MADISON — Austin Wolfe knows all too well the pit falls of competing in the preliminary round at the state wrestling tournament.
It is a win or you’re done.
In his first trip to the state tournament a year ago, Wolfe felt the bitter sting of a one-point loss in the 106-pound preliminary match-up that abruptly ended his inaugural participation at state and his season.
After finishing second a week earlier in the sectional meet, Wolfe once again found himself saddled with a Thursday evening preliminary round bout at 106 pounds in the 2014 WIAA State Individual Wrestling Championships held Feb. 27 through March 1 at the Kohl Center in Madison.
Wolfe was not about to let a second opportunity slip from his grasp this year.
The Boyceville junior needed just 63 seconds to secure his first state victory and a spot in the following morning’s quarterfinals. Wolfe pinned Westfield Area’s freshman Dustin Nelson just a bit over a minute into their preliminary round match for the win.
Wolfe, ranked third in the state’s lightest weight class for Division 3, scored another first-period fall in the Friday quarterfinals, this time taking down another freshman, Auburndale’s Dylan Altmann in 1:24.
His second win in as many matches advanced Wolfe to the semifinal round that evening where top-ranked sophomore Riley Lull of Riverdale stood between him and an opportunity to grapple for gold.
Lull dashed those dreams with a 9-4 decision that sent Wolfe into the consolation bracket. He suffered a heart-wrenching 7-5 overtime loss to second-ranked Nick Burns of Aquinas in his first match Saturday. It was the second time in two weeks that Burns had bested Wolfe, who lost by fall to him in the sectional quarterfinals the previous Saturday in Osseo.
Wolfe would shake off the loss to deliver a signature performance in the fifth place match to beat Altmann for a second time in two day on a 15-0 technical fall in 4:27.
“Our goal was to win the championship,” said his head coach Jamie Olson of Wolfe’s state intentions.
“We thought coming in we were capable of doing that but Austin lost to a really good kid, Riley Lull, and then lost a heartbreaker today,” added Olson about the loss to Burns. “It is tough to lose in overtime.”
“I was a little disappointed,” said Wolfe. “I had higher goals that I had set but I guess that I always want to shoot for the stars and if I miss a little low then I guess I am still satisfied.”
The 2014 Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Associations 71st Annual State Wrestling Championships ended all too soon for a pair of Boyceville’s seniors. Wyatt Hansen and Jon Harnisch both bowed out of their first and only state tournament after losing in the preliminary round Thursday.
Boyceville freshman James Palmer lost twice and did not place in the 113-pound weight class.
Palmer drew a tough assignment in his first state tournament. He had to battle defending state titlist Hunter Dischler of Weston-Ithaca in his opening quarterfinals match on Friday. Despite a great effort, Palmer was majored 14-2. Dischler went on to win the 113-pound state title, adding to the 106-pound championship he won last year.
Palmer was then knocked out of the tournament later that day with a 6-1 loss to Coleman’s Jordan Blanchard in the consolation quarterfinals.
“You’re a freshman, never been down here, and to get the returning state champion right off the bat that’s tough to overcome,” said Olson. “And then to come back and wrestle a kid that ended up fourth what a tough draw.”
“His weight class was loaded with talent and he shouldn’t hang his head and he will be back here again,” Olson said of Palmer, who finished with a stellar 43-4 mark.
Hansen overcame an early 4-0 deficit in his 145-pound, Division 3 prelim match against Laconia’s Zach Coffen to take a 7 to 4 lead late into the second period. Hansen, who had gotten on the board with a first period reversal, added another midway through the second to knot the score and then scored a three-point near fall for the advantage.
Coffen, ranked seventh, stunned Hansen with a reversal and two-point near fall in the final seven seconds of the middle period to retake the lead at 8-7. Coffen scored a third-period reversal and then tacked on a pair of two-point near falls to win 14-7.
“Wyatt came down and wrestled pretty well,” said his coach Jamie Olson. “He had his chances in that match with a granby to finish and maybe win that match. He wrestled hard and gave himself a chance to win.”
“Happy he made it down here as senior and finished his career out as a state qualifier.”
Hansen finish his final season at 31-16.
Minutes later, Jon Harnisch’s prep wrestling career also came to a sudden end.
Auburndale’s Wyatt Weiler, ranked fifth, used a five-point (takedown and three-back points) move to take early control of Harnisch and the 152-pound match. The Apache junior added another takedown and three-point near fall for a 10-0 lead. Weiler’s domination continued into the third period as he scored on a reversal and two more back points en route to the 14-1 major decision.
“He wrestled hard against a good kid,” Olson commented following Harnisch’s elimination loss. “I’m proud of his effort here and throughout the year. He has had a tremendous work ethic throughout his career.”
“He deserved every bit to be able to come to Madison and participate in front of a big crowd.”
Harnisch, like Hansen, finished his final season of wrestling with 31 wins.
Wolfe knows all too well the disappointment that a first-day loss came bring. But unlike Hansen and Harnsich, Boyceville’s lightweight wrestler had the opportunity to improve his lot on a second straight state go around.
Wolfe’s lightning-quick victories in the prelims and quarterfinals cast had the 106-pounder on track for a title shot until his semifinal showdown with Lull.
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 on a pair of takedowns and an escape. Lull was awarded a penalty point in the third on an illegal hold by Wolfe to account for a final tally of 9-4.
That loss would send Wolfe into Saturday morning’s consolation semifinals where he again met up with Nick Burns of La Crosse Aquinas. He was looking for some payback after Burns had pinned him in last week en route to the sectional title.
Wolfe made sure that would not happen in their rematch. Wolfe and Burns battled to a five all tie after six minutes of regulation wrestling.
Burns struck first with a takedown with 23 ticks left in the one-minute first period. Wolfe, starting in the up position in the second period, turned Burns to his back for a three-point near fall but Burns would right himself with a reversal to retake a 4-3 lead. In the third, Wolfe chose neutral and eventually worked a takedown with 53 seconds left in the match to overtake Burns on the scoreboard 5-4. Burns would score the equalizer 20 seconds later with an escape.
Burns nearly scored a winning takedown in the waning seconds of regulation but Wolfe was able to hold him off until the horn sounded.
In the first one-minute period, Burns was able to take Wolfe down for the two-point score and sudden victory, 7 to 5.
The loss sent Wolfe to the fifth-place showdown against Auburndale’s Dylan Altmann. Like the first time the two met the previous day, Wolfe came out the victory. After a first period pin in the first meeting, Wolfe needed a bit more time but powered to a 15-0 technical fall early in the third period thanks to eight back points in the middle stanza. Wolfe then finished of Altmann with a three-point near fall at 4:27.
“I was very happy with that match,” said Wolfe. “I would have liked to have it a little quicker but sometimes it just doesn’t go your way and you have to fight through it.”
“They were good opponents and I thought that I just couldn’t work my stuff,” added Wolfe of his losses. “It looked like they kind of knew what I was doing and I wasn’t use to the style that they wrestled. I just couldn’t make moves that I wanted to but sometimes things just do not go your way.”
“I know that he is a little disappointed but it is tough down here,” said his coach. “He has one more year, and his goal is to be a state champ and we think he can do that.”
A fifth-place state medal and an outstanding 46-5 record are great spring boards for Wolfe’s quest next season.