OSSEO — It has been a difficult and trying wrestling season for Boyceville veteran head coach Jamie Olson.
The 2014-15 Bulldogs never could get over the injuries and illnesses that plagued them all season long and culminated in yet another heartbreaking, second-place finish in this year’s regional tournament.
In the midst of those constant wrestling trials and tribulations, Olson had to deal with a profound personal loss – the sudden and unexpected passing of his mother.
But finally last Saturday (Feb. 21) while standing in the Osseo-Fairchild High School gym watching the awards ceremonies for the just completed WIAA Division 3 Individual Wrestling Sectional, Olson found good reason to smile.
And he did so broadly.
Five of his eight sectional wrestlers qualified for the WIAA individual state tournament that will get underway tomorrow (Thursday, Feb. 26) and run through Saturday, Feb. 28 at the Kohl Center in Madison.
“Overall I am really happy for all the kids,” said grinning Olson. “To get five through (to state) and win this as a team is pretty cool. It’s a feather in the cap.”
Despite a back injury that flared up during the semifinals Micah Johnson put an emphatic exclamation point on his second sectional championship with a 56 second pin in the 152-pound finals.
Joining Johnson atop the awards podium were first-time sectional titlists senior Austin Wolfe (106) and freshman Garrett Joles (170).
Boyceville also had a pair of runners-up. Sophomore James Palmer took second at 120 pounds and senior Logan McAbee-Thomas copped the silver at 182 pounds.
The quintet earned a trip to this weekend’s individual state tournament and helped Boyceville nip Spring Valley/Elmwood for the sectional scoring title – something it wished it could have done the previous week.
Boyceville tallied 102 points to top the list of 24 teams that scored points at the individual sectional meet. Spring Valley/Elmwood finished with 99. Cumberland was third with 87 and Ladysmith scored 81.5 for fourth place. Spring Valley/Elmwood and Cumberland also had five individuals earn state berths.
The season for Boyceville’s three other sectional wrestlers came to a conclusion last Saturday in Osseo.
Junior heavyweight Brandon Windsor along with freshman Cody Frederick (132) and Noah Novotney (195) did not place at what was yet another strong sectional tournament field.
While Windsor and Frederick knew that they would be wrestling in Osseo, Novotney did not after he finished third in the previous week’s regional meet.
But Olson received news early Friday morning from Spring Valley/Elmwood coach Carter Turner that his 195-pounder senior Mike Roesler had contracted Chicken Pox and could not wrestle. That gave Novotney a chance to wrestle in his first sectional tournament.
“It was a good day,” admitted Olson. “But you always look at the kids that could have had other opportunities.”
“This sport is so tough,” Olson added. “It one of those things that I feel really good about the ones that make it and really bad about the ones that didn’t.”
Olson had to feel really good about the performances of his three sectional champions.
All were impressive in their gold medal march but Garrett Joles stood out in particular.
The quiet and unassuming young man showed last Saturday that he is one of the state’s best wrestlers in his weight class.
“He said ‘I am going to have fun and dominate’ and that’s what he did,” Olson said of Joles.
Joles, ranked fourth at 170 pounds heading into the state tournament, defeated his first two sectional opponents via second-period pins.
He took down LaCrosse Aquinas’ Nick Shankey in 3:53 to open his sectional tournament and then scored a pin 2:43 seconds into his semifinals’ match against Quint Schmidt of Ladysmith.
Joles then ran his season record to 29-4 with a convincing 10-1 major decision in the championship bout over Unity’s Tevin Anderson, who had 32 wins coming into the title match.
All three of Joles’ sectional wins came against seniors.
“Garrett is very quiet,” said Olson. “He is very mature beyond his years.”
“He just has things figured out. He works hard, he lifts, he practices hard and he is kind of a thinker too, a smart 4.0 student,” Olson added. “He is the real deal. He is fun to coach and he never complains and is always looking to get better.”
Micah Johnson has already proven himself to be the best and is looking to repeat. After taking the D3 138-pound title in 2014, Johnson is looking to add a state gold at 152 pounds this season.
But the journey has been a bumpy and sometimes painful one for the Boyceville sophomore sensation.
Johnson spent eight weeks this season sidelined by a herniated disc in his back.
A problem that flared up once again at the sectional meet.
After dispatching St. Croix Falls freshman Garrett Bergmann via a 1:42 pin in the quarterfinals, Johnson had some painful work ahead of him in the semifinals.
Midway through his semifinal’s match against Jasper Dunn of Whitehall, Johnson appeared to have re-aggravate his injured back but was able to “gut out’ an 11-7 win to gain the championship match.
Johnson sought out the medical trainer between matches for treatment.
It seemed to work wonders as he wrestled his best match of the day, unaffected by the injury.
Johnson needed just 56 seconds to tag out Isaac Weik of Chequamegon. The senior had entered the title match with a 40-2 mark but left with his third loss of the season.
“The trainer got a hold of his (Johnson’s) leg and popped something back into place and we wrapped it tight for that last match,” Olson said.
“It was nice to see Micah and Garrett dominate,” added their coach.
Boyceville’s third sectional champion also had a great day at Osseo.
Senior Austin Wolfe finally won the sectional gold he coveted.
Boyceville’s 106-pounder used a pair of falls including a 1:04 pin over sophomore Zack Anglin of Bayfield/Washburn in the championship match. His other pins came in the quarterfinals, where Wolfe stuck Aquinas senior Alvin Christopherson in 1:50.
Wolfe returns to state with a 38-4 mark and the weight class’ top ranking.
Wolfe decisioned Ladysmith’s Nathan Roach 8-1 in the semifinals.
Sophomore James Palmer came tantalizingly close to a second straight championship.
Looking to add the 120-pound title to the 113-pound crown he won a year ago, Palmer was denied the opportunity after suffering a 4-2 overtime loss in the championship to Cochrane-Fountain City freshman Tate Murty.
Palmer earned a shot at a second title with a 3:01 quarterfinals’ pin of Ladysmith’s Dawson Barber and a 7-4 decision over Kyle Koshiol of St. Croix Falls in the semifinals.
After the championship loss, Palmer had to defend his silver medal against familiar foe Seth Schlegel of Spring Valley/Elmwood. Palmer easily held on to his medal with a 8-1 win in the wrestleback.
Like Palmer, senior Logan McAbee-Thomas won his first two matches – a 9-1 quarterfinal’s win against Cumberland’s Joseph Mlejnek and an 8-3 triumph in the 182-pound semis over Isiah Brown of Aquinas – only to fall in the title match and then have to wrestle to keep his silver.
Once-beaten and second-ranked Kyle Heinsohn of Cameron took control of the title match and pinned McAbee-Thomas in 4:14.
McAbee-Thomas held an 8-6 lead in the wrestleback when he was injured on an illegal move by his opponent Rowdy Kochevar of Flambeau.
Medical staff examined McAbee-Thomas for several minutes before determining that he could not continue due to a possible concussion.
The Boyceville senior was awarded the win on a disqualification.
McAbee was to have undergone further examinations the following day.
“I am so happy for McAbee-Thomas to get through,” said Olson. “He is a senior and has been with us forever.”
“This was his first-time ever in a sectional tournament. He has never made it here and then to get here was big and to get to state was even bigger.”
The post-season road for three other Bulldogs ended in Osseo.
Junior Brandon Windsor earned a 9-7 quarterfinal’s win over Ethan Luedtke of Northwood/Solon Springs at 285 pounds but then lost his next two matches and did not advance.
Cody Frederick lost 6-5 in his first match at 132 pounds and was eliminated as was Noah Novotney, who lost twice at 195 pounds.
“Another year is almost over,” noted Olson. “But I am looking forward to next week because it is so much fun down there.”
Five Bulldogs will continue to test skills and wills this weekend against the state’s best in hopes of a state championship.
A “Welcome Home” reception for all five of Boyceville’s state participants is planned for 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 1.