MADISON – The bright lights and big stage did not seem to phase Justin Malean or Noah Novotney.
Boyceville’s first-time state wrestling participants seemed neither intimidated by their surroundings nor their opponents.
Despite giving up size in their respective weight classes, especially Novotney who was a good six inches and some 50 pounds lighter than the behemoth heavyweights he tangled with, both came away with wins and medals in the 74th annual event.
Malean, wrestling at 170 pounds, and Novotney grappling in the 285-pound class both finished 2-3 in their inaugural visit and returned home with sixth-place medals from Division 3 competition draped around their necks following the conclusion of the 2017 WIAA State Individual Wrestling Championships held last Thursday through Saturday at UW-Madison’s Kohl Center.
“They didn’t shut down, they weren’t shell-shocked,” said Jamie Olson, Boyceville veteran head coach. “They went out and wrestled hard and that is all we can ask. I know they wanted to place higher but just to get on that podium is tough to do.”
Justin finished the season with a 32-16 record and Noah posted a 38-12 mark.
“I’m very proud of these guys,” continued Olson. “Noah is really undersized and so is Justin for his weight class and for those guys to come down and place in awesome.”
Malean and Novotney, Bulldog juniors, both claimed wins in their state wrestling debuts during the Division 2 and 3 preliminaries February 23.
Justin Malean was the first Bulldog to take the mats at state and he 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.
Malean jumped on Easley from the opening whistle scoring a takedown and two-point near fall in the opening 25 seconds of the pair’s match 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.
Then a half hour later, in the final match of Thursday night’s preliminary round, Noah Novotney picked up a 6-4 victory against Johnson Creek junior Seth Roberts in a 28-5, D3 match-up.
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 him 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 wrestler 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 win.
The victories propelled the pair into Friday’s quarterfinal round where they each faced a champion from last week’s sectional tournaments.
The outcomes were a bit different than the previous night’s sessions for Novotney, who came into the state tourney as a runner-up, and Malean, a third-place sectional finisher. Both fell victim to first-period pins.
Malean was stuck in :44 by the number two ranked Jordan Blanchard (39-4), a senior from Coleman, who went on to finish third at 170 pounds.
Novotney was also pinned by a Coleman wrestler. Top-rated senior and eventual D3 state champ, Donovan Salewski put Novotney’s back to the mat at 1:25 of the heavyweight quarterfinal.
Both Malean and Novotney rebounded nicely for wins in the consolation semifinals later that same day.
Justin Malean, rated eighth in his weight class heading into the state meet, had the most dominating match of the round with a 15-1 major shellacking of Darlington/Black Hawk junior Tyler Mosely (25-20).
Novotney followed, beating Random Lake senior Ben Drenski 5-2 in his consolation semifinal at 285 pounds.
The pair dropped both of their placement matches in Saturday’s placement sessions for third and fifth.
For the second week in a row, Malean was beaten by St. Croix Falls junior Luke Clark. This time Clark beat Malean 8-2 in the consolation finals. In his fifth-place match, Malean was blanked 7-0 by Bonduel’s Jacob Banker (35-7).
Novotney, who gave up several inches and pounds to his final two heavyweight opponents, lost 3-0 in the consolation finals to Tyson Kauffman, a 15-7 senior from Stratford; and was beaten by River Ridge junior Bren Wheeler (37-12) by a count of 5-2 for fifth place.
“Today they were a little outmatched, a little outsized in a couple of those matches at the end,” said Olson of the pair’s Saturday bouts. “But for those two to medal is a great honor.”
“Justin wrestled really well and had a couple of majors,” said Coach Olson. “And Noah is a 220-pounder and those heavyweights were huge and he stood toe-to-toe with them.