RIVER FALLS — Once again, the Boyceville wrestling team found itself in the thick of the competition for a coveted Northern Badger crown and with an unprecedented five Bulldogs making the finals round, it appeared that this just might be the year that the overall team title finally came home to the Dog House.
But alas, it was not to be.
After crowning three Northern Badger champs each of the previous two years, just two of the Bulldogs’ championship-round quintet were able to complete their runs to gold and with an unfilled weight at 138 pounds, Boyceville had to settle for a second consecutive third-place overall finish and the Division 3 (small school) title at the 2017 Northern Badger Wrestling Classic held Thursday and Friday, December 28 and 29 at River Falls High School.
[emember_protected] This year’s tournament not only saw a marked increase in participating schools to a record 44 teams but a dramatic jump in the level of individual competition, making it one of the strongest fields in the 33-year history of the tournament.
“The caliber of wrestling this year was up from last year, so to get five in the finals was exciting for us,” said Jamie Olson, Boyceville’s veteran head coach.
Boyceville found itself locked in a three-way battle with host River Falls and St. Croix Falls. After two days of competition, just a mere nine points separated the trio in the final standings. St. Croix Falls, who is likely to be a strong foe in next month’s WIAA D3 tournament, topped the list with 252 points followed by River Falls at 245.5 and the Bulldogs at 243. The Saints took the overall and Division 2 (medium-sized schools) titles while the Wildcats claimed the Division 1 (large schools) crown and runner-up status. Rhinelander was a close fourth with 234.5 points and Oshkosh West placed fifth with 198.5.
As for Boyceville’s individuals, senior Garrett Joles locked up his third Northern Badger championship with a clean sweep of the 195-pound field while junior Brock Schlough locked up a second straight Northern Badger title as he repeated as the 160-pound champion. Both are defending state titlists.
Senior Noah Novotney and freshmen Walker Retz and Trett Joles finished as runner-ups in their respective weight classes. Novotney suffered a heartbreaking 3-1 overtime loss to River Falls’ Mitchel Williamson, Retz fell 7-2 in the 113-pound title match to two-time state champion and senior Ryan Anderson of Clear Lake and Trett Joles was beaten for the first time this season when he lost by technical fall to Neillsville-Greenwood-Loyal junior Stephen Buchanan, who is currently rated third in Division 2 at 182 pounds. Senior Justin Malean just missed giving the Bulldogs a half dozen finalists after he fell by a point in the semifinals and finished third at 170 pounds for a second straight year.
Garrett Joles’ third and final Northern Badger title did not come without some trepidation. The senior, stricken with an illness during the second day of wrestling, barely survived a semifinal-round scare by River Falls’ Chance Kamrowski, holding on for a 7-5 win Saturday afternoon.
Following a trip to urgent care, Joles returned, refreshed and ready to resume his quest for a three-peat. A task he completed when he scored a hard won 9-5 decision over fellow senior and Division 1 state-ranked grappler Alec Kurtz of Rhinelander for the 195-pound gold to stay unbeaten at 15-0.
“I was also proud of the effort Garrett Joles gave on the second day,” stated Coach Olson.
“Garrett woke up with a bug and really wasn’t able to hold any fluids down all day. He pushed through the adversity and mentally gave himself a chance to win and pulled out a gutty semifinal match on pure heart,” added Olson. “He felt a little better in the finals and really dominated a really good kid for his third Northern Badger title.”
Garrett Joles, who is Division 3’s top-rated wrestler at the 195-pound weight class, made quick work of his three first-day opponents, scoring first-period pins over Henry Evenhouse of Lakeland and Somerset’s Peter Lepper before disposing of Spooner/Webster’s Sam Melton on a 19-4 technical fall in the quarterfinals.
Like wise, junior Brock Schlough had little difficulty in besting the first three opponents he faced in the 160-pound weight bracket. Schlough pinned Prescott’s Andrew Shelstad in the second period of their opening round match. Schlough then stuck Blair-Taylor’s Logan Shramek in just 1:17 to gain the quarterfinal’s round where he dominated Bo Nelson of Cumberland 22-7 for a technical fall at 5:34.
In his final two matches, Schlough had to work a bit harder as both went the full six minutes but the Bulldog junior prevailed in a pair of decision. He took out Barron’s William Waldofski 8-4 in the semifinal’s match before controlling James Pfeiffer of Cadott, who was a state runner-up last season, in the gold-medal match for a 10-3 victory and his 20th win of the season in as many matches.
“Brock Schlough continued to wrestle tough in winning his second Badger title defeating last year’s state runner-up,” stated Olson. “Brock is a joy to coach and fun to watch!”
Noah Novotney took his final Northern Badger an extra step last week making it into the heavyweight finals after finishing third in the 285-pound weight class a year ago. The senior heavyweight scored three of the Bulldogs’ quickest pins of the tournament in his first three matches, putting Tyler Johnson of Osceola to his back in 1:09 before doing the same, only much faster, to New Berlin’s Mark Schields (:40) and J.C. Shackleton of Flambeau (:39). The wrestling stakes got much higher and more difficult in the semifinal round where Novotney faced off against Oshkosh West’s Andrew Kalfas. The Bulldogs’ heavyweight, however, was able to survive for a 6-3 win and earn a spot in the title match opposite River Falls’ Mitchell Williamson. After being manhandle by Williamson at the Osceola Duals a few weeks prior, Novotney was more than ready for the rematch as the pair battled to a 1-1 tie after three regulation periods. Williamson, however, broke through for the match’s first takedown in the overtime period to cop the 3-1 win and 285-pound Northern Badger championship and leaving Novotney with the silver.
“I thought Noah wrestled a great tournament,” Olson stated. “He was beat up pretty bad by Williamson at the Osceola tournament.”
“We had a chance to win that match in the finals and our plan was to keep it close and win it in the end. Noah gave a valiant effort and almost pulled it off,” added Olson.
Olson was also pleased with the performances that freshmen Walker Retz and Trett Joles gave in their first Northern Badger tournament. Both promising young grapplers finished second in their respective weights classes.
“I was extremely happy with our freshman, especially Walker and Trett for making the finals,” said Olson unequivocally. “These two proved to everyone the seeds they got were deserving and scoring 78 points for the team was huge for us.”
Wrestling at 113 pounds, varsity neophyte Walker Retz scored a pair of sub-one minute falls in his first two matches in River Falls last Friday. Following a bye in the opening round, Retz stuck Shell Lake’s Cody Swan in :48 and put Brannon Humphrey of Durand to his back just 40 ticks into the pair’s quarterfinal match. Retz then followed it up with his third pin in as many bouts taking Cumberland’s Logan Steglich to the mat in 1:25 to win the semifinal and a berth in the championship round. There Retz took an early 2-0 lead over Clear Lake senior Ryan Anderson, a two-time state titlist. But Anderson regain the advantage in the middle and final periods scoring seven unanswered points for the 5-point decision and gold medal.
The first day of competition went smoothly for Walker’s classmate and fellow phenom Trett Joles. The younger sibling of Garrett projects the same abilities and tenacity in his wrestling as he showed in River Falls last week.
After a round one bye, Trett Joles won a 12-4 major decision over Ethan Tegels of Cadott and then was awarded a win due to injury default in his quarterfinals match at 182 pounds with Bryce Carroll of Spooner/Webster. In his semifinal match, Joles needed to come from behind against Prescott’s Joe Schulte to tie the match at 12. Joles then won on a last second takedown to gain the finals. But in the championship at 182, the younger Joles was overwhelmed by Neillsville-Greenwood-Loyal’s Stephan Buchanan. The N-G-L junior dominated the Bulldog freshman en route to an 18-0 shut out for a technical fall win and the gold.
In his final Northern Badger competition, senior Justin Malean placed fourth at 170 pounds. He finished third at that weight class last year. Malean scored an injury default win against Glenwood City’s Dakota Dean-Immerman to open the tournament. He then registered a 10-4 win over Robert Bontekoe of Shell Lake and a 11-7 quarterfinal’s victory against Somerset’s Garrett Hecht. But in the semifinals, Malean was nipped 9-8 by Oshkosh West’s Edgar Heredia. That sent Malean into the third-place match where he was beaten 7-4 by Glen Pendleton of River Falls.
“Justin Malean was one swipe away from making it a perfect 6 (in the finals) with a granby roll in the semis, we just needed to hold him for one more second to get back points,” stated Olson.
The coach said Taylor Schmid continues to improve despite giving up 30 pounds at times which really doesn’t bother him, and it showed as he finished 2-2 at 220 pounds.
Other Bulldogs competing at the Northern were Eli Swanson at 106 pounds (1-2), Tanner Anderson (0-2) and Nate Stuart (0-2) at 145 and 126 respectively, both lost really close matches on the first day and that was disappointing, but the effort they gave was outstanding said Olson. Nick Litomsky went 1-2 at 132 and is gaining more confidence as the season goes on, and will continue to get better with more mat time. Jason Swanepoel (1-2) at 152 and Arthur Bia (0-2) at 120 both gave outstanding efforts and continue to improve noted the coach.
Nick Goodell, who wrestles at 138, sat out the tourney with an injury.
Boyceville will open the new year and the Dunn-St. Croix dual season on Thursday with a match in Mondovi. The Bulldogs will then travel to Merril Saturday for an invitational before returning home to host Chetek-Weyerhaeuser/Prairie Farm in a non-conference dual next Tuesday, January 9. [/emember_protected]