Waterloo’s wrestling program will be represented in both the boys and girls versions of the 2023 WIAA individual state tournament, hosted at UW-Madison’s Kohl Center from Thursday, Feb. 23 through Saturday, Feb. 25. Three wrestlers proved their worth at the Dodgeland High School sectional on Saturday, Feb. 18, finishing in at least third place in their respective brackets to advance.
Freshman Michaela Lewellin continued Waterloo’s tradition of sending a wrestler to girls state, joining 2022 qualifier Cassandra Valle in the school’s history books. Lewellin ran unopposed in the 152 lbs. bracket, earning four straight byes to win the sectional and advance to the state tournament.
She’ll be joined at state by freshman Avery Skalitzky and junior Trevor Firari on the boys side of things. Skalitzky finished third in the 106 lbs. bracket, as did Firari at 160 lbs..
“It’s awesome to just get one kid qualified for state, let alone three,” Waterloo head coach Thurston Schuster said. “It shows how the program has been moving in the right direction. It’s super exciting.”
Skalitzky’s day got off to a red-hot start as he pinned a Cedar Grove-Belgium wrestler in just 20 seconds in his quarterfinal match. He was subsequently knocked down to the consolation bracket after taking a tough 8-5 decision loss to a Westfield wrestler.
Undeterred, he recovered by pinning a Horicon wrestler in the first period to earn a spot in the third place match. With the season on the line, Skalitzky performed, pinning a Deerfield wrestler in 1:32 to punch a ticket to state. His subsequent second place match was ruled a no contest in favor of the Westfield wrestler he had already lost to. His fate was already set as a state qualifier.
Firari, the No. 2 seed in the 160 lbs. bracket, took a similar path. He pinned a Pardeeville wrestler in the first period of his quarterfinal match. He then suffered a 19-5 major decision loss to drop to the consolation bracket.
His battle back to the top started with a pin of a Kenosha Christian Life wrestler in 1:08. Now in the third place match, Firari came up clutch, pinning a Johnson Creek wrestler to earn a spot in the state finals. His second place match was also ruled a no contest as he was up against the same Poynette wrestler.
Outside of the state qualifiers, junior Ryan Sturgill nearly earned himself a spot in the next level as well. Wrestling as the No. 2 seed in the 138 lbs. bracket, he too started his day with a quarterfinal win, earning a 4-2 decision win over an Ozaukee wrestler. A 10-3 decision loss in the semifinals dropped him to the consolation bracket.
Sturgill battled, rebounding with dominance in a 16-1 tech fall win over a Marshall wrestler. He entered the third place match against a Princeton/Green Lake wrestler with the season on the line. A hard-fought battle ended in a 7-2 decision loss for Sturgill, ending his season one match shy of a state tournament berth.
Six more Pirates were eliminated in their respective brackets, as well, including freshman Brady Ebert (113 lbs.), sophomore Owen Koele (120 lbs.), junior Dakota Sturgill (145 lbs.), senior Jacob Soter (152 lbs.), freshman Ben Ugorji (170 lbs.), and freshman Andy Carrillo (195 lbs.).
Carrillo was the only one of this group to find a win at sectionals, pinning his quarterfinal opponent in the second period.
“Sectionals are always an emotional roller coaster,” Schuster said. “Only a handful of kids can accomplish their goals. It is mentally taxing. It makes me proud to say that, top to bottom, our kids battled and wrestled well.”
All three qualified Pirates will begin their quest for a state championship at the Kohl Center on Thursday, Feb. 23. Lewellin will wrestle Oregon sophomore Teagan Simpson in her preliminary match at 3 pm. Both Skalitzky and Firari will wrestle at 7:15 pm. Skalitzky is up against Westby sophomore Jayden Geier for his preliminary match while Firari will face Shiocton senior Dylan Herb.
“Wrestling at the Kohl Center is a huge event that everyone looks forward to,” Schuster said. “There’s no better venue for it. It’s a great experience for these kids. Hopefully, we find a few wins there. They just have to take it one match at a time.”