MADISON — Wanting an individual state wrestling championship is not the same as knowing you are capable, both physically as well as mentally, of achieving it.
Few may have had Boyceville senior Bryor Hellmann penciled in as a state finalist when the season began or even when the state tournament series began last month with regional competition.
That’s fine because Bryor knew he had what it took even if few outside his family did.
“I felt like I was senior and needed to wrestle my best because I knew it was my last time,” said Hellmann. “And my family was really behind me.”
“I just wanted to do my best for everyone,” he added.
That is just what the Bulldogs’ 160-pound wrestler did, particularly in the post season.
He elevated his performance and it yielded not only regional and sectional championship but a chance at a golden dream when he vied for a state title last Saturday night, March 1 at the 71st Annual WIAA State Individual Wrestling Championships at the Kohl Center in Madison.
“He is a thinker,” said his coach Jamie Olson. “He thinks way ahead and this was it for him. Bryor knew this was the last time he was probably ever going to put a singlet on and he wanted to make that tournament run special and he did.”
The Bulldogs and their faithful fans hoped to add to its state-title tally when senior Bryor Hellmann looked to put a golden slipper (or medal) on his Cinderella run through the state tournament series in the D3, 160-pound championship.
A night after his dramatic one-point semifinals win in which he went from three points down to elation in the final 20 seconds, Hellmann was on the threshold of winning an individual state championship in his final prep match.
Standing between Hellmann and that goal was Luke Nowak of Iowa-Grant/Highland – the only junior in an otherwise senior-laden 160-pound weight class.
Nowak scored early with a takedown just 15 seconds into the match. Hellmann escaped Nowak’s grasp 20 seconds later to draw within a point. Then with 48 seconds left on the first-period clock, Nowak again took Hellmann to the mat for a 4-1 lead. But the Boyceville senior worked hard and earned a reversal a single second before the first period expired.
Down by a point, Hellmann chose to begin the second period on the mat. Instead of trying to hold Hellmann down Nowak opted to give him the escape and a four all tie. Nowak would gain a third takedown midway through the period only to let Hellmann up. Trailing by a point Hellmann was prowling for the move that would put him into the lead but it was Nowak that found an opening for his fourth and final takedown and a 8-5 advantage as the second period wound down.
Nowak took the down position to start the third period.
It was the opportunity of control that Hellmann needed. The Boyceville senior wasted little time in pushing his attack that eventually exposed Nowak’s back to the mat. It looked, if only for a few brief moments, that Hellmann might have had a pin and yet another miraculous comeback. The referee, however, awarded a two-point near fall as Nowak was able to right himself to maintain the slightest of leads at 8-7.
Nowak did work free for the escape with half a minute left in the match and deftly sidestepped and blocked Hellmann’s relentless attacks in the final seconds to hold on for the 9-7 championship win.
It would be a silver finish for Hellmann, Boyceville’s senior captain.
Despite some tears following the heartbreaking defeat, Hellmann wore a smile while standing in the halls under the Kohl Center.
He stood proud of what he had accomplish just like his family had as they applauded his effort following the championship.
“My goal was to be top three,” said Hellmann. “I just wanted to improve on last year.”
A year ago, Hellmann left he Kohl Center empty-handed. He returned home last Sunday with a silver medal and the appreciation of a community and a spot in the Bulldogs’ storied history books.
“He wrestled a heck of a tournament,” Olson said. “And you can not take anything away from his effort.”
Hellmann wrestled a heck of a season particularly when he knew it meant the most.
He carried the momentum from his regional and sectional victories into last weekend’s state tournament.
Hellmann found ways to win all year and especially so at the state tournament.
After finding himself deadlocked at two in his state quarterfinal’s match, Hellmann scored the takedown and then continued to apply unrelenting pressure to pin fellow senior Garret Griffin of Manawa at the 5:43 mark and move into the semifinals where he faced fourth-ranked Myles Connor of New Lisbon.
Hellmann’s dream of a state title match was slowly ticking away in the waning seconds of the semifinals. But Hellmann found a way to overcome Connor and a three-point deficit in the final 20 seconds of the match 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.
“I honestly had no idea of the score so I was just wrestling and some how ended up on top,” said Bryor. “And coach is like ‘just stay there, just stay there’, so I held him as long as I could.”
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 guy just goes and goes and goes,” said Olson. “It wasn’t over until the last second.”
Even as the state title was about to slip from his grasp, Hellmann pushed for a tying takedown in the championship match.
“That kid knew he had to wrestle all six minutes to beat Bryor and that is what it took.”
“He made it to state last year, what a great accomplishment,” concluded Olson. “And now placing second what a great career. Over a hundred wins and another special kid that I have been lucky to coach.”