering me on to go to state, and when you put your opponent to his back and you hear your home crowd cheering, it just makes you want to pin the guy even more.”

Tourtilott had a dominating day on Saturday at Green Bay Preble for the sectional tournament. He posted two quick pins in the first rounds — over Kaukauna’s Kayden Verboomen (1 minute, 18 seconds) and Appleton North’s Ihab Khatib (1:13) — to advance to the championship match.

Tourtilott clinched the title after defeating Hortonville’s Kirkland Hills by a 12-4 major decision.

“It felt great,” Tourtilott said of the final match, “because (Hills) beat the guy that beat me at regionals, and I completely dominated him. So it puts me in the mindset that I can beat anyone.”

“Sam was different on Saturday,” head coach Mike Homan said. “I think the confidence finally started to come through. In the first match he got in there and got a pin, and after that he just had a different demeanour. You could feel the momentum starting to roll in the semifinal match and then it was just all business in that final match.

“You could really see it in the third period of that match. He was up by eight points and needed to finish off that last minute, and to be able to hold that guy off and pick up a major decision in the championship round is huge. We knew with the bracket he was in that he could be capable to make it to state. It was just up to him to put that work in and do it. He deserves a lot of credit because he wrestled his tail off.”

Despite a rocky season that put him at an 18-14 record before the sectional tournament, Tourtilott has proven his state-caliber wrestling after hitting the practice mat hard over the past few weeks.

“He’s really turned it on in practice,” Homan said. “He elevated things, and you could see that switch turn. I reiterated that this week, that if you look at the work he’s put in the past few weeks, you can see a direct correlation to the reward, which is a spot at state.

“I wrestled with him a couple times at practice last week and I told him, ‘Sam, you’re as tough as you’ve ever felt before. If you clean up the areas that you need to, the sky’s the limit.’ And he proved that on Saturday.”

Tourtilott will go up against the No. 4-ranked wrestler in the state in his weight class, Sparta’s Hayden Krein (40-6), for the first round at state on Thursday, but he’s not focusing on records or rankings.

“I want to just go out there and do my thing that I’ve been doing the past few weeks and take it match by match. After I came back from the sectional tournament my grandparents were telling me to just keep my mindset that I’ve had the past two weeks, and that if I do that I can make it far at state, so I’m just listening to their advice and working as hard as I can.”

“I have full confidence in Sam,” Homan said. “If he keeps wrestling the way he does, I wouldn’t count him out of anything. At state, upsets happen all the time. Sam might be overlooked a little bit when someone looks at his record and sees his win-loss ratio, but if he wrestles as hard as he has been, I have all the faith in the world in him.”

Tourtilott is Shawano’s first state-qualifier under Homan, who took over three years ago. Homan knew since he started as the Hawks’ head coach that Tourtilott could make it to Madison in his high school career.

“I can remember him coming up in middle school wrestling, and I remember telling some of the coaches there that Sam could be a two-time state qualifier, thinking that he had potential his junior and senior year to make it to state if he put the work in, just because you could see that he had that level of intensity and talent,” Homan said. “So I’ve had a feeling about this for a while.”