by Shawn DeWitt
OSCEOLA — A year ago, Jacob Nadeau was Glenwood City’s lone representative in the state wrestling tournament.
This year he will have some company!
Nadeau, who earned his third consecutive state tournament berth last Saturday, will be joined by fellow senior Carson Strong and junior Bryce Fayerweather.
Nadeau and Strong both captured their respective weight class championships in the WIAA Division 3 St. Croix Falls Individual Wrestling Sectional held at Osceola High School February 17 to earn berths, along with third-place finisher Bryce Fayerweather, in the state wrestling championships slated for this Thursday through Saturday at the Kohl Center in Madison.
The sectional titles are the first for both Nadeau and Strong.
And while Nadeau is well acquainted with the Kohl Center and that state meet atmosphere after having been there the previous two seasons, the entire experience will be new for Strong and Fayerweather.
Unfortunately, three other members of Glenwood City’s six-member sectional contingent were unable to qualify for state which requires that a wrestler finish in a top three spot of his or her weight class.
Senior Brad Kessler missed being a fourth Hilltopper to qualify by a single position as he finished fourth at 132 pounds. Freshman Andy Grant and sophomore Aaron Holmquist were both eliminated from last Saturday’s sectional tournament with consolation semifinal losses at 106 and 113 pounds respectively.
Nadeau, who finished second at 120 pounds in last year’s sectional meet and placed third at 106 pounds as a sophomore, made the championship step in Osceola Saturday, to win the 120 sectional crown. Minutes later, Carson Strong captured his gold medal at 126 pounds after finishing with a fourth-place sectional showing at 132 pounds in 2017.
Those victories combined with Fayerweather’s bronze-medal finish at 285 pounds, the fourth place by Kessler and points from Andy Grant’s quarterfinal win at 106 pounds propelled the Hilltoppers to a sixth place finish in this year’s final sectional team standings with 62 points – just four points behind fifth-place Cumberland (66) and five in back of fourth-place Cadott (67).
Boyceville took top team honors for a second straight year with 123.5 points as all six of the Bulldogs sectional competitors moved on to state, four as champions. St. Croix Falls, who won last Tuesday’s team sectional championship in Cadott, finished second with 110.5 points and Clear Lake took third with 82.5 points. The Saints had five state qualifiers while Clear Lake, Cadott and Cumberland each had four.
After two previous bids came up short, Jacob Nadeau was not going to let sectional gold eluded his grasp in this his third and final sectional tournament.
Nadeau surrendered just two points in his ascension to the top of the 120-pound bracket in Osceola last Saturday which included victories over a pair of opponents ranked ahead of him.
In his opening quarterfinal match, Nadeau knocked off third-ranked Trent Vollendorf (38-7) 6-1 to move into the semifinals against Zach Foley (21-11), a freshman from Cochrane-Fountain City. Nadeau blanked Folley and earned an 11-0 major decision to advance to the championship match.
In that title bout, Nadeau battled Phillips junior and second-ranked Javyn Freeman. Nadeau, who polled in seventh place in the recent state rankings, earned a hard fought 3-1 win, the 120-pound championship and a third trip to Madison.
“It is very tough to qualify for state coming out of our regional and sectional,” said Glenwood City head coach Shane Strong.
We have very strong wrestling in our area and to qualify three times is a great accomplishment.” Strong said of Nadeau’s win. “Jake has really focused his attention on wrestling in high school. He attends camps in the summer to reach his goals and his hard work has paid off for him.”
Nadeau improved to 28-5 on the year and is now 117-45 for his career.
Hard work and dedication also paid off for the Hilltoppers’ other senior sectional champ – Carson Strong.
In what was likely his team’s most dominating sectional performance at the February 17 tournament, Strong scored a pin and a pair of major decision including a shut-out in the 126-pound championship all while overcoming injuries this season.
Ranked second in his D3 weight class, Strong served notice early Saturday that he was on a mission to not only earn his first state berth but take home the gold.
Strong opened the tournament with a 1:50 pin of Mondovi sophomore Lance Crawford in the quarterfinals. Next to fall would be Logan Yira of St. Croix Falls. Strong took control early in his semifinal with Yira and scored a 12-2 major decision over the junior.
That put the Topper senior in another first-place showdown against eighth-ranked Sam Pickerign, a junior from Cornell/Gilman/Lake Holcombe. Strong, who had beaten Pickerign 8-2 in the regional final a week earlier, dominated Pickerign once again, shutting out the 36-7 wrestler to take a 10-0 championship victory and the 126-pound gold.
That victory left Strong just a win away from 100. Currently 31-3 this season, Strong is 99-17 over his career, even after missing his entire freshman season with a torn ACL suffered during the football season.
The coach’s son has been battling a bad shoulder this season but persevered and won.
“I’m very happy for my son,” wrote the delighted coach and father, Shane Strong in an email response. “He has overcome so much adversity due to injuries in high school to reach his goals.”
“I’m not just proud of his performance as a sectional champ, but more importantly, how he has turned out to be a fine young man,” Coach Strong continued.
“I have never been one to put winning as the measure of success, but more on your attitude and effort,” added the coach. “He has always given his best and has never made excuses. Carson works hard, follows rules and conducts himself in a manner that makes me very proud as a dad.”
Bryce Fayerweather had found another level in the WIAA tournament series, as he earned the Toppers third state berth with a story-book finish in the 285-pound weight class last Saturday.
Despite falling to 11th-ranked St. Croix Falls’ freshman and eventual runner-up Tanner Gaffey by pin in the quarterfinals, Fayerweather received a reprieve when Gaffey won his semifinals bout.
The Glenwood City junior heavyweight made sure to make the most of his “second chance.”
Fayerweather, who is just 16-15, defeated a pair of 30-win wrestlers to finish third.
Mondovi sophomore Raith Bauer, fell to Fayerweather, 6-2, in the consolation semis. In the third-place match, Fayerweather put Devin Guggenberger, a senior from Shell Lake, to his back in 1:51 to secure the bronze and a trip to state.
“We have had confidence in Bryce all season,” wrote Coach Strong.
“He has struggled with some of the essential skills you need to master in this sport to win in the 285 class,” continued Strong. “(But) the last couple of weeks he has really turned it on and has improved his position greatly. I believe he is more confident in himself and believes he can win close matches.”
“Bryce is only in his second full year of wrestling, so he has more to learn about this sport. I’m very proud of him for all the hard work he has put in to reach this level.”
Another hard worker is senior Brad Kessler.
Like Fayerweather, he too faced elimination after losing his quarterfinal match at 132 pounds to eighth-ranked Reid Olson from Cumberland.
But when Olson won his semifinal match, Kessler received a reprieve and subsequently won his next match, a consolation semifinal against Hunter Bruhn of Phillips, by fall in 2:23.
All that stood between Kessler and a state berth was ninth-ranked senior Bailey Gillet of Cadott. Kessler had finished second to Gillet in the previous week’s regional championship, losing by pin at the 5:29 mark. Although Kessler made a match of it, Gillet went on to win 9-5 to capture third and the final state berth in the 132-pound weight class.
Kessler finished his final season of wrestling with a 31-12 record.
Saturday was also the end of the season for two other Hilltopper wrestlers.
Freshman Andy Grant and sophomore Aaron Holmquist were eliminated after losing in the consolation round.
Grant won his first sectional match, pinning Whitehall junior Gavin Benson at 1:02 into their 106-pound quarterfinal match. Grant then suffered a heartbreaking 5-4 semifinal to eventual runner-up Derick Vollendorf, a freshman from Ladysmith. With an opportunity to still wrestle back for third and a state trip, Grant was pinned by St. Croix Falls sophomore Luke Theamert at just 1:06 into the consolation semifinal.
Grant ended his inaugural varsity season with a 28-10 record.
Aaron Holmquist, like Fayerweather and Kessler, had to count on another wrestler to keep his sectional debut alive. After falling to Logan Steglich, a Cumberland senior, by a 12-0 count in the opening round at 113 pounds, Holmquist found new life when Steglich, ranked fourth in the state, won his next match and went on the to championship.
Unfortunately, Holmquist’s tournament and season was extended for just one more match as he lost his following consolation match 7-0 to Chequamegon’s Jaden Schienebeck.
With three Hilltoppers’ still in the hunt for state titles, all eyes will turn to Madison and the Kohl Center beginning this Thursday evening when Fayerweather will open the tournament for Glenwood City with a preliminary round match against Athens’ senior, Tyson Sommer (40-2) at 7:15 p.m.
Nadeau and Strong will wrestle in Friday afternoon’s D3 quarterfinal round.