Janesville Craig's Keeanu Benton waves to the crowd after pinning Arrowhead's Travis Case in their 285-pound Division 1 quarterfinal match at the WIAA state wrestling tournament in Madison on Thursday, Feb. 22.

Anthony Wahl


Stick to the plan.

That has been the mindset all season long for Keeanu Benton.

The Janesville Craig junior knows that if he doesn’t do anything stupid on the mat and stays on the attack, he’s the best wrestler in the state at 285 pounds.

Tonight, he’ll get the chance to prove it.

Benton moved into the Division 1 285-pound title match Friday night with a 9-4 decision over Mitchell Williamson of River Falls. The third-ranked Benton (46-1) wrestles top-ranked Keaton Kluever (47-2) in the championship bout.

In winning his third match at state in two days, Benton dominated Williamson. He opened up a 5-1 lead in the second period with a takedown and two-point nearfall and nearly had a pin but both wrestlers were ruled off the mat.

“I just wanted to wrestle smart tonight and not do anything too fast,” Benton said. “He was a tough guy to throw and the one throw I did get in was because I was in a good position to try it.

“He was tough, really tough, so I had to try and take advantage of his mistakes, and that’s what I did.”

Benton stretched the lead with another takedown and did not allow Williamson, who suffered only his second loss of the season, to get any leverage for a possible throw.

Benton now sets his sights on Kaukauna’s Kluever, whose only two losses this season were to nationally-ranked out-of-state wrestlers. Kluever is the defending state champ.

“I didn’t come up here to finish second,” Benton said “I’ve just got to stay on the attack and not let him get anything he wants.

“He’s a thrower, so I’ve been practicing really hard and focusing on that. He’s been my main focus all season long and now I get the chance.”

Craig’s other semifinalist, Nate Ellis, lost in 132-pound semifinal match. The senior took an early 2-0 lead on Thomas Severson of DC Everest but lost 8-3. Ellis fell to 44-9 and still has a chance to finish third.

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