By Shawn DeWitt
OSCEOLA — “If you chase perfection, you often catch excellence.” ~ William Fowble
And while it is said that the former is impossible to achieve, Boyceville’s wrestling representatives came about as close as possible to reaching it here last Saturday resulting in one of the program’s most excellent and successful sectional campaigns ever.
Half a dozen Bulldogs entered the 2018 WIAA Division 3 St. Croix Falls Individual Sectional Wrestling tournament held last Saturday, February 17 at Osceola High School. When the meet concluded, all six had punched their tickets to this week’s state championships – four will enter the Kohl Center in Madison as sectional champions.
This is the most representatives Boyceville has sent to the state meet since seven earned berths back in 2003.
“Saturday was an outstanding day for our program,” said Jamie Olson, now in his 19th year as Boyceville’s head wrestling coach.
Seniors Garrett Joles and Noah Novotney, junior Brock Schlough and freshman Trett Joles earned the titles of sectional champion while senior Justin Malean placed second and freshman Walker Retz finished third. Each will advance to the Kohl Center and the WIAA State Individual Wrestling Championships which start this Thursday, February 22 and concludes Saturday evening, February 24 with championship matches in all three divisions.
The top three finishers in each of the 14 weight classes are awarded berths to the state tournament.
Individual excellence and success also propelled Boyceville to the top of the final sectional team standings for the second straight season and third time in four years. With four titlists and six state qualifiers, the Bulldogs accumulated 123.5 points to best runner-up St. Croix Falls (110.5), who beat third-place Clear Lake (82.5) in last Tuesday’s night team sectional final in Cadott.
Olson noted that the Bulldogs 10-point win was won with just six wrestlers compared to the 13 St. Croix Falls brought to Osceola.
The Saints, who had one champ, will be sending five wrestlers to State while the Warriors will take four (2 champs) to Madison as will fourth-place finisher Cadott (67 points) and fifth-place Cumberland (66), who each crowned a sectional champion. Glenwood City (62) and Cochrane-Fountain City (56.5), who were sixth and seventh respectively, both had two champions to make three state qualifiers coming out of the 24-school sectional meet.
While three of Boyceville’s four sectional titlists dominated in their runs to gold, all had to defeat state-ranked opponents last Saturday to make it to the top of the awards podium.
Two of the tournament’s most dominating performances where given by the Joles brothers.
Senior Garrett Joles continued to rewrite the Bulldogs record books. Already a two-time state silver medalist and defending state champion, Garrett became Boyceville’s first ever four-time sectional champion when he successfully defended his 195-pound title, a feat he will look to repeat this weekend in Madison, with a trio of first-period pins which included two state-ranked competitors.
Garrett Joles, who improved his season mark to an unblemished 39-0 and career wins to 158 in 168 matches, had to put in his longest effort of the tournament in the quarterfinals’ opener against Chequamegon sophomore Max Brunner (15-19), whom he stuck in 1:45.
Neither of Garrett’s other two 195-pound opponents would make it a minute despite their state rankings. St. Croix Falls senior Brandon Bastin, ranked seventh in the latest D3, 195-pound state poll went to his back just 23 ticks into his semifinal match against Garrett. Another senior, 11th-ranked Gio Torres of Cumberland didn’t fare much better as Joles, the top ranked grappler in his D3 weight class, finished him off with a pin at the 51 second mark of the gold medal match.
Garrett Joles’ younger sibling Trett was nearly as demonstrative in his three wins – all pins too – en route to the championship at 182 pounds.
Just a freshman, Trett Joles, has already compiled a 43-1 record in his first varsity season.
The younger Joles, rated second in state for the past three weeks, opened his sectional tourney with a pin over Unity senior Tony Carlson (20-9) at 3:41 of the second period. It took Trett less than half that to take down tenth-ranked Dalton Hartung, a sophomore from Durand, in the semifinals. Joles finished off Hartung in 1:37.
In the championship bout, Trett built a substantial points lead against another D-SC opponent, senior Bryce Johnson of Mondovi. Joles eventually scored his third fall of the sectional meet at 5:38.
“Trett, being just a freshman at 182 and dominating competition is really impressive,” stated Olson after the tournament.
Like his state champion teammate Garrett Joles, there are few superlatives that have not been used to described Brock Schlough and his wrestling accomplishments. The junior already has a pair of state titles in hand and is the odds on favorite to join the WIAA’s elite club of three-time state champions which would be a first in the Bulldogs’ storied history.
Schlough marched in that direction becoming a three-time sectional champ as he added three more wins last Saturday to take his season record to a perfect 44-0, hitting the 130-win plateau in the process.
Schlough, ranked number one at 152 pounds, dispatched Cumberland sophomore Manny Torres (7-12) via pin just 1:22 into their quarterfinal match. He followed that with a 17-1 technical fall in his semifinal’s match against Edgar Velasquez, a 30-win senior from Whitehall.
In the championship, Schlough faced off against second-ranked Brady Spaeth of Cadott. The Hornet sophomore had battled Schlough at the previous Saturday’s regional final, coming up short in a 7-3 decision. It would be a similar fit for the sectional crown, but once again, Schlough came up golden with a 6-3 decision.
“Brock, Garrett, and Trett were very dominant in winning their championships,” Olson noted.
“They continue to make each other better in the practice room and that is the difference in what level they are on now,” continued the coach. “These guys bring an exciting style of wrestling to the mat every time out.”
Senior Noah Novotney traveled a tenuous and nerve-wracking route to his sectional title at 285 pounds.
After placing second at the weight class in his initial sectional tournament a year ago, Novotney (39-5) was not going to be denied in his final go-round.
After opening with a 2:32 pin over Shell Lake senior Devin Guggenberger in the quarterfinals, things got tighter for Novotney.
But the state’s seventh-ranked heavyweight drew on his determination and will to win.
Novotney pulled out a 1-0 decision against conference foe Kyle Abramson, a Durand senior, in the semifinals to earn a spot in the championship. There he came up against 11th-ranked freshman Tanner Gaffey of St. Croix Falls.
Despite giving up several inches in height to Gaffey, Novotney refused to give an inch on the mat. The pair battled to a 1-1 tie after three periods of regulation and a trio of overtime periods.
This title would be settled by the ultimate tie breaker (UTB). Gaffey received the choice of positions and took the up position. Novotney would have to escape the Gaffey’s grasp in the final 30 second period or the Saint would take home the title. A fired up Novotney, quickly rose to his feet and was able to spin away for the escape point and a very satisfying 2-1 win for the gold and a second straight trip to state.
“Noah wrestled his heart out all day and won two very close matches that came down to conditioning and the will to win,” Olson stated.
Senior Justin Malean (36-9) also earned a second straight state berth by finishing as the runner-up at 170 pounds.
Malean began his second sectional tournament with an 11-2 major decision, quarterfinal’s win over Durand freshman, Brody Carothers. Another major decision victory, this one a 15-4 triumph in the semifinal match against another freshman, Flambeau’s Bryce Best, earned Malean his first sectional championship bout. There he faced St. Croix Falls’ Luke Clark.
Clark had beaten him, 10-4, in last season’s sectional semifinal at 170. The Saints’ senior, ranked second in the state polls, would once again prevail, beating Malean soundly, 20-5 via technical fall, to claim the gold.
Malean held on to second when Spring Valley/Elmwood’s Carter Merth had to default out of the wrestleback due to injury.
Both Malean and Novotney eclipsed the 100-win mark this season. Novotney moves on to state with a career record of 115-54 while Malean looks to improve upon his mark of 111-59.
Boyceville freshman Walker Retz (26-4) is already a quarter of the way to triple-digit wins and will be joining his other five Bulldog teammates in Madison after qualifying for state with a third-place showing at 113 pounds. Retz registered a 3-1 record in Osceola with all three wins coming via pins.
Retz’s lone setback came in the semifinals where he was stuck by eighth-ranked senior Brannon Humphrey of Durand in 2:38. Otherwise, Retz scored a 3:50 fall against St. Croix Falls freshman Graidy Guggisburg in the quarterfinals, a 56 second pin in his consolation semifinal match with yet another freshman, Dominic Kurth of Phillips and downed Chequamegon sophomore Jaden Schienbeck with a 5:28 pin for third.
Olson said he is excited for what his six state wrestlers can accomplish this weekend in Madison saying, “We will take each and every match one period and one match at a time.”
Malean and Retz will be wrestling in Thursday night’s preliminary round which will get underway at 7:15 p.m. Retz will face Tristen Mascarette (36-3), a junior from Florence/Niagara while Malean drew Kewaunee junior Travis Reinke (37-12).
Schlough, Trett and Garret Joles and Novotney will join the fray in Friday afternoon’s quarterfinals.