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Six Bulldogs don regional crowns, but still no team title

SPRING VALLEY — When senior Noah Novotney pinned Glenwood City’s Bryce Fayerweather in the third period of the 285-pound championship here at last Saturday’s regional wrestling tournament, it gave Boyceville its sixth individual champion in as many finals’ matches and an eight-and-a-half point lead over Clear Lake in the all important team standings.

For a brief moment, it appeared that the Bulldogs’ long nine-year regional drought was finally coming to an end.

But then an uneasiness began to settle over the Bulldogs and their fans.

Was the teams’ 204.5 point tally going to be enough to hold off a rallying Warriors squad that had accumulated 196 points to take over second place from the Cadott Hornets, who had led for much of the WIAA Division 3 regional tournament held at Spring Valley on February 10?

As all those in attendance would soon discover, much to Boyceville’s chagrin, it would not be.

While Boyceville had finished its wrestling competition, Clear Lake had a pair of wrestlers competing in the fifth place matches. Not only did the Warriors need victories in both but likely had to score a pin or two for any chance at claiming the title.

But that is just what happened!

The Warriors’ Carter Weinke (126) and James Williams (160) both stuck their opponents in the second period, earning the team 12 more points and allowing sixth-ranked Clear Lake to leapfrog past a stunned Boyceville squad, rated seventh in last week’s D3 state poll, to claim a 208 to 204.5 win, the 2018 Spring Valley regional championship, and a berth in last evening’s WIAA Team sectional meet at Cadott.

For the fifth straight year, and eighth time in nine seasons, the Bulldogs found themselves in the runners-up role. Boyceville’s last regional title came in 2009 when it won the D3 St. Croix Central meet by 61.5 points over Clear Lake.

The loss was as stingy as last year’s one-point setback (based on tie-breaker criteria) to arch-nemesis Spring Valley/Elmwood, who won the six previous regional tournaments.

“A very disappointing loss for us,” wrote Jamie Olson, Boyceville’s longtime head wrestling coach in an email response. “But I will tell the kids today how proud of them I am for their efforts. We had a chance again, and that’s all you can ask for.”

Clear Lake, whose last regional team title was won in 2011 in Boyceville of all places, faced Phillips in one semifinal at last night’s WIAA Division 3 team sectional held in Cadott. The winner of that match was set to face the winner of the St. Croix Falls-Durand semifinal in the championship with the victor advancing to team state on March 3. Both St. Croix Falls and Durand were part of last year’s team sectional.

“Clear Lake won some big matches down the stretch, I give their kids a lot of credit for stepping up big when they needed them to,” said Olson.

“We were cheering for them to knock the Cadott kids off. I guess they knocked one too many off,” Olson quipped. “Those 5th-place matches were the difference; they needed two pins to beat us and they got them.”

As for the final standings, Clear Lake sat atop the six-team tournament with 208 points, Boyceville was second with 204.5,  Cadott scored 198 points for third, Glenwood City finished fourth with 166, host Spring Valley/Elmwood tallied 110 and Cornell/Gilman/Lake Holcombe rounded out the field with 99 points.

“We placed at or above our seeds in 13-14 weights,” Olson noted. “I guess we needed to be perfect to win it.”

“Other teams came into play, and Glenwood City wrestled a great tournament and helped us out in numerous weights,” Olson said.

The disappointment of yet another second-place team finish at regionals was tempered by the outstanding individual finishes of Boyceville’s wrestlers.

Six Bulldogs – Walker Retz (113), Brock Schlough (152), Justin Malean (170), Trett Joles (182), Garrett Joles (195) and Noah Novotney (285) – finished their day as regional champions, the most of any school at last Saturday’s tournament in Spring Valley.

With the top two in each weight class advancing to this Saturday’s WIAA Division 3 Individual Sectional at Osceola High School, all six of the aforementioned Bulldogs earned berths, tying Cadott and Glenwood City with the most sectional competitors. The regional tournament, one of the strongest in the state, feature state-ranked wrestlers in all 14 weight classes.  

“Having six champions in this caliber of a tournament is a great accomplishment,” Olson stated. “Four of the six pinned in the finals. These six individuals are special talents, special kids that work very hard to get better each and everyday.”

Not only did four – Retz, Trett and Garrett Joles and Novotney – all register championship pins,  but they also scored falls in their respective semifinal matches.

Two of those impressive feats were turned in by freshmen Walker Retz and Trett Joles, who between them, are 63-4 this season.

Retz, seeded as the number one 113-pounder in the Spring Valley regional, and ranked second overall in the state’s Division 3 field, buzzed through his competition with a pair of first-round pins. After a bye to open the day, Retz (23-3) stuck Cadott’s Mitchell Hazard a minute and 40 second into their seminfinal match. His work in the championship was even more brief, when he put Glenwood City sophomore to his back in just 57 seconds to claim the gold.

“I give a lot of credit to Walker Retz,” said Olson. “He had the flu virus all week and came in and scored 26 points on just pure toughness.”

“Trett Joles [is] another freshman coming in and dominating a solid field,” added Olson.

Trett Joles, with a 40-1 record, has served notice to area and state wrestlers that he will be a force to be reckoned with during the tournament series.

A youth state champion a year ago, Trett Joles, appears as though he, like his older brother Garrett, has his sights set on more state gold in 2018.

The freshman Joles, rated number two at 182 pounds, easily took the weight class in Spring Valley. He pinned senior Jaydon Nyeggen of Spring Valley/Elmwood at the 5:20 mark of the pair’s semifinal match. In the finals, Trett Joles defeated Cadott sophomore Ethan Tegels in 4:33. Tegels had taken out tenth-ranked Jake Kopacz, a Glenwood City senior, with a 6-5 decision in the other semifinal.

Three of Boyceville’s six championship titles belong to seniors.

Garrett Joles won his fourth title in as many attempts, while Justin Malean earned his second,  and Noah Novotney picked up his first.

The defending state champion at 195 pounds, Garrett Joles was quick in putting down in dissension in his ranks. Joles needed just two minutes and two seconds of work to claim his second straight 195-pound regional crown. Garrett, who had a first-round bye like all of the top seeds, stuck Cadott junior Nathan Briggs 1:31 into the semifinal, and then need but 31 ticks of the clock to immobilize Nick Hofacker, a fellow senior from Spring Valley/Elmwood, in the finals. Garrett Joles stayed perfect with the victories, improving to 36-0 on the season.

Noah Novotney showed himself to be a notch above the rest of the heavyweight field in Spring Valley. Novotney pinned Cadott’s CJ Spath just 1:26 into the semifinal match. In the following match for the title, Novotney bided his time until Glenwood City’s Bryce Fayerweather gave him an opening. That’s when Novotney pounced, using a head throw to take the Hilltopper junior to his back for the fall at 5:21.

Of all of Boyceville’s champions, senior Justin Malean had to work the hardest to secure his gold medal.

After a first-round bye and a 15-0 technical fall shut out against Cadott senior Bennett Bowe in the semifinals, Malean found himself face-to-face with a familiar foe: Carter Merth of Spring Valley/Elmwood. Malean beat Merth for the first time in last year’s 170-pound championship, and the pair dueled once again in last Saturday’s final at 170 pounds.

Merth, a junior with a 23-10 mark this season, battled Malean to a 2-2 draw after six minutes of regulation. The match remained that way through a one-minute overtime and two, 30-second sessions. The outcome was settled by ultimate tie breaker, where Malean was awarded the down positions and was able to escape Merth’s grasp within 30 seconds to earn a point and the 3-2, gold medal win.

Two-time defending state champion Brock Schlough put his undefeated record and top ranking on the line at 152 pounds. The junior, following a bye to start the day, score a 1:04 pin against Clear Lake’s Eddie Monette in the semifinals. Schlough’s championship opponent was none other than the state’s number-two ranked wrestler, sophomore Brady Spaeth of Cadott. It was a good match, but the wily Schlough held sway throughout the match, surrendering just three escapes to Spaeth in a 7-3 victory that ran his record to an unblemished 41-0, and gave him his third regional gold.

The Bulldogs had another wrestler just miss a sectional berth. Nathan Stuart, placed third at 120 pounds. Stuart, a freshman, lost to senior Nick Elmer, an honor-mention state wrestler, 6-1 in the semifinals. He defeated Brayden Wolf of Spring Valley/Elmwood 5-4 in the third place match only to be locked out of an opportunity to wrestle for second and a sectional berth when Elmer lost his championship bout to Glenwood City senior Jacob Nadeau via a fall. Stuart capped his season with a 19-18 mark.

Nick Goodell, Jason Swanepoel and Tyler Schmid finished fourth for the Bulldogs.

Junior Nick Goodell (21-15) opened with a 7-0 win over Carter Weinke of Clear Lake in the 126-pound quarterfinals. But Goodell lost his next two matches, falling 13-2 to eventual champion Carson Strong of Glenwood City in the semifinals, and was on the wrong side of a 4-0 decision to Cadott’s Nelson Wahl for third place.

Senior Jason Swanepoel started his tournament strong with a 3:39 pin of fellow senior James Williams of Clear Lake in a quarterfinal match at 160 pounds. But like Goodell, Swanepoel lost by fall to the eventual champion and second-ranked James Pfeiffer. The Cadott junior won in 1:31. Swanepoel’s final match of his prep career was a 15-0, third-place loss to the Valley’s Kenny Fesenmaier. Swanepoel finished his season with a 9-21 record.

Freshman Taylor Schmid (12-18) came in fourth at 220 pounds after losing to top-ranked and regional champion Noah Wieczorek just 1:04 into the semifinals, and was then pinned again in the third-place match by Cornell/Gilman/lake Holcombe senior Bryce Nichols at 3:43.

Fifth place finishes went to junior Eli Swanson (19-15) at 106 pounds and senior Tanner Anderson (2-21) at 145 pounds. Junior foreign exchange student Arthur Bia (11-20) and freshman Nick Litomsky (7-24) took sixth places at 132 and 138 pounds.

Wrestling at Saturday’s sectional tournament will begin at 10:00 a.m., with the top three placewinners moving on to the state tournament to be held February 22-24 at the Kohl Center in Madison.