BOYCEVILLE — No one will mistake Boyceville’s Jamie Olson and Spring Valley/Elmwood’s Carter Turner for Bobby Fischer and Donald Byrne, but much like the famed chess masters, the two are among the Dunn-St. Croix’s most experienced, competitive, and wily wrestling coaches and are in their own rights masters of mat strategy.
The pair’s coaching acumen as well as their respective teams’ talents were on full display in Boyceville last Thursday, January 16 when the fifth-ranked Bulldogs welcomed the Cardinals, the number one ranked team in the latest Wisconsin Wrestling Online Division 3 poll.
And while it may not have been “The Game of the Century” (a reference to the 1956 chess match between Fischer and Byrne), it may have been the match of the season and likely determined this year’s Dunn-St. Croix Wrestling Championship.
It was an honor the teams shared a year ago as the Bulldogs went into Elmwood and rallied to upset the unbeaten Cardinals 33-30 in the conference dual finale.
Spring Valley/Elmwood (2-0) returned the favor last Thursday as it overcame an early 18-0 deficit and scored key decisions at 132 and 145 pounds as well as an unexpected pin fall at 160 pounds to rally for a 37-30 victory in front of a packed Dog House.
“It’s very disappointing,” said Boyceville head coach Jamie Olson following the loss. “Our kids have worked hard and this was a goal of ours to beat them. We talked about this from last year’s regional. This was a team we marked to beat and we came up short in our home gym.”
“But I was happy with the battle we gave and the effort we gave,” continued Olson. “We would have liked to have three of those matches that went either way (132, 145, and 160). We were hoping we could get one of those and then it would have been really interesting.”
The dual featured 15 state-ranked wrestlers – six from Boyceville and nine from Spring Valley/Elmwood – and was televised by Badger State Wrestling.
Everything came up roses for Boyceville to start the dual as it won the first four matches including an unexpected to pleasantly surprised pin by sophomore Brandon Windsor at 285 pounds (heavyweight).
Windsor’s pin of Spring Valley senior DJ Wheeler with 2.2 seconds left in the second period came on the heels an opening 8-4 win by Jake Lake at 220 as he returned to the Boyceville line-up after suffering an elbow separation last month.
“Windsor came through and that was a huge win for him and the team,” Olson said. “It gave us some momentum going into 106 which was a tough match.”
Second-seeded Austin Wolfe battled Spring Valley freshman and fifth ranked Andrew Webb at that weight. Wolfe broke a scoreless tie early in the second with an escape and then rode Webb out in the final period to gain a tight 1-0 victory.
The match at 113 pounds featured another pair of state-ranked wrestlers. But unlike the previous battle at 106 pounds, Boyceville freshman James Palmer, fourth in the current weight class rankings, dominated his Cardinal opponent, sixth-ranked senior Derek Huebel and gave the Bulldogs an 18-0 advantage with a pin at 3:50.
Spring Valley/Elmwood quickly cut the deficit to just six points thanks to first-period pins in the next two matches. Top ranked 120-pounder Cruze Hurlburt, a Cardinals’ freshman, stuck the Bulldogs’ Brock Swenson in 1:09. Senior Tyler Berg then gave Spring Valley/Elmwood its second consecutive fall when he pinned Boyceville freshman Sam Retz in 1:26.
“Those two pins slowed us down a little bit,” said Olson.
Spring Valley closed the gap to three points with one of those key decisions at 132 pounds. Logan Newton took a 2-0 advantage on Boyceville senior James Lindo with a quick takedown. Lindo evened the match with a reversal at the end of the first period. Logan Newton, a D3 honorable mention at 132, grabbed the lead back with an escape and takedown to carry a 5-2 advantage into the final period. Lindo worked an escape but was again taken to the mat by Newton, who lead 7-3. Lindo was given an escape but could not score again, and lost 7-4.
Freshman Micah Johnson stemmed the Bulldogs’ bleeding with a first-period pin in the next match. Johnson, currently third in the 132-pound D3 individual rankings, scored the fall over Cardinal sophomore Ryan Berg in 1:34. The six points bumped the Bulldogs lead to nine points at 24-15.
Spring Valley/Elmwood, however, took its first lead in the dual, 27-24, with wins in the next matches.
The match at 145 pounds presented another battle of ranked wrestlers. Seniors Jon Harnish, the Bulldogs’ seventh ranked 145-pounder, and the Cards’ Zach Newton, who was noted as an honorable mention, grappled took the mat.
Newton scored first taking a 3-0 lead on a first-period takedown and an escape in the second period. Harnisch would get on the scoreboard when he was awarded a penalty point but Newton added another takedown to carry a 5-1 advantage to the third and final period.
Harnisch worked hard to get back into the match scoring a reversal with 1:14 left in the match and then pulled to within a single point when he was awarded a point for a second stall call on Newton. Instead of getting the equalizer or winning points, Harnisch gave up an escape at the buzzer and lost 6-4.
“The big match was at 132, we lost there and then we lost at 145. Those were two critical matches there,” Olson noted.
Third-ranked Jed Schlegel pulled Spring Valley/Elmwood to within three points of Boyceville for the second time in the dual with a 9-2 win over Boyceville senior Wyatt Hansen at 152. The Cardinals’ sophomore used a pair of takedowns in the first period to establish a 4-1 advantage. Hansen gave up a late takedown in the second and a reversal in the third.
Spring Valley dealt Boyceville’s chances for victory a death blow in the 160-pound match.
Olson made the switch and opted to move Bryor Hellmann up to 170 to face fellow senior Kevin Fesenmaier and have his honorable mention 170-pounder Logan McAbee-Thomas face unranked Trent Miller.
McAbee-Thomas was the aggressor in the match taking Miller down for the first points but the Boyceville junior got caught on a move and pinned with just 13 seconds left in the first period. The outcome shocked the Boyceville sideline and brought Spring Valley fans to their feet.
“They wrestled really well at 152 and at 160 we had a chance and got caught,” Olson said. “Would have liked to see that match wrestled again but that is the way it goes.”
The Cardinals suddenly had their first lead at 27-24 with three matches yet to be wrestled.
The win allowed Cardinals’ coach Carter Turner to adjust his final match-ups.
“I moved Logan down to 160 and wanted Bryor (Hellmann) to wrestle Fesenmaier. But when we lost at 160 they played it safe and moved in a JV kid to wrestle Bryor and moved up Fesenmaier and that sealed it for them. That was a safe play on their part.”
Instead of sending Fesenmaier out to face Bryor Hellmann, he sent out reserve Devon Johnson. Hellmann scored a third-period pin as Boyceville momentarily regain the lead, 30-27.
“They moved Fesenmaier up to 182 to beat Lovett,” Olson noted. “That was a good move on their part, good strategy. Hofacker is really tough at 195.”
Fesenmaier beat the Bulldogs Alex Lovett 13-3 for a major decision at 182 and a 31-30 Cardinals’ lead.
SV/E sophomore Ethan Hofacker showed his number three ranking was well deserved as he pinned Boyceville’s Jake Erickson in just 55 seconds to secure the 37-30 road dual win for the Cardinals.
“There were probably seven matches, if you look at the dual, that were really key for both teams and we needed one more,” said Olson. “We got three of those wins but needed one more to make the difference.”
Despite the heartbreaking loss at home, Olson did acknowledge the need for such stiff competition saying that both teams feed off of one another and the competition and it helps to build strong programs.
“This is one of those duals that is good for the sport of wrestling,” concluded Olson.
Boyceville, now 0-1 in Dunn-St. Croix duals, will have a chance to even their conference mark when they host St. Croix Central Thursday (Jan. 23) in this year’s home finale. The Bulldogs will finish the week in the St. Croix Falls tournament on Saturday, January 25.