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MADISON – The bright lights and big stage did not seem to phase Justin Malean or Noah Novotney.
The Bulldog junior both claimed wins in their state wrestling debuts in the Kohl Center here this evening.
Justin Malean dominated his opponent Walt Easley (37-15), a senior from Marshall, from the opening whistle to the final horn en route to an impressive 17-5 major decision at 170 pounds
Then a half hour later, in the final match of Thursday night’s preliminary round for Division 2 and 3, Noah Novotney picked up a 6-4 victory against Johnson Creek junior Seth Roberts in a 28-5, D3 match-up.
The victories propel the pair into tomorrow morning quarterfinal round where they will each face championship from last week’s sectional tournaments.
Novotney (37-9) will take on Coleman senior Donovan Salewski (36-6) and Justin Malean has a match with another Coleman wrestler, Jordan Blanchard, a 36-3 senior.
Malean jumped on Easley from the opening whistle scoring a a takedown and two-point near fall in the opening 25 seconds of the pair’s 170-pound bout for a 4-0 lead.
Malean grew his advantage in the second period as he added a reversal, two more takedowns and another two-point near fall for a 12-4 cushion after four minutes of wrestling.
A three-point near fall to open the final period coupled with one final takedown helped Malean polish off the Marshall wrestler, 17-5.
In front of just a smattering of Kohl Center fans including a contingent of Bulldogs’ faithful, Novotney, who surrendered a good six inches in height to the Johnson Creek wrestler nearly ended the match early in the middle period when he caught Roberts in a head lock and flung to his back.
Unfortunately, the officials eventually ended Novotney’s hold when the Bulldogs’ heavyweight was called for an illegal hold giving Roberts, who had broken a scoreless deadlock with an escape to start the middle frame, a point to make it 5-2.
The Johnson Creek wrestlers made it 5-3 with an escape in the waning seconds of the second period.
It became a one-point affair when Novotney was hit with a pair of stall warnings that gave Roberts, who was in the riding position, a point to make it a 5-4 match. Then with time running short, Roberts let Novotney escape in hopes of gaining a match-tying takedown. But Novotney did not let that happen and held on for the 6-4 victory.
The two will be joined tomorrow by Boyceville topped-ranked trio of Brock Schlough (160), James Palmer (182) and Garrett Joles (195) who will make their 2017 state tourney debuts. All three have have plenty of previous state experience with nine state tournament appearance between them.
Palmer is a four-time state qualifier, Joles a three-timer with two state runner-up finishes and Schlough in his second straight state tournament is a defending state titlist.