MADISON — James Palmer is one of the few Boyceville wrestlers to have reached the state championships four times in his prep career.
But for all the success he has enjoyed Palmer had not had much luck on the Kohl Center mats. In his three previous trips to the state tournament, the Boyceville senior had won just once in six matches and had never advanced past the quarterfinals.
But what a difference a year can make.
After wrestling at 113, 120 and 132 pounds in his three previous state trips, Palmer was wrestling at 182 pounds in his final trip to state after having grown five inches and putting on 50 pounds since last year’s tournament.
Palmer said those changes haven’t affected how he wrestles, but they seem to have enhanced his abilities.
“It didn’t really change my wrestling up a whole lot,” said Palmer of his physical transformation. “It seems to benefit me a lot to still be able to wrestle like a lower weight guy so I think that was a real advantage for me.”
It has indeed.
The new and improved James Palmer took his God-given talents, honed through countless hours of hard work and his new physique and parlayed them into gold.
Boyceville’s lone senior representative at the 2017 WIAA State Individual Wrestling Championships claimed his coveted state title last Saturday evening in the Kohl Center with a 6-1 victory in the Division 3, 182-pound championship match.
“It feels real amazing!,” said Palmer immediately following his title win. “All the hard work you put in finally pays off.”
“The real treat, though, has been the journey, not just getting the reward but the reminder that the hard work that you put in does pay off and it’s a really great feeling.”
No one was more pleased with the outcome than his head coach Jamie Olson.
“I don’t know if there is a guy in this state tournament that deserves this title more than James Palmer,” stated Olson. “The way he works. He just out works people. It didn’t work out for him the past three years but he made up for it tonight.”
Palmer, rated top in his weight class for much of the season much like his fellow Boyceville finalists Brock Schlough and Garrett Joles, held sway over his championship opponent, second-ranked Alex Peplinski of Wittenberg-Birnamwood, from the start to finish.
In the title match, Palmer was the first to score taking a 4-0 lead after the opening period on a takedown and two-point near fall.
Peplinski (44-5) scored the only point of the second period, an escape 23 seconds into the frame.
Then, with under a minute remaining in the championship match, Palmer worked a reversal for a 6-1 lead and then rode out Peplinski for the title.
“I had a basic battle plan just to hit my attacks. I don’t like basing my wrestling off what the other guy does,” noted Palmer, who finished his final season with 44 wins in 45 attempts .
“I just like going out there and hitting my stuff and having a good level of confidence.”
Ironically, Palmer’s final victory also made him the Bulldogs’ all-time career wins leader, supplanting 2009 state titlist Jack Duerst for the honor. Palmer now has 165 wins, Duerst finished with 164.
As impressive as his state title performance was, Palmer was even more dominating in the two matches leading up to it.
After scoring a 10-point victory in his opening quarterfinal match on Friday afternoon, Palmer scored a first-period fall in the semis later that night which vaulted him into the Championship Saturday.
In the quarterfinals, Palmer steadily built his lead through two and a half periods to take a 9-0 lead over his 182-pound quarterfinal opponent sophomore Will Raatz (34-5) of Edgar.
Raatz would finally break his goose egg on an escape with under a minute remaining in the match only to have Palmer take him down for the fourth time and claim a 11-1 victory.
Later Friday evening, Palmer dispatched sixth ranked Marshal Westfall (36-10) in semifinals.
The Athens junior had no answers for Palmer’s no-nonsense, get-after-it style.
It took Palmer all of 1:20 to rack up a takedown, two-point near fall and the pin against Westfall.
Palmer has finally been able to enjoy the fruits of his labors but is quick to credit others for his success this season like practice room partner Garrett Joles.
“When you’re wrestling Joles everyday at practice its nice to go out there (for a match) and know I don’t have to wrestle him every time,” said Palmer half jokingly.
“That helps the confidence too, having great practice partners to work with.”