JUNEAU — Deerfield’s Nicholas Wilfong earned a third-place finish at 132 pounds to advance to the WIAA State Individual Wrestling Tournament.
Wilfong (25-11) went 3-2 at last Saturday’s Division 3 Dodgeland Sectional in Juneau. It will be the ninth time in the last 10 seasons the Demons will be represented at the three-day event at The Kohl Center in Madison, and 15th time in the last 19 years.
“What really opened it up for him was when we learned that the No. 3 kid who was a state runner-up last year was dropping out of the bracket,” said Deerfield head coach Paul Haag. “That kind of opened up that third spot and Nick took advantage of it; the kid he beat for third was 34-9, so that was a quality individual he took down.”
Wilfong began the day with a pin in the quarterfinals, sticking Horicon’s Cayden Reinwald in 2 minutes 46 seconds.
He was then pinned in the semifinals, in 1:43 by third-ranked Cale Erickson of Cedar Grove-Belgium, but recovered to win his third-place match with a 3:08 pin of Markesan’s Gavin Campnell to become a first-time state qualifier.
Making Wilfong’s trip to state even more remarkable is the fact the he missed nearly a month with an arm injury. He did not return until the day before the Capitol Conference Meet.
“We didn’t even know he’d come back and now for him to be going to state is pretty amazing,” Haag said.
In the match for second place Wilfong was pinned in 32 seconds by Harley Rivera of Kenosha Christian Life.
Wilfong is the third of three Wilfongs that will wrestle at state. Oldest brother Alex wrestled at the Kohl Center in 2014, while middle brother Zach was a qualifier in 2018.
“Now they’ve all at least made it once,” Haag, who has coached all three Wilfongs, said.
Wilfong is seeded 12th among Division 3 132-pounders in the wiwrestling.com poll. He will face La Crosse Aquinas sophomore Joseph Penchi (36-4) in Thursday’s opening round at approximately 7:15 p.m. Penchi was a state qualifier last year, losing in the first round.
“(Penchi) was the Bi-State runner-up,” said Haag. “We’re going to have to slow the match down and see how it goes. It’s a tough draw but when you get to this level there aren’t a lot of easy matches.”
Wilfong was the only one of five Demons to advance out of Saturday’s sectional.
At 113, junior Nicholas McDonough came up one position short of his first trip to state placing fourth.
McDonough (30-17) won his quarterfinal bout with a 2:31 pin of Horicon’s Brady Groenewold and after losing a 9-0 major decision to Random Lake’s Tanner Bierbaum was able to win his consolation semifinal with a 12-2 major decision of Kaden Kapp of Lourdes Academy.
That gave McDonough a chance for third place but in a wrestleback with Markesan’s Cole Slark, McDonough was pinned in :43 as his season came to an end.
“Unfortunately for Jack, the kid from Markesan is a very good athlete — both of Nick’s losses Saturday came to guys that advanced to state,” said Haag.
Also coming up one just short of state was Ray Bach at 145. The senior received a forfeit from Markesan’s Brock Straks in the quarterfinals before he was pinned by Dodgeland’s Hayden Kurth in 4:23 in the semifinals.
Bach kept his junior season alive in the consolation semis by pinning Jonah Morales of Cedar Grove-Belgium in 1:08, but in the third-place wrestleback he lost a hard-fought 9-5 decision to Sam Wilson of Kenosha Christian Life.
“The kid he had to wrestle in the third-place match tech-falled us 15-0 at the Deerfield Scramble and was beating us 12-0 in the regionals, but Ray gave it one hell of an effort losing just 9-5,” Haag said of Bach. “Ray left it out there on the mat.”
Bach finished the season 32-14.
Also reaching the sectionals were junior Jack McDonough and senior Sid Jackson.
At 126, McDonough (29-14) was pinned by Laconia’s Colton Lovejay in the quarterfinals.
At 170, Jackson (16-26) was pinned in 3:23 by Markesan’s John Bartaszewicz.
“I was very happy with the way we wrestled, we were ninth out of 26 teams and we wrestled pretty competitively,” said Haag.
WIAA DIVISION 3
Team scores: Random Lake 154, Kenosha Christian Life 138, Cedar Grove-Belgium 115, Markesan 61, Poynette 56, Dodgeland 51, Orfordville Parkview 40, Laconia 38, Deerfield 37, Horicon 34, Princeton/Green Lake 32, Palmyra-Eagle 24, Johnson Creek 22, Ozaukee 19, Marshall 17, Waterloo 12, Hustisford 11, Lourdes Academy 11, Oostburg 4, Cambridge 2.