MADISON – Micah Johnson has just earned what very few freshman every get an opportunity to do – wrestle for a state championship.
Johnson majored junior Ross Withington of Westby 12-3 in the semifinals Friday night to advance the 138-pound, Division 3 state championship match tomorrow night at the Kohl Center.
The Bulldog freshman, now an astonishing 44-1, was every bit as impressive as his record on the wrestling mat today. After a 9-1 win earlier in the day, Johnson capped a stellar Friday performance with a dominating win in the semifinals.
It took him all of 30 seconds to establish his dominance and the lead with a lightning-quick takedown of Withington. Johnson added a three-point near fall to extend his lead to 5-0. The Westby wrestler scored a reversal only to have Johnson return the favor for a 7-2 lead after one period.
There would be no scoring in the middle period but Johnson continued to show his dominance as he kept Withington on the mat throughout the second.
Johnson added to his tally in the final period as he started with an escape and then added a pair of takedowns to complete the 12-3 win.
A half hour later, senior Bryor Hellmann joined Johnson in the finals with a dramatic 10-9 victory over New Lisbon’s Myles Connor in the closing second of their 160-pound semifinal.
Hellmann has been unstoppable in the post season tournaments this year and it continued center stage at the Kohl Center Friday. After opening with a pin in his quarterfinal match, Hellman overcame a three-point deficit in the final 20 seconds of the semifinal with a reversal and two-point near fall to capture the nail-biting, one-point triumph.
Hellmann never lead in the match until he reversed Connor in the waning seconds and then scored a pair of back points and then held on for the 10-9 win.
In fact, Connor took 2-0, 4-2, and 5-2 leads over Hellmann who came back to knot the match at 2-2 and then 5-5 early in the third period. But Connor would retake the lead with a takedown. He would give Hellmann the escape but then took him down a final time with less than a minute to go for a 9-6 lead.
The score remained that way until Hellmann, with the clock ticking under 20 seconds, turned Connor to his back for the reversal, a two-point near fall, and the win.
Unlike Johnson who was stoic following his win, Hellmann was nearly in tears following his victory. Hugging his coaches before eventually finding his parents – Angie and Nick Hellmann – to share some well deserved affection and congratulations.
The Bulldog’s semifinals celebration, however, was somewhat bitter sweet as the third member of its semifinals trio fell short in his bid to make the finals.
Junior Austin Wolfe lost 9 to 4 to Riverdale’s Riley Lull in one of the 106-pound semis.
Lull broke a 2-2 all tie late in the first period with an escape. The Riverdale sophomore then built his advantage to 8-4 by the end of the second period. He was awarded a penalty point on an illegal hold by Wolfe to account for a final tally of 9-4.
While Wolfe will wrestle in Saturday morning’s consolation finals, both Johnson and Hellman will partake in the fanfare of a state championship match when each goes for gold at the WIAA’s 71st annual State Individual Wrestling Championship tomorrow evening.
Johnson will face Jackson Margis, a 42-2 senior from Coleman, in the D3 138-pound championship. Hellmann will take on junior Luke Nowak of Iowa-Grant/Highland, who is 37-11, for the top medal at 160 pounds in Division 3. Championship wrestling will begin at 6 p.m.