BOYCEVILLE — Historic, superb, outstanding, awesome, exciting – no matter the superlatives used to describe it, the ending to this year’s Boyceville wrestling season will be one to remember.
The disappointment of second-place finishes in the conference and regional races were washed away by the events that unfolded at the 2017 WIAA State Individual Wrestling Championships held February 23-25 at the Kohl Center in Madison.
When the Saturday, February 25 championship season concluded, there were plenty of cheers and smiles as Boyceville’s state quintet all stood on the medals podium, including three on the very top step as individual state wrestling champions.
Boyceville’s three state finalists went a perfect three-for-three in that title round as Brock Schlough, James Palmer and Garrett Joles copped state titles while first-time state participants Justin Malean and Noah Novotney both took sixth.
It proved to be Boyceville’s finest hour in its storied state wrestling history.
“We need this,” said head coach Jamie Olson shortly after Joles completed the trifecta. “Losing a close conference dual (for the Dunn-St. Croix title) and then a close regional tournament. This (three state titles) erased all that, it really did!”
It was a comment that Olson would again echo at a celebration the following afternoon in the Boyceville High School gymnasium in front of a couple of hundred parents, boosters and fans.
Bulldog wrestling has had its share of individual state champs but never three state winners in the same tournament or have an entire state contingent return with medals.
For senior James Palmer, his victory at 182 pounds was culmination of a four-year effort to claim a state title. Palmer is only the second Bulldog wrestler to ever compete in four straight state tournaments, a honor he shares with Tony Harvey, who is also Boyceville’s only four-time state place winner.
After going just 1-6 in his previous three state tournament appearances, Palmer went a perfect 3-0 in this year’s Division 3, 182-pound weight bracket to capture gold and become Boyceville’s all-time career wins leader.
“No kid deserved it more than James,” said Coach Olson in front of hundreds of fans that came to the gym Sunday afternoon, February 26 to honor Boyceville’s state medalists. “He is the most dedicated wrestler that I have ever had and a 4.0 student.”
Junior Garrett Joles, a runner-up the previous two years at 170 and 182 pounds, finally grabbed gold at D3’s 192-pound weight class in dominating fashion. Like Palmer, Joles finished his state championship run with a 44-1 record and is now 119-10 in three seasons.
“Joles was one of best kids in any division at state tourney,” stated Olson during his welcome home speech. “He could not have wrestled any better. When Garrett left the Kohl Center last year he was crushed, but he was smiling before this year’s state final and I told him to focus, and he simply said ‘Hey coach I got this, I’m going to kill this kid.’”
And he did!
As did Brock Schlough.
The sophomore became just the second Bulldog wrestler in history to claim two consecutive state championships joining Boyceville’s first state titlist Chris Wisemiller, who took heavyweight golds in 1982 and 1983.
After a 42-4 run to the Division 3 championship at 138 pounds a year ago, Schlough captured the 160-pound state crown with a 43-1 mark .
“Schlough, this kid is an animal, two-time state champion,” noted Olson. “Incredible kid, wrestler and student.”
That weight class was loaded with talent at 160 pounds,” added Olson. “Who ever won the 160 pound title is the man, the stud. There he is standing motioning to Schlough. He started us out on the right note and got us rolling.”
“You cannot explain just how hard these three worked and what type of kids they are,” continued Olson.
“These kids are incredible, I don’t know how to really explain them. Great students, great kids that work really, really hard and a joy to coach. They are humble, they are caring, they have all the qualities of a champion and deserve this 100 percent.”
“It would have been hard getting two of the three; it would have been hard not having all three (be champions),” said Olson
“I am so glad it work out for them,” Olson said, adding, “There are only 14 weights and we won titles in three of them. It’s pretty special.”
Olson also had high praise for his other two state medalists – Justin Malean and Noah Novotney, who finished sixth at 170 and 285 pounds respectively.
“Melean won two matches by major decisions and wrestled his heart out, and told me he cannot wait to get back here,” Olson stated.
“Novotney is an incredible kid,” added Olson. “He weighed in at 217 this weekend. Lost to this year’s state champ and last year’s state champ.”
During the homecoming celebration Olson also acknowledged that it takes more than the coaches and wrestlers to achieve such honors.
Olson gave his top ten list of keys to the program’s success. Community, Boyceville is a wrestling community; school staff and administration; the “wonderful” wrestling club; cheerleaders; youth coaches the likes of Blaine Leslie, Joel Danovsky, Josh Cormican and Brad Stevens; his family, wife Rochelle and their three daughters; his staff of assistants, Corey Day and volunteer coaches Doug and Evan Palmer; and wrestling parents families and fans.
It is also built on tradition and relationships. From the Bulldogs first state qualifier in 1970, Harry Joles, father of Garrett, first state placewinner Mike McIntyre (6th in 1976), first state champion and uncle of Noah Novotney, Chris Wisemiller, and the growing list of state champions like Adam Kittilson (152 in 1995), Andy Schoonover (275 in 2005), Jack Duerst (189 in 2009), Matt Wyss (285 in 2010) and Cody Hegeman (285 in 2011).