Johnson brings title back to Milton
As a fill-in wrestling parent, Che’ Stedman was thrilled to witness how the events played out on the Kohl Center floor Saturday night.
The lieutenant in the Madison Fire Department, who worked alongside Milton wrestler Ian Johnson’s father, K-Tal, before he and Ian’s mother Shelly were killed in a 2006 car accident, was ringside along with a host firefighters to watch Johnson’s state title bout.
Johnson made it a night to remember by jumping out a 9-2 second-period lead in his Division 1 171-pound WIAA state final after a scoreless first period. He then traded blows with Brookfield East’s Larry Watson in the final period before securing the 15-7 major decision.
“My heart is beating faster than his is probably right now,” Stedman said following the match. “It was absolutely fantastic to see him at the end of the wrestling meet point to the sky. We knew exactly who he was talking to.”
It was the culmination of a long journey for Johnson, who finished runner-up at 160 last year.
“My Dad was a real big pusher for me and he always wanted me to win a state championship,” Johnson said. “I won two in middle school, but this is where it means something up here in the Kohl Center. It is real special.”
Leading 3-0, the match was held up after Johnson suffered a cut on his forehead after bumping heads with Watson with :51 left in the second period. After getting taped up, Johnson quickly pushed his lead to 5-2 with a reversal and followed up with a series of takedowns to gain the 9-2 advantage.
“A lot of times kids hold back in the state finals, but I don’t think either of those kids did,” Milton coach Pat Jauch said. “I have a lot of respect for Larry Watson. He came after him. I am just really happy for Ian that he has achieved this goal. He is a great young man.”
Earlier in the meet, fellow Milton junior Garrett Whitehead faced off against three-time defending state champion Jesse Thielke of Germantown at 130.
After drawing a stalling warning early in the match, Whitehead suffered a first-period takedown, which Thielke rolled into a pin, 1:17 into the match to become only the second Division 1 wrestler to earn four state titles and the 11th overall.
“I had to do a couple adjustments, and then I just popped him just right where I could get my hips under him and I popped him over, stepped over and got the fall,’ said Thielke, who finished his career with a 186-1 record. “That was an amazing feeling. I have waited so long for it and to have it finally come true in the fashion it did.”
Whitehead came away frustrated.
““I got pushed out of bounds and they called me for stalling in the first 20 seconds,” Whitehead said. “I pushed him, and he caught me in a move. Then apparently I was pinned.”
After both wrestlers shoved each other from their feet, Thielke caught Whitehead in a single leg takedown and locked up the pin with a cradle move.
“The referee obviously called the match on the kid’s reputation,” Jauch said. “They might as well have called us yesterday and told us not to show up. That ref was so happy. He wanted to raise his hand so badly, so he gets his face in the picture.
“You don’t call stalling the first 20 seconds of the match just because the kid has three state titles. You just don’t do that. Don’t get me wrong, that kid earned it, but give us a chance to wrestle.”
Whitehead planned on filing it away as motivation.
“After this one, I am going to work my butt off and I am going to be back there,” Whitehead said. “This time I will get my hand raised.”
In other area results:
n In Division 1, Landon Shea of Milton finished fourth after losing to Derek Gill of Burlington, 3-1, in their third-place match at 119. Jake Stilling of Elkhorn placed fifth at 160 with an 8-4 decision over Garrett Schilling of Wisconsin Rapids. Milton’s John Wells placed sixth after losing his fifth-place match at 112 to Gabe Grahek of Marquette University High School in overtime 4-2.
In Division 2, Daniel Banh of Clinton placed third at 112 with a 10-4 decision over Ryan Costello of Campbellsport. Keifer Bennett of Delavan-Darien placed fourth at 145 after losing by pin in 4:52 by David Galarno of New Holstein. Teammate Marcus Hudson also took fourth at 171 after dropping a 3-2 decision to Dusty Jentz of Belmont/Platteville.
Garret Cary of Big Foot/Williams Bay placed fourth at 285 after losing to Brian Schaetz of Denmark by pin in 2:40 in their third-pace match.
In the fifth-place matches, Tom Bjugstad of Evansville/Albany won with a 5-4 decision at 145 over Adam Kehl of East Troy, and Nick Romani of Whitewater pinned Tyler Fussner of Lakeside Lutheran in 4:43 at 189.