State wrestling: Furseth travels bruising, bloody road

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Eric Schmoldt
Saturday, March 1, 2014

MADISON—The shiner below Airk Furseth’s left eye told just half the story.

The black eye and bloodied left arm of the Janesville Craig 106-pounder were proof of the wear and tear that comes with wrestling six matches in three days at the WIAA state wrestling meet.

The brutal schedule left an even bigger mark on the Cougars junior’s mind. After losing in the Division 1 quarterfinals on Thursday, Furseth collected himself and fought through the wrestlebacks all the way to a third-place match Saturday afternoon.

For his toils, Furseth was rewarded a spot on the podium—a fourth-place finish in his first trip to the big stage.

“I’d say the mental (fight is hardest),” Furseth said after losing a 2-1 decision in his third-place bout. “It’s just a lot of stress knowing that you have to win the rest of your matches if you want to place.”

Such is life in the world of wrestlebacks.

Furseth, who was ranked among the top 106-pounders in Division 1 all year but missed much of it with a knee injury, won his preliminary match on Thursday, but he fell 10-0 in a quarterfinal against Kaukauna sophomore Ty Lee later the same day.

Immediately his goal changed from a state championship to finishing on a podium that is reserved for the top six wrestlers of each class in each division.

“I was bummed, but I still knew I had to come back,” Furseth said. “I just had to make sure I won the rest of my matches so I could place.”

Craig coach Mark Mullen credited Furseth with keeping a positive attitude heading into Friday’s consolation bouts.

Motivation from an earlier-season loss—Furseth’s only one in the regular season—helped. He faced Waterford’s Justin Ratkovec, who beat him by one point early on before Furseth’s injury, in his first consolation match.

“I said, ‘You’ve got to come back and get that kid back,’” Mullen said. “He was positive the whole time, so that was really good. He didn’t put his head down.”

Brodhead/Juda junior Logan Maurer might have let his head dip, but only momentarily.

The No. 1-ranked 285-pounder in Division 2 saw his title hopes come to a sudden halt when he was pinned in the semifinals Friday night. Kiel senior Matt Halverson beat him for the second year in a row.

On the ride home, Maurer’s teammates and coaches helped him realize there was plenty left to fight for.

“It hit me hard. I set a goal and couldn’t achieve it, and that really hurt,” he said. ‘But my teammate, Brady Colden, he really helped me realize I have to move forward.

“I knew there was nothing I could really do about it. I knew I had to come back in today and finish it out and take third.”

Maurer achieved his new goal, pinning his first opponent and then fighting for a 4-2 decision to take third place.

“I’m just going to work harder in the offseason,” Maurer said. “I’m going to do a little freestyle and Greco (wrestling) to see if I can get my hips better, and I’m definitely going to have to get in the weight room if I want to finish higher next year.”

Furseth said he, too, was already motivated for next year just a few minutes after his last match ended.

For now, however, he’s got the black-eye prize that comes with wrestling as many matches as anyone at this year’s state meet and emerging with a spot on the podium.

“Wrestling back for third after you lose on Thursday is the most work,” Mullen said. “You’re the only guy that gets six matches in the whole tournament.

“It’s hard; just take a look at his face.”

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