Tanner Gerber is making a habit of winning state titles.
The Cameron sophomore defeated Remington Bontreger of Lancaster, a 46-3 junior who Gerber defeated for a state title last year. This time around, Gerber won an 11-8 decision in front of a huge crowd Saturday night, Feb. 29, at Madison’s Kohl Center to win the Div. 3, 113-pound title.
The state championship capped a 48-1 season that boosted Gerber’s career record to an amazing 97-3 through just two seasons. He won the Div. 3, 106-pound state title a year ago.
“This year was much different than last year, when Tanner was a long shot to be a state champ,” said Cameron wrestling coach and Tanner’s father, David Gerber. “This year was a little more stressful, as he had to deal with the expectations that come along with being ranked number one in the state from start to finish.
“He handled the added pressure well and used it as motivation. Tanner’s season prepared him well for the state tournament. Throughout the season, he had 13 matches against state qualifiers. He was battled tested.”
As an added bonus this season, Tanner Gerber won his sectional tournament to earn a bye through the preliminary round Thursday night at Madison. His first match was set up against 35-12 Jayden Glasbrenner of Fennimore late Friday morning at the Kohl Center, but the freshman was forfeited due to injury despite advancing through the preliminaries via a 4-1 decision.
“Tanner’s opponent’s coaches said the opponent had a sore leg from Thursday’s match, but he did wrestle three hours later in the consolation round,” David Gerber said. “It was unfortunate Tanner didn’t get a match.
“We really thought he needed to wrestle and get those first round jitters out of the way. Not getting a match until the semifinals Friday night was a disadvantage, but Tanner handled it well.”
The semifinals brought a showdown with Cole Slark, a 40-7 junior from Markesan. Gerber won by fall in 1:41. Slark went on to place fourth.
“Tanner scored a takedown eight seconds into the match,” coach Gerber said. “Slark got a quick escape, but Tanner was back on his legs right way and took Slark to his back and pinned him.”
That set up the Saturday night showdown with Bontreger, who had survived a 12-10 decision in the quarterfinals before recording a pin 3:09 into his semifinal match.
“This was a rematch of last season’s championship match at 106 pounds, which Tanner won 6-3,” the coach said. “Last year, I thought Bontreger was a little better wrestler than Tanner, but Tanner’s intensity in the third period was a little overwhelming for Bontreger, as Tanner scored six points in the third period.
“This year, I was confident Tanner was the better wrestler, but the Lancaster crew was ready to battle. They were ready for a lot of Tanner’s moves and had counters prepared. They were confident they could win. That’s when you get your best matches, when both wrestlers think they will win.
“Tanner got the action started with a quick shot in the opening seconds. He shot the same takedown that he attempted last season to start the action. Bontreger attempted the same counter he used to score and take the lead last season, but this time Tanner was ready for his counter and was able to score a takedown.”
A lot of homework went into this 6-minute battle, and Tanner Gerber’s preparedness helped grab two crucial points in the early going.
“We worked a lot on winning in that position, because we knew Tanner was going to be there and Tanner executed the finish to the takedown perfectly,” David Gerber said. “Tanner then put Bontreger on his back twice but both times only for one second. You need to hold an opponent on his back for two seconds for near fall points.”
Bontreger escaped and scored a takedown to go up 3-2, but Gerber used a reversal to lead 4-3 at the end of the first period. Bontreger chose to have both wresters start on their feet in the second period and scored a takedown to go up 5-4.
Gerber used another reversal to go up 6-5 and again put Bontreger on his back, this time long enough to get two near fall points and take an 8-5 lead.
“Those were some huge points,” the coach said. “After those two points, I felt the only way Tanner could lose was if he gave up back points, and he hadn’t done that ever in a high school match.”
Bontreger earned an escape at the end of the period to put the score at 8-6 to start the third. This time, Gerber got to choose the starting position. He started down and got a quick escape to stretch his lead to 9-6.
“Bontreger was able to score a takedown with 28 seconds left in the match (for a 9-8 Gerber lead), but Tanner scored a reversal with 20 seconds left and held Bontreger down to end the match and get an 11-8 victory,” the coach said. “It was an exciting match. Six minutes of action from two of the state’s best wrestlers. They both showed some incredible grit in difficult situations.”