MADISON – It was not the medal that Adam Holmquist had envisioned would be hung around his neck at the conclusion of his final high school wrestling tournament and match.
After playing a key role in the Hilltoppers’ run to the Division 7 state football championship that culminated in Madison just three months prior, Holmquist was so looking forward to donning yet another gold medal in “Mad City”, this time as an individual state wrestling champion.
But it was not to be.
Holmquist, the top-rated wrestler in Division 3’s 138-pound weight class for the entire season, suffered a second straight heartbreaking semifinal’s loss to yet another Westby wrestler. One year after falling 3-1 to three-time state titlist Cody See of Westby in the 132-pound semifinals, Holmquist’s world would again be rocked by a Norseman in the state semifinals. Westby sophomore Ross Withington stunned the Glenwood City senior and his faithful followers with a 6-2 upset victory in the Kohl Center Friday night, February 22.
“I wasn’t ready for my semifinals match,” Adam Holmquist plainly stated the next day after recovering to win his second bronze medal in as many years. “I didn’t come out with the fire I did this last match.”
That last match – the final one for Glenwood City’s all-time career wins leader – was a decisive 8-3 win over Clear Lake’s Erik Ulrich in the 138-pound, third-place bout. Holmquist had also defeated Ulrich 4-0 in the sectional semifinals exactly a week earlier en route to his first sectional crown.
Glenwood City’s head coach Shane Strong could not have been prouder of the young man he has mentored these past four years. Especially for staying focused even in the face of overwhelming disappointment to earn a second straight third-place finish at the 70th annual WIAA State Individual Wrestling Championships held Feb. 21-23 in Madison.
“He is real disappointed,” said Coach Strong immediately following Holmquist’s third place win. “One thing that I am real proud of though, some kids after they lose that semifinal match they can’t recover from that mentally, but Adam came back and beat two good kids.”
Holmquist was not about to end his career with a loss.
He bested Colby Kasten of Reedsville in the consolation semifinals for a second straight year, 3-2, and followed it about an hour and a half later with the 8-3 triumph over Ulrich.
“Colby Kasten has been to state three or four times and placed, comes back and beats him and wrestles Erik Ulrich who has been ranked second all year long and beats him.”
“He has got a lot to be proud of,” said Strong. “A 160 some matches in his career that he won, the winningest wrestler in Glenwood City history. He didn’t get that state championship but he had some tough kids in the last few years that he has faced.”
Holmquist, 42-2 this season, took his career record to 166-15 with the final two victories and locked up a second consecutive bronze medal and third overall in as many state visits. He finished sixth as a sophomore at 125 pounds.
Unlike his previous two visits to the Kohl Center, Holmquist, as a sectional champion, had earned a respite from Thursday’s preliminary round.
Holmquist was ready for action when the quarterfinals began late Friday morning, February 22 but so was his opponent, Riverdale sophomore Jared Roen. The pair battled to a scoreless deadlock after one period of the 138-pound quarterfinal’s match.
But Holmquist would take the advantage in the second period. The Topper senior worked a quick escape for a 1-0 lead and shortly thereafter took Roen, 41-9, to the mat for a 3-0 advantage. That would prove to be more than enough points to give Holmquist the victory as neither wrestler could gain an advantage or points in the final period.
The win propelled Holmquist into that evening’s semifinal round where he met up with Ross Withington. After spending the first half minute testing one another’s defense, Withington, sixth ranked in the final pe-state poll, scored a takedown with just 40 gone in the opening period.
It would not take Holmquist long to score the equalizer as he turned to the top for the reversal and a two all tie. But the long, lanky, and wily Norse sophomore would surprise Holmquist with a late reversal to retake a two point lead, 4-2, heading into the second, two-minute period.
As it would turn it, that reversal would prove to be the match-winner for Withington.
After Holmquist deferred the choice of top, bottom, or neutral to start the middle period, the choice went to Withington and he took down. Neither wrestler was able to gain an advantage until with just 15 ticks left on the period clock, the Westby grappler scored his second reversal to forge to a four-point advantage at 6-2.
That is exactly how the match and Holmquist’s quest for the state title would end as Withington was able to ride out the Glenwood City senior in the third period for the victory.
“He wasn’t able to get to any tilts on the top position and, uncharacteristic of him, Adam
wasn’t able to get out from the bottom either,” said Coach Strong. “But give credit to the Westby kid, he rode Adam out.”
“I think the Withington kid did a great job scrambling,” continued Strong. “He had great scrambling ability and one of the things that is a strength with Adam is that he has such great hips on the mat and he is so good at it. But he wrestled a kid that had as just as good of hips as his.”
“It was me, it was all on me,” Holmquist admitted. “I didn’t wrestle as hard as I could have and my shot at gold was gone.”
But a little perspective and a night’s rest renewed Holmquist’s spirit and fire.
He would take the Kohl Center floor Saturday morning on mission to accept nothing less than a pair of wins and third place.
That objective would not be an easy one to accomplish. Holmquist would need victories over the second- and third-ranked wrestlers in his 138-pound weight class to reach that objective. A tough task even for Holmquist, who held the top spot in the polls throughout much of the season.
Colby Kasten (#2) and Holmquist would meet in the consolation semifinals for a second straight year. The pair locked up at 132 pounds a year ago with Holmquist emerging with a pin fall in 4:57. Last Saturday’s battle would be much different.
No one would score in the opening two minutes. Holmquist was the first to get on the scoreboard, thanks to a reversal 50 seconds into the middle period. Kasten would tie the score ten seconds later on a reversal. Adam would work a release and get to his feet with under 30 seconds remaining for the escape and a 3-2 lead.
Kasten (44-5) chose to start the third period in the down position and that is where he stayed. Holmquist kept the Reedsville senior tied up and rode him out for the 3-2 win.
Less than two hours later, Holmquist was back on the Kohl Center mat looking to capture his second straight bronze medal.
He would need to defeat Erik Ulrich of Clear Lake for a second straight week in order to do so.
A scoreless first period would give way to some action and points in the second. Holmquist was the first to strike as he took a 2-0 lead on a reversal. Ulrich would escape for a point only to have Adam take him down for a 4-1 lead. Ulrich would add an escape at the end of the second and another to start the third period and closed to within a single point of Holmquist at 4-3.
But with less than a minute left in the match and a third place finish on the line, Holmquist got inside Ulrich. He scored the takedown and added a two-point near fall for the 8-3 win.
Holmquist said he felt much better after he finished third.
“I was able to end my career well and with a win,” said Holmquist, who plans to attend WITC this fall to be an electrician.
“I love my coaches,” concluded Adam. “I am going to miss them. It has been a great four years.”
The feeling is mutual.
“I am really proud of him,” said Strong. “He has been awesome to coach. A good kid that works hard and has nothing to be ashamed of.”
And for the wrestler who often retorted ‘You don’t smile until you win state’ when asked to grin for photos, Holmquist was wearing a huge smile when he received his bronze medal during the 138-pound awards ceremony Saturday night in his final Kohl Center appearance.
It was the smile of a true champion.