Cameron’s Tanner Gerber made school history Saturday, Feb. 13, wrestling his way to a third state championship in as many years.
Gerber, who finished a COVID-limited season with a perfect 16-0 record, defeated sophomore Tarrin Riley of Mineral Point in the Div. 3 126-pound state finals by a 7-1 decision. Riley brought a 13-0 record into the match.
The Cameron junior can attempt to become the state’s 20th 4-time state champ next season.
Due to COVID concerns, state tournaments were competed over just one day at three separate locations. Div. 3 duked it out at Wausau East High School. There, Cameron sophomore Kayne Johnson also had a great day, finishing fourth at 113 pounds.
“This year’s state tournament was a 1-day event,” said Tanner’s father and longtime Cameron coach, David Gerber. “Wrestlers weighed in at 8 a.m. The first round of wrestling started at 9:00 and the championship matches were held at 5 p.m. With the limited amount of wrestling allowed during the season by the WIAA, this was quite a change for the wrestlers.
“We were a little concerned that Tanner didn’t have much mat time during the season. He was 13-0 going into the weekend but had actually only wrestled eight times, with the other matches being forfeits. In the matches he did wrestle, he never went into the third period. As it turned out, Tanner was prepared to battle six minutes and longer if needed.”
His first match lasted just three minutes, 10 seconds.
“Tanner’s opponent, Jericho Helser (14-4 senior from Shiocton) was the number three ranked wrestler in the state,” the coach said. “Tanner used a quick single leg takedown 19 seconds into the match to take a 2-0 lead. He followed that with a tilt for two back points to finish the first period ahead 4-0.
“In the second period, Tanner started in the down position. He reversed Helser to his back and pinned him 22 seconds into the period. Before the match, Tanner said he wanted to score a quick takedown, get some back points and wear Helser down a little in the first period, then pin him early in the second period.
“Rare that it works out exactly like it was planned. Helser went on to finish fourth in the tournament.”
Gerber may have been more impressive in the semifinals, posting a 15-1 major decision over a 16-4 sophomore from Aquinas, Tate Flege.
“Tanner took control with a takedown 18 seconds into the match and then continued scoring points right up until the end of match,” coach Gerber said. “Tanner kept him on his back most of the match and really didn’t give him any scoring opportunities.”
Up next was Gerber’s stiffest test of the shortened WIAA season.
“In the finals, Tanner faced the number two ranked wrestler, Tarrin Riley of Mineral Point,” coach Gerber said. “Tanner came out aggressive but realized quickly Riley’s strategy was to stay away and try to slow down the match. Tanner likes to overwhelm opponents with attacks, but that can be difficult when opponents back away.
“Tanner finally was able to close the distance and scored a takedown 53 seconds into the match. Tanner came close to scoring back points several times but wasn’t able to hold Riley on his back long enough to score, so he ended up taking a 2-0 lead into the second period.”
Riley had the choice of positions to start the second period and chose neutral.
“Tanner scored another takedown, giving him a 4-point lead but then gave up an escape, putting the score at 4-1 to start the third period,” the coach said. “Tanner chose down and earned a quick escape and followed that with another takedown to put the score at 7-1.”
For a third time, Tanner and David Gerber ended the season with a state-championship embrace.
“It was a pretty dominating match for a state finals,” the coach said. “Tanner’s relentless attacking style and how quickly he transitions from position to position really makes it difficult for his opponents to get any offense started. Tanner became the 67th wrestler to become a 3-time state champion in the tournament’s 86 years. There have been 19 4-time state champions.”
Johnson places fourth
Johnson was also impressive at Wausau, recording a major decision and a pin while losing two closer decisions en route to a fourth place finish at 113 pounds.
“Kayne really turned up the intensity the last two weeks of the season,” coach Gerber said. “Kayne finished second in the regional, but then finished higher at sectionals than the person who beat him.
“Kayne was a second place finisher at sectionals, but at state finished ahead of the wrestler who beat him in the sectional finals. It really shows how much he has been improving the past two weeks. He is going to be fun to coach next season. He will build on this postseason success.”
Johnson’s day at state started with an impressive 9-1 decision over Tanner Birenbaum, an 11-4 senior from Random Lake. In the semifinals, Johnson was defeated 10-5 by Lucas Sullivan, a 13-2 Mineral Point sophomore who lost a 4-3 heartbreaker in the finals.
Johnson next advanced to the third place match by pinning 15-5 Coleman sophomore Ray LeMieux in 4:19. Johnson then lost a hard fought, 5-3 battle to Kevin Klemm, an 18-1 senior from Manawa, to finish in fourth place.
“It was very rewarding to see how well Kayne competed,” coach Gerber said. “The stress of competing in state tournament can cause many wrestlers to not be at the top of their game, but Kayne showed that the moment wasn’t too big for him. He kept wrestling better this season as the stakes got higher. With two more years to compete, I’m sure we’ll see Kayne bringing home more hardware from the state tournament.
“It was great to end the season on such a positive note. I really think the success Kayne and Tanner had in the state tournament series will help the program. It’s nice for the other guys on the team to see that the things we’re doing in practice work at a high level.”