BOYCEVILLE — The pained look of disappointment was evident on Jamie Olson’s face as he watched the final few wrestle backs play out.
For the third straight year, the Boyceville wrestling team would finish as the regional runner-up to the Cardinals of Spring Valley/Elmwood.
Making it even more painful, was the fact that this one happened in the Bulldogs’ own gym.
“Disappointing!” Jamie Olson simply said. “The kids battled hard though.”
This one seemed almost unbearable for the Bulldogs’ veteran coach. Even the fact that Boyceville had six individual wrestlers crowned champions at last Saturday’s WIAA Division 3 Regional, double that of any of the other six schools competing, seemed to give Olson little solace.
“It’s really a hard one to take again, three years in a row,” Olson added. “We just could not get over the hump.”
“We had an up and down season, too many injuries and a lot of little things that really caught up to us and made the difference in this but that is part of wrestling – it’s a tough sport,” Olson continued.
In contrast, Spring Valley/Elmwood has been able to stay relatively healthy throughout a brutal regular season noted Olson and that helps when it comes tournament time.
“Spring Valley has had pretty good luck not having guys injured and that’s what it takes to win a big tournament at the end,” said Olson. “You have to be healthy and go full tilt.”
Still Boyceville stayed in the hunt throughout the tournament.
Boyceville trailed Spring Valley for much of the tournament and was down by 13 points (197 to 184) heading into the finals round that featured championship and third place matches.
That is when the Bulldogs made their move.
With six head-to-head matches against Spring Valley/Elmwood in the finals, Boyceville went a phenomenal five of six and had closed the gap to just four points – 250 to 246 – by the end of the finals round.
In the wrestle backs, Boyce-ville took its first lead of the day. Cody Frederick’s pin of Mondovi’s Jake Peterson in the wrestle back for second at 132 pounds boosted the Bulldogs into a 251 to 250 lead.
“We knew that we had a chance and we did,” Olson said. “It came down to the last couple of matches and that is all that you can ask for.”
But for the host to maintain that advantage, they would need to win their wrestle back at 220 pounds (Jake Lake against Glenwood City’s Hogan Chouinard) and have Spring Valley lose both of its wrestle back matches.
None of that happened.
Lake fell to Chouinard, 6 to 2, and Spring Valley’s Quinton Elliott and Mike Freund scored pin falls at 182 and 285 respectively to give the Cardinals the regional team title with a final tally of 259 points. Boyceville finished in second with 251 points.
“This one hurts a lot more than the other two for some reason,” admitted the coach. “It was such an up and down season to get kids in the line-up and healthy. Every one up and down the line-up has been out for some reason.”
Clear Lake was a distant third with 170 points followed by Cadott in fourth with 119, Mondovi had a point less (118) to take fifth while Glenwood City tallied 80.5 points to take sixth and Durand was last with 77 points.
This regional tournament featured three top-ten ranked squads. Spring Valley/Elmwood is ranked third in Division 3, Clear Lake was fourth and Boyceville sixth.
The team win gave Spring Valley/Elmwood, who also repeated as the Dunn-St. Croix Champs, its third straight berth in the team sectional which was held Tuesday, Feb. 17 in Ladysmith. Spring Valley/Elmwood was slated to wrestle host Ladysmith in one semifinal while Cumberland squared off against Arcadia in the other. The semifinal winners wrestle in the championship later that night with a berth to the state team championships on Saturday, March 7 going to the victor.
“Spring Valley has been in the state finals the last two years and they will be in the state finals probably again this year.”
“That team thing is pretty special,” emphasized Olson. “The time and effort that goes into, it really hits home, it’s so disappointing.”
Even in bitter disappointment, Olson was proud of all his wrestlers having an accomplished this season.
“We’ve got a nice team,” Olson said. “We were as good as I would say the top three or four in the state again. I am proud of that.”
“I am also proud of the kids that moved on,” Olson said. “And I look forward to this next week and the sectional and try to get down to state. There are big things to look forward to yet.”
Seven Bulldog wrestlers will be advancing to this Saturday’s WIAA Division 3 Individual Wrestling sectional at Osseo-Fairchild High School. Austin Wolfe (103), James Palmer (120), Micah Johnson (152), Garrett Joles (170), Logan McAbee-Thomas (182) and Brandon Windsor (285) all won individual regional titles for the Bulldogs Saturday and earned berths in the sectional meet while Cody Frederick placed second at 132 pounds to also qualify.
The top two place winners in each of the 14 weight classes advance to the individual sectional tournament. Spring Valley/Elmwood advanced ten wrestlers (three as champions) to sectional competition, Clear Lake will send four and had a pair of titlists, Mondovi will send three and Glenwood City and Durand one each. Mondovi, Cadott and Durand also had a regional champion.
Boyceville’s 106-pound senior Austin Wolfe kick off the championship round in style and several of his teammates followed suit.
Austin Wolfe scored an early round takedown against Spring Valley/Elmwood’s Andrew Webb and made it hold up for a 2-0 victory and his second 106-pound regional championship. The win was Wolfe’s second straight over Webb, who had beaten the Boyceville senior in the teams’ early January dual. Wolfe and Webb are one-two respectively in the latest 106-pound state rankings.
Wolfe, now 35-4, received a first-round bye in the regional quarterfinals and then needed just 1:13 to pin Cadott’s Nick Pelke to gain the finals.
Boyceville’s faithful did not have to wait long for another home favorite to win gold.
James Palmer, ranked fifth in the D3 polls, ran his record to 34-5 with a championship win at 120 pounds against another Spring Valley/Elmwood foe.
After a bye in the quarterfinals and a 3:46 pin of Bailey Gillett from Cadott in the semis, Palmer was set to tangle with the Cardinals Seth Schlegel in the championship. Palmer was the aggressor through the full six minute match and parlayed it into a convincing 7-2 win over Schlegel.
The Bulldogs gold-medal march continued at 152 pounds where defending state champion Micah Johnson easily won the regional crown despite wrestling for just the second time since a back injury in early December sidelined him for eight weeks.
Johnson rolled through the competition with ease.
Like most of the tournament’s top seeds, Johnson was afforded a first-round bye. He then stuck Glenwood City’s Spencer Peterson in just 412 seconds and advanced to the finals where he dominated Clear Lake junior Devon Johnson 11-2 for the 152-pound crown. Devon Johnson, the second seed, had won both of his earlier matches via pins.
“Great to see Micah get back in the line-up and wrestle for us,” Olson said. “It’s hard to have your state champ out for eight weeks. It’s hard on everybody.”
And if a performance could be even more dominating than the one delivered by Micah Johnson, Boyceville fans had to look no further than Garrett Joles.
The Bulldogs’ 170-pound freshman has shown himself to a raising star with state-caliber talent and displayed it at the regional tournament.
Joles used a pair of first-period pins to take gold in a weight class that is often dominated by upperclassmen. He pinned Clear Lake’s Trevor Kivi in 34 seconds and needed just a bit more, 1:25 to be exact, to take down Spring Valley/Elmwood’s Ryan Asher in the finals.
Boyceville’s fifth championship would come in the very next weight class.
Senior Logan McAbee-Thomas completed his run to the 182-pound title with an 11-7 win over, you got it, another Spring Valley/Elmwood grappler. McAbee-Thomas beat top-seeded Quinton Elliott for the gold medal. Logan also picked up a pin in the semi-finals as he beat second-seeded Kolton Schneider of Durand in 2:51.
“I though Logan McAbee-Thomas stood out today. He wrestled really well,” noted Olson.
The Bulldogs’ sixth and final championship title would come at heavyweight where junior Brandon Windsor went 3-0 with two pins including one in the finals.
Windsor opened with a 1:22 pin of Glenwood City’s Anthony Melstrom. He then went the distance in his semi-finals’ match to edge Cadott’s Cole Hanson 5-3. In the 285-pound championship, Windsor pinned Spring Valley/Elmwood sophomore Mike Freund in 2:49.
“Wolfe got us going and Palmer followed suit as did Micah and Garrett,” Olson stated. “Windsor had a huge pin and McAbee-Thomas won. It was awesome.”
“Those guys really stepped it up and rose to the occasion,” Olson said. “We were on a roll.”
The lone loss suffered by the Bulldogs in the finals round came at 132 pounds.
Freshman Cody Frederick used a bye and a 35-second semi-final’s pin of Durand’s Jack Bauer to make the championship against Cruze Hurlburt of Spring Valley/Elmwood. This would be the Cardinals’ lone win against the Bulldogs in the regional finals. Hurlburt, ranked second in state at 132 pounds, scored an 18-6 major decision over Frederick to take the gold.
Frederick then pinned Mondovi’s Jake Peterson at 3:08 of the wrestle back match to keep his silver medal.
Three other Bulldogs just missed the sectional cut after finishing third last Saturday. Jordan Morse, Noah Novotney and Jake Lake finished their season with regional bronze. Morse and Novotney both compiled 2-1 marks while Lake, who had a chance to wrestle back to second, finished 2-2.
Jordan Morse scored a pin in the 160-pound quarterfinals. He then lost a 2-1 heartbreaker to Andrew Johnson of Clear Lake in the semi-finals but bounced back and finished with a 53 second pin to defeat Ben Andress of Mondovi.
Novotney also lost a close semi-final’s match at 195 pounds. The Boyceville freshman fell 3-2 to Spring Valley/Elmwood’s Mike Roesler. But like Morse, Novotney responded with a first-period pin to secure third place in just 1:42.
Neither Morse nor Novotney were afforded wrestle back opportunities after the wrestlers they both lost to in the semi-finals both lost in the finals.
Jake Lake scored a 4:07 pin over Devon Yarrington of Mondovi to advance to the semi-final at 220 pounds. Lake was pinned by state-ranked Ethan Hofacker of Spring Valley/Elmwood just 2:44 into their semi-final’s match.
But unlike Morse and Novotney, Lake would get a chance to wrestle for second after he won his third-place match by forfeit and Hofacker pinned Glenwood City Hogan Chouinard in the finals.
Chouinard, however, scored a pair of takedowns and a reversal to dash Lake’s hope for silver with a 6-2 win.
“Jake Lake stepped it up for us. I could have had him at 195 today and he might have won it there, who knows,” Olson explained. “But for the team, I knew that we had to have Noah (Novotney) there at 195 to score the most points we could and I knew Jake could do well at 220 and he did. To get two thirds there kept us in the hunt.”
Despite going 1-2, both Dyllon Johnson (113) and Brock Swenson (126) placed fourth.
Senior Tyler Stroo, wrestling on a bad knee, finished his career with fifth place at 138 pounds and a 19-9 mark. Freshman Justin Malean also copped a fifth at 145 pounds. Both finished the day 2-1.
Seven Bulldogs will advance to Saturday’s sectional tournament in Osseo and with dreams of a state berth. Wrestling will begin at 10 a.m. with quarterfinal matches.