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DURAND — As the regular season wound down, Boyceville head wrestling coach Jamie Olson wasn’t quite sure how or if his squad could beat Spring Valley/Elmwood for the regional title and team sectional berth.
After all the Cardinals had come into Boyceville the previous month and upset the reigning, two-time Dunn-St. Croix champion Bulldogs to lay claim to this year’s conference crown.
But as last Saturday’s regional tournament approached, Olson began to have an inkling that his wrestlers were not only ready but charged up for the challenge.
That optimism, however, waned a bit when Boyceville found itself trailing by more than 30 points as the six-team, 2020 WIAA Division 3 wrestling regional held February 15 at Durand High School headed into the championship and third-place matches.
“I thought at that point they (Spring Valley/Elmwood) were up too much to catch,” admitted Olson.
That was when the Bulldog wrestlers delivered their “coup de grâce”.
Winning five of its seven finals matches via pins and technical falls coupled with significant points from a pair of late team additions, Boyceville vaulted past Spring Valley/Elmwood in the final tally to win its second straight regional championship and team sectional berth.
The ninth-ranked Bulldogs, according to the latest D3 state poll, finished with 258.5 points, a mere eight and a half points ahead of the runner-up Cardinals. Glenwood City was a distant third with 167.5 points followed by Mondovi with 136, Chetek-Weyerhaeuser/Prairie Farm, the lone tournament team not from the D-SC, scored 73 to take fifth and host Durand finished last with 64 points.
“But yet, I was okay with being back like that because you can come roaring back and now its no pressure, now it’s just wrestle guys,” added Olson. “And that’s kind of what our kids did. That final round was huge.”
When asked after the tournament if this was his team’s best performance of the season, Olson gave an emphatic yes!
“All year! This is the best we have wrestled, there is no doubt,” said Olson. “I could feel it in practice this last week or two that these kids wanted it. They stepped it up a notch in practice. We did things right to prepare for today, we were healthy and that was key. Everything worked out today.”
The regional win sent Boyceville on to the WIAA Division 3 Team Sectional in Cumberland last night (Tuesday, February 18) for a semifinal rematch with fourth-ranked St. Croix Falls, who beat the Bulldogs 42-31 in last year’s Ladysmith Team Sectional final. The other semifinal featured second-ranked and 2019 D3 state runner-up Stratford against Phillips. The two victors met in the finals for a berth to the state team championship on March 7 in Madison.
Individually, Boyceville did quite well too!
Five Bulldogs earned regional championships while three others took home silver medals. Boyceville will take a total of eight wrestlers to this year’s WIAA Division 3 Individual Wrestling Sectional at Edgar High School on Saturday, February 22 where wrestlers will vie for berths in the state tournament which is set for February 27-29 in Madison.
Spring Valley/Elmwood will be sending the most wrestlers to the Edgar Sectional after ten Cardinals qualified. Glenwood City had five qualifiers, Mondovi finished with four and Chetek-Weyerhaeuser/Prairie Farm had one.
The top two finishers in each of the 14 weight classes advance to the individual sectional tournament.
Top-ranked and defending Division 3, 182-pound state champion Tretton Joles added his second consecutive regional title at that weight and third overall and will take a 39-1 mark to Edgar in his quest for sectional title number three.
Joining Joles atop the regional awards podium in Durand last Saturday were two-time gold medalists sophomore Josiah Berg (120), junior Nate Stuart (126), and sophomore Ira Bialzik (138). Sophomore Tyler Dormanen won his first regional title at 152 after placing second at 132 a year ago,
In addition, sophomores Brice Evenson (113) and Nick Hillman (170) as well as foreign exchange student and junior Aitor Lopez-Fernandez (132) placed second to earn their first sectional berths.
“Our five champions dominated,” said Olson. “We had tech fall, pin, pin, pin, and tech fall in the finals. Dormanen teched, and Josiah teched and we had pin, pin and pin with Joles, Stuart, and Bialzik. That’s tough, when you have that going that is a lot of points.”
The five titlist, three of which defeated Spring Valley/Elmwood wrestlers in championship matches, combined for 129 of Boyceville’s 258.5 points – nearly half.
But it was the points earned by first-time wrestlers Jacob Granley and John Klefstad that put Boyceville over the top.
Recruited just this past week to fill “some holes” in the Bulldogs’ line up, Klefstad, who plays on the Boyceville boys’ basketball team, earned a dozen points wrestling at 285 pounds while Granley added three at 145 pounds.
Together, they helped secure the slim eight-and-a-half point margin of victory the Bulldog enjoyed.
“When you have two new kids on the team that have never wrestled before, at 145 and heavyweight, you don’t expect a lot out of those guys,” Olson stated. “And if you can win a match here or there that’s big. Both of them stepped up and wrestled well today.”
“I give Jacob Granley and John Klefstad a lot of credit for sucking it up for the team today and that made a difference.”
Nate Stuart and Ira Bialzik registered a pair of pins following opening round byes as their weight’s top seed. Josiah Berg had a pin and a technical fall.
Stuart pinned Glenwood City sophomore Gabe Knops in the second period of their semifinal bout at 126 pounds. It was the second time in nine days that the Boyceville junior had secured the win over the Glenwood City freshman with a fall. Stuart went on to pin another freshman in his final’s match, beating Durand’s Dawson Hartung in 2:21 to take the gold.
Stuart, who is an honorable mention, improved to 26-13.
Sophomore Ira Bialzik also made quick work of his opposition in the 138-pound bracket. Bialzik (22-15) stuck Roy Cooper of Durand just 1:18 into the semifinal match and dispatched Spring Valley/Elmwood with a pin at the 3:31 mark of the championship match.
Ranked third in the latest Division 3 state poll at 120 pound, sophomore Josiah Berg lived up to his billing. As the weight class’s top seed in the regional tournament, he was afforded a bye before pinning GC’s James Knight at 2:58 of the semifinals. In the championship, Berg ran his season mark to an impressive 31-4 with a 21-6 technical fall victory over Tristan Neisinger of Spring Valley/Elmwood.
As the top seeds in three-man brackets, sophomore Tyler Dormanen and junior Trett Joles had to wrestle just one match to take home their regional golds.
Dormanen dominated Valley’s Cross Hurlburt with a 17-2 technical fall in the 152-pound championship match while Joles registered his 39th win of the season by pinning Glenwood City senior Tucker Lagerstrom at 3:08 of the final’s match at 182 pounds.
Second-place finishes were won by two Bulldog sophomores, Nick Hillman (170) and Brice Evenson (113) and junior Aitor Lopez-Fernandez (132).
Evenson, who lost his 113-pound championship match to the Toppers’ two-time regional titlist Andy Grant, finished with pins falls in the semifinals and second-place wrestle back and improved to 18-11.
Aitor Lopez-Fernandez (5-11) won just one match on the day but his pin of Glenwood City senior Jabin Hojem in the semifinals at 132 pounds was enough to secure silver.
After a bye and a loss to Spring Valley/Elmwood’s Nate Fesenmaier who went on to win the title at 182 pounds, sophomore Nick Hillman (17-19) came back and registered back-to-back first period pins in the third-place and wrestle back matches to grab the silver and the Bulldog’s final sectional berth.
Five other Boyceville wrestlers just missed the sectional cut. The Bulldog’s lone senior Josh Marzofka (195), sophomores Keegan Plemon (220) and John Klefstad (285) and freshmen Bash Nielson (160) and Emma Gruenhagen (106) each finished third at their respective weights.
Sophomore Jacob Granely finished sixth at 145 pounds.
Wrestling at Saturday’s individual sectional tournament will begin at 10 a.m. with the top three place winners in each weight class moving on to the state meet at the Kohl Center in Madison on February 27-29.
“Losing this one would have been a heart breaker,” said Olson. “We came out on top this time. Next year will be close again, I am sure. It’s a stressful day but when it’s all said and done and you come out on top it feels pretty good!”
“We got to celebrate this one a little bit and enjoy this one because this was a big day for us here,” concluded the Boyceville head coach.