RIVER FALLS – Austin Moe has earned numerous honors on the wrestling mat including back-to-back WIAA State Championships the past two season.
But the one thing that had eluded the Glenwood City senior was a Northern Badger championship.
That was until last Saturday evening.
Moe was finally able to cross that item off his bucket list when he captured the 152-pound championship following a thrilling 3-1 overtime triumph over Somerset’s Gabe Flandrick in the 2012 Northern Badger Wrestling Classic at River Falls High School.
“Austin had never made it to the finals,” said his coach, Shane Strong. “So this was awesome for him. I am very proud of him.”
Moe went unbeaten in his five matches at the two-day tournament held Friday and Saturday, December 28 and 29. It was an accomplishment equalled by teammates and classmates Riley Knops and Adam Holmquist.
Riley Knops secured his second consecutive Northern Badger crown with a 7-0 shutout of Clear lake senior Tim Anderson in the 120-pound championship. Knops won the 106-pound title at last year’s Northern Badger. He joins Garrett Bonte as a two-time Northern titlist.
Just minutes after Knops title victory and a few matches before Moe’s first-ever, Adam Holmquist claimed his third straight individual championship at the Northern Badger Classic. Holmquist dominated Dominic Olson of Boyceville 8-2 to claim the top step on the 138-pound podium. In doing so, Holmquist became the first Glenwood City wrestler to win three Northern Badger titles in the 28-year history of the wrestling classic and just the tournament’s 14th wrestler to don the honor of a three-time champion.
Holmquist, who finished fifth in the 2009 tournament, has now defeated a different wrestler in each of his three subsequent championship matches – Peyton Shedd of Flambeau (2010) and Nathaniel Behnke of Bruce (2011).
In total, the three wrestlers that Glenwood City head coach Shane Strong affectionately refers to as “The Hammers” have won six individual Northern Badger titles in the past three years. The Hilltoppers had just four individual championships in the first quarter century of the tournament. The aforementioned Garrett Bonte has two while Ben McGee and Graham Cassellius each own one.
“I think my first season here in the 2009-2010, Glenwood City had only had two previous champions and Garrett Bonte won it that year and was the third.” said Strong. “And now these three have won six Northern Badger titles. They are a pretty special group of kids.”
“I don’t think that we (Glenwood City) will ever have a trio like this again in the Northern Badger.”
This special trio also helped the team reach a new high water mark as the Hilltoppers placed fifth, one place ahead of last year’s previous best sixth place, with 192.5 points and a second straight Division 3 (small school) trophy. Glenwood City finished just a half point behind Division 2 champion Cumberland.
Holmquist, Knops, and Moe points coupled with the points from Donovan Fornal’s ninth place finish at 195, Jake Carlson’s tenth at 126 pounds and an 11th place finish by Blayze Wood at 170 helped account for 176.5 points or nearly 92 percent of the Toppers overall accumulated score.
The Toppers accomplishments are even more impressive when you consider they did all this with unfilled slots at 106, 220 and 285 pounds.
“I thought we had a great tournament,” said Strong. “Our goal was to be in the top five in the entire tournament out of 39 schools. Last year we won the D3 title and we thought we could compete for that again.”
“And to do it with three weight classes open is pretty awesome,” added the coach.
Clear Lake ran away with the overall team title as the Warriors amassed 285 points. St. Croix Central was a distant second with 222.5 and Neillsville-Greenwood-Loyal took third at 204.5.
Knops scored a pair of pins and two shutouts on his way to victory at 120 pounds. After receiving a first-round bye as the weight class’ top ranked wrester, Knops pinned Unity’s Tucker Carlson in round two and Austin Najbrt of Cadott in the quarterfinals.
Although his final two matches went the full six minutes, Knops would not let his opponents score a point as he defeated Trey Lundequam of Cumberland 5-0 in the semifinals and then threw another shut out in the championship with a 7-0 win over Clear Lake’s Tim Anderson.
Holmquist would also follow an opening round bye with two pins. Zeb Hovde of Rice Lake and Trevor Giedd of Mondovi were both pinned late in the first period as Holmquist advanced to the semifinals at 138 pounds. In that match, once-beaten Travis Oliphant of Ashland could not match Holmquist’s skill, precision, and strength and lost 5-0.
The finals would bring a familiar foe Holmquist’s way as he squared off against Dominic Olson of rival Boyceville. Olson was able to do something the previous four had not – score points. But it was not enough as Holmquist dominated for an 8-2 win and his third title win in as many tries.
Like his “Hammer” counterparts, Moe’s path to the 152-pound finals was easily cleared of competition. He scored first-period pins over Ben Cashman of Ashland and Tyler Fleming of Rice Lake in the first and second rounds respectively. He would then score a 15-0 technical fall over Neillsville-Greenwood-Loyal’s Jake Rueth in the quarters and a 14-0 major in the semis against Tyler Henke of the Osseo-Fairchild Co-op.
Then in one of the best championship matches of the entire tournament, Moe went toe-to-toe with D2 state runner-up Gabe Flandrick of Somerset. After six minutes of regulation time, the pair had battled to a one all deadlock. Moe was the aggressor in the one-minute overtime period and scored a takedown to end the match and claim his first Northern Badger crown with a 3-1 win.
Glenwood City had three other wrestlers make it to the second day of competition.
Donovan Fornal finished the tournament with a close 7-6 win over Tristan Truttmann of Turtle Lake/Clayton to take ninth place. He won four of his six matches in the tournament.
“Donovan Fornal had a great tournament and had two or three pins for us,” noted coach Strong.
Jake Carlson placed tenth at 126 and Blayze Wood took 11th at 170 pounds.
“Jake Carlson had a great tournament. He made it to the quarterfinals,” noted Coach Strong. “This young man has never placed here before and came out and wrestled hard as did Blayze Wood. Both placed for us which was important.”
“This (tournament) prepares us for regionals,” said Strong. “It gives us a good look at where we are at and where we need to get better at. I think our conditioning is starting to pay off.”
The Dunn-St. Croix continued to dominated at the Northern Badger as four of the conference five teams place tenth or above in the final standings. St. Croix Central (222.5) was second, the Toppers fifth, Spring Valley/Elmwood (179.5) placed eighth, and Boyceville (178.5) was tenth just a point behind SV/E.
The Toppers will inaugurate the new year and conference dual season this Thursday, January 3 when they host defending D3 State runner-up Spring Valley/Elmwood. Glenwood City will then travel to LaCrescent, MN for a tournament on Saturday, January 5.