MADISON — It is never an easy endeavor to make the awards stand at the state wrestling tournament.
Literally, thousands began that quest late last November but only 252 wrestlers, in all three divisions combined, achieved that feat here at the 72nd annual WIAA State Wrestling Championships last Saturday, February 28 in the Kohl Center.
While Boyceville wrestlers, senior Logan McAbee-Thomas and sophomore James Palmer, were among the honored elite to qualify for the 2015 state tournament, both fell short in their quests to earn state medals.
After winning in the preliminaries Thursday evening, February 26, Palmer lost his next two matches in the Division 3, 120-pound weight class and was eliminated from competition. Palmer also bowed out in last year’s consolation round while wrestling at 113 pounds.
Likewise, McAbee-Thomas was knocked out of the tournament after suffering a 7-3 loss in the prelims at 182 pounds.
Their head coach Jamie Olson had praise for both young men beyond the wrestling mat.
“Both are great students and great kids and are a pleasure to coach,” said Olson.
“It was a great accomplishment for Logan to get down here (state),” added Olson. “He has never been down here even to watch.”
“James Palmer had a great year,” Olson continued. “He is a two-time state qualifier but has not gotten to where he wants to be yet but we have two years left.”
Unlike a year ago when Palmer lost his opening match, he made sure that he would be victorious in his second state go round, even if it went down to the very last second.
And it did.
Even though Palmer was on his way to victory, thanks to a third-period rally that included a reversal and near fall points, he scored a pin and his first state win with one second left in his Division 3, 120-pound preliminary match Thursday evening.
He defeated Anthony Gliniecki, a Stratford junior, with the fall.
Palmer trailed 2-0 entering the third and final period, but, starting in the down position, he was able to work a reversal with about a minute left in the match and then turned Gliniecki to his back and got the pin call at 5:59.
The win advanced Palmer to the quarterfinals session the following morning where he faced top-ranked Alston Nutter, an impressive Fennimore freshman that had just one loss in 48 matches.
But for a second straight year, Palmer found himself on the wrong side of a state wrestling quarterfinals’ score.
Nutter scored a 9-1 major decision over Boyceville’s 120-pounder in the match.
The Fennimore freshman, who improved to 48-1, never trailed in the match as he held sway over Palmer from the opening whistle to the final buzzer.
Nutter scored a late, first-period takedown on the mat’s edge for an early 2-0 advantage.
After Nutter deferred his choice of position until the third period, Palmer started the second period down on the mat and about a half minute later scored his first point on an escape.
But the Fennimore wrestler scored his second takedown with 27 second remaining in the middle period for a 4-1 lead and then earned three near fall points after Palmer’s attempt to execute a granby roll left his back exposed to the mat.
Nutter scored another two-point takedown in the final frame of wrestling en route to the 9-1 victory.
Nutter went on to win the state title.
“James beat a good kid in that first round and then lost to a really good kid, ranked number one in the state,” said Coach Olson. “We did not wrestle our best against him, we had our chance to score on a granby and we did not finish it and he ended up getting back points on us and that was kind of the difference in that match.”
A few hours later, Palmer’s wrestling season ended with a consolation-round loss for a second straight year.
Palmer dropped a heart-wrenching, one-point decision to Laconia’s Alec Potter in a 120-pound consolation match Friday afternoon.
Palmer briefly took a 3-2 lead on an escape early in the second period of the match but lost it about 30 seconds later when Potter scored the takedown and a 4-3 advantage.
That ended up being the final count.
Palmer stayed on top throughout the entire third period, and his efforts to turn Potter on his back were nearly rewarded in the closing ten seconds of the match, but the Laconia sophomore was able to stay off his back to take the win.
Potter was the first to score, getting the takedown with eight second left in the first period, which is just a minute long in consolation matches, for a 2-0 lead. Palmer, however, was able to get the equalizer with a buzzer-beating reversal to knot the match at two after the first period.
Palmer, lost both of his 113-pound matches at last year’s state tournament, concluded a fine sophomore season with a 38-8 record.
“This last match, James was right there and had his chances,” Olson commented.
“I think James is a little disappointed that he didn’t meet his goal, he wanted to place and we feel that he is good enough to place, 4-3 he came up just a little short.”
“That 120-pound weight class is loaded with talent,” stated Olson. “James has beaten two kids that are in the semifinals in D2 right, he has beaten them earlier in the season.”
Logan McAbee-Thomas was not as fortunate in his state tournament debut.
The 182-pound senior dropped a 7-3 decision to fellow senior Austin Stebane of Brillion in the preliminaries and was eliminated from state competition.
McAbee-Thomas fell behind 2-0 on Stebane’s first-period takedown but came back to knot the match just seven seconds into the middle period on a nice reversal.
Stebane would retake the lead about 30 second later on an escape and never looked back.
The Brillion wrestler scored a reversal to open the third period for a 5-2 advantage. McAbee-Thomas countered with an escape to pull within a takedown of tying the match but it was Stabane that scored the takedown with 16 ticks left to secure the 7-3 victory.
McAbee-Thomas, who had never advanced past regional competition prior to this season, capped his final year of wrestling with a state appearance and a 26-12 mark.
“I think maybe he would like to have that match back now that he has been down here and experienced it,” said Olson of McAbee-Thomas’ state match. “He was very nervous before the match and I think the big crowd kind of got to him.”
“He admitted, ‘I didn’t wrestle my best match’ but he is happy with making this trip. It was great for him to be able to experience this.”
“And the kid that he lost to is still wrestling in the placement (rounds) and he will place,” continued the coach. “So, we didn’t lose to a bad kid, we just feel that maybe we held back a bit and some of those nerves got to him a bit but that is part of it here (state tournament).”
“I am happy for him and he is pleased with what he accomplished,” concluded Olson. “He is going to look back on this and remember a great thing he talk to his college buddies about. A great kid and great student.”