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Consider it a learning experience.

While Wauwatosa's Dayton Lewis, Cole Acker and Lawrence Thomas went winless at the WIAA Division 1 state individual tournament Feb. 23-25 at the Kohl Center in Madison, all three wrestlers gained valuable lessons they can take forward into next season.

"State didn’t go as well as we had hoped," Wauwatosa coach Kent Morin said. "We knew we had some tough draws and that any victory that we would get would have to be clawed out.

"The honest truth is that for these three wrestlers to make it to the state tournament was a major accomplishment. Hopefully, they gained valuable experience so that next year, if they return, it will not be as intimidating and they will be able to accomplish their goals of placing at the state tournament. It was really a pleasure to coach and watch these three young men develop into fine young men and wrestlers. The exciting part is that all three return next year, so the best is yet to be."

Lewis wrapped up his freshman season at 32-16 after dropping both his matches at state. He was pinned in 5 minutes, 37 seconds by fourth-place finisher Zeke Smith (48-7) of Sauk Prairie on Feb. 23 and lost, 6-3, to Beau LaDu (48-5) of Badger in a wrestleback match Feb. 24.

"Dayton wrestled two wrestlers who had a combined record of 91-8," Morin said. "That is the definition of a tough draw. The encouraging part for Dayton was that he performed significantly better in his second match. I think the jitters of wrestling in front of 10,000 people is tough for any wrestler, but especially for a freshman. His match against LaDu was decided by a takedown in the third period. This experience will serve him well over the next three years."

Acker went 0-2 in the 132-pound bracket to finish at 36-13. The junior lost a 13-2 major decision to sixth-place finisher Sam Boerner (37-14) of Cedarburg in his opening match and fell 13-4 by major decision to Elkhorn's Daniel Stilling (46-6), who took fifth place.

"Cole lost to two place winners," Morin said. "He, too, struggled with the environment during his first match. We try and prepare them for the venue, but there really is no substitute for being there.

"Cole also wrestled better in his second match, and there is no question in my mind that he will be back at the state tournament next year. He definitely learned the level of competition that he is going to have to rise to if he wants to place here next year."

In his second trip to state, Thomas lost a 14-5 major decision to Joe Leonhardt (42-9) of West Bend West in his opening match at 195 pounds. He did not receive a wrestleback, ending his junior season at 37-9.

"LT ran into someone who is a better thrower than him," Morin said. "In hindsight, he wishes he had stayed with his leg attack that got him the first takedown of the match. We learned valuable lessons, though, about what it is going to take to move to that next level. He is already talking about next year.

"All three guys are already into planning their offseason training. They got a taste of competing at the highest level in the state and now want to take that next step up to the podium."

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