MADISON – There have been only a fortunate 13 wrestlers in the 71-year history of the WIAA’s State Wrestling Championships that have been four-time state champions.
Ellsworth’s Jens Lantz became the newest member of that exclusive club Saturday evening, March 1, when he teched Sage Soppa of Abbotsford/Colby 25-7 to win the Division 2, 126-pound individual state title in the Kohl Center. He has also won championships at 103 (2011), 113 (2012), and 120 pounds (2013).
A few minutes after Lantz completed his journey to that remarkable feat, Boyceville’s Micah Johnson put himself on that same path of achievement when he became the Bulldogs’ first freshman to claim an individual state wrestling title.
Johnson was simply, without argument, the best wrestler in the 2014 Division 3, 138-pound state field. He registered his third major decision in two days Saturday night inside the Kohl Center with a dominate 11-2 victory over senior Jackson Margis of Coleman to take the title.
Margis was an impressive wrestler in his own right. He entered the championship match at 138 pounds with a 42-2 record. And as any coach will tell you, Coleman wrestlers are difficult to beat let a lone dominate, especially with a state gold medal on the line.
But that is exactly what Boyceville’s fantastic freshman did.
Johnson took the fight to Margis from the opening whistle and never relented. Although he was not able to break through for a score in the first period, Johnson served notice that he was in the match to win.
Johnson took the down position to start the second period of a scoreless match. It took him all of five seconds to take a 1-0 edge on an escape. He then took Margis to the mat and turned him for a three-point near fall and a 6-0 lead. Johnson was close to a pin twice during the exchange and added a another near fall for two more back points.
Margis was finally able to extricated himself from his back and worked a reversal with 27 seconds left in the middle period. But Johnson countered with a reversal of his own at the horn for a 10-2 lead.
Margis chose to go in the down position for the final period as he looked to change his fortunes. Johnson made certain that the status quo was maintained as he stayed atop the Cougars’ senior, picking up a penalty point when Margis was called for grabbing his head gear, for the final two minutes to garner gold.
The exuberance and thrill of winning his first state individual wrestling may have been bubbling just below the surface but Johnson gave little hint of either as he coolly, calmly had his hand raised as the champion and acknowledged his accomplishment. It was as if he had been there before and expects to be back.
And so do many others that witnessed his coronation Saturday.
This was the eighth and lightest state individual wrestling championship for a Boyceville wrestler and sixth under the tutelage of head coach Jamie Olson. Five of the championships have come at heavyweight.
Chris Wisemiller was the first, winning back-to-back state heavyweight (unlimited) titles in 1982 and 1983. Adam Kittilson took the 152-pound crown in 1995. Andy Schoonover won the 275-pound heavyweight title in 2005. The Bulldogs then had three champs in as many years starting with Jack Duerst’s 182-pound win in 2009, Matt Wyss was the 285-pound winner in 2010 followed by Cody Hegeman’s 285-pound championship run the next year.
The Bulldogs hoped to add to that state-title tally just a few weight classes later when senior Bryor Hellmann looked to put a golden slipper (or medal)on his Cinerderella 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. The with 48 second 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 but 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.