MADISON – Josh Cormican had dedicated himself for this one opportunity, this one moment – the chance to wrestle for a state championship.
In his third and final trip to the Mecca of Wisconsin high school wrestling, Cormican had earned that opportunity to wrestle for a coveted individual state championship.
Years of hard work and sacrifice had led to this moment.
After back-to-back sixth place finishes in the previous two state meets, and a nailbiting double overtime win in this year’s quarterfinals, the Boyceville senior was finally standing at the threshold of his dream as he prepared to vie for the Division 3, 152-pound state individual championship last Saturday evening, February 23 at the 70th annual Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association’s State Wrestling Championships held in Madison at the Kohl Center.
But despite his Herculean effort, especially in the closing minute of the match, the state championship eluded Cormican’s grasp. A single point separated him from his dream as he lost a 3-2 heartbreaker and title to Coleman senior Mason Mergener.
“It’s a heartbreaking loss,” said Boyceville head coach Jamie Olson, the disappoint and hurt evident in his voice. “The kid has worked his butt off for this and to be close to getting it done is very tough.”
“This ranks right up there,” said Olson in terms of being one of the toughest losses during his coaching tenure. “I have seen the time that Josh has put in, and not that my other kids haven’t put a lot of time in that have been state champs or been in the finals, but Josh has dedicated his life for a state championship.”
“He has been wrestling since kindergarten,” continued Olson. “His parents have put a lot of time in. Victory Wrestling and doing the national tournaments, doing all the little things to win a state title, Josh has done it all.”
“Just to come up that short – one point – and having a chance at the end,” said Olson.
The 152-pound championship battle between Cormican, ranked second in the final pre-state poll for that weight class, and Mergener, who was rated third, was a tight fight from the opening whistle.
Mergener, 44-3, would break a scoreless tie late in the first period on a takedown with 28 seconds left on the clock.
That 2-0 lead would stand through the next period. Cormican, one of the best “riders”, held the top position the entire second frame and would not allow Mergener to shake free. But Cormican was hard-pressed to find an opening to earn back points against the Coleman senior.
So Cormican took the down position to start the final two-minute period of the match. Cormican needed just 21 seconds to get the equalizer. The reversal at 4:21 knotted the match at two points aside.
But Mergener would not be kept down this time. He would secure an escape and a 3-2 advantage with a minute to wrestle.
Cormican went on the offensive. He shot several times with some success but Mergener staved off the Cormican’s takedown attempts and held on for the championship win.
“We had our chances in that last minute to score two,” Coach Olson commented. “But Mergener had great balance there at the end and we couldn’t finish.”
“Josh was in deep on a high crotch,” added Olson. “I would just like to have those last few seconds over.”
“We were hoping to maybe get a stall call there at the end, too, but we didn’t.”
Mergener’s first-period takedown played a key role in deciding the outcome, noted Olson.
“He wrestled great tonight, he really did,” Olson said of Cormican. “That first takedown was big and we had to battle from there and he did. Josh battled back from there and really outwrestled him.”
“He wrestled his heart out and gave it everything he had and we just came up a little bit short.”
Cormican nearly came up short in his opening match of the 2013 tournament when he found himself trailing late in Friday’s quarterfinal match.
Edgar senior Anthony Lemanski, a 6-0 winner in the Thursday night’s prelims, wrestled well in his 152-pound, quarterfinal’s match against Cormican.
Ranked seventh, Lemanski went on the offensive early and scored a takedown on Cormican just a minute into the match. But Cormican responded with a reversal at 1:19 and maintain control until Lemanski flipped back on top with just one second left in the first period.
Lemanski chose the down position to start the second period as he looked to add to his 4-2 advantage. But Cormican is hard to shake let alone score on when he is on top. Although Lemanski escaped Cormican’s control once, the Boyceville senior was not about to let it happen a second time in the match. Cormican would maintain the top position through a scoreless middle period.
Still down two points, Cormican took the down position for the third period. He would get a match-tying reversal against Lemanski with just 47 second left in regulation and then held on to force overtime.
Neither wrestler was able to score in the one-minute first overtime period, which then necessitated a second sudden victory overtime period in which each wrestler has 30 seconds and a choice to take the down position and work for an escape or a reversal (and any ensuing back points) or the top and ride out and/or score back points.
Lemanski had first choice and took the bottom position. Cormican clamped onto Lemanski and would not let him loose.
Like his opponent, Cormican took to the mat when it was his choice. It proved a wise decision. Cormican scored a match-winning reversal with just two second left to claim a heartstopping 6-4, double overtime victory and a berth in that evening’s semifinals round.
Lemanski, 37-6, went on to win his next three matches in the consolation side of the bracket and finished in third place.
Reedsville sophomore Grant Wedepohl, fresh off a huge third-period pin of last year’s D3, 160-pound champ Dominic Flock in the previous match, was looking to add Cormican to his upset list.
Cormican, however, had no intention of becoming another statistic for the Reedsville wrestler.
With the exception of Wedepohl’s first-period takedown and early two to nil lead, Cormican dominated the match.
Cormican would knot the match when he countered the takedown with a reversal midway through the first two minutes of the match. The Boyceville senior would take the lead on a takedown and a two-point near fall and held a 6-2 advantage as the match went to the final period.
Cormican added a reversal to extend lead to six points. Wedepohl, 42-8, escaped with a second left but Cormican advanced to his first state championship match with an 8-3 victory.
“Josh dominated his kid in the semis,” said Olson. “He wrestled real solid.”
Cormican’s effort was no different the following night when he went for the state title only the outcome was.
“He was so close,” Olson lamented. “You just have to feel for him.”
But Cormican’s stellar career should not and will not be defined by a single match. Cormican went an incredible 161-37 in the four years he donned the Bulldogs’ purple and white singlet and capped an incredible 47-2 senior season by wrestling in the state championship and earning the silver medal.