Nolan Kicmol quite literally has had his mind on a state championship since his freshman year of high school.
It was midway through that season that the Evansville/Albany wrestler wrote two simple words inside his head gear. In blue marker, the word “State” was written on white tape inside one ear, and the word “Champ” inside the other.
On Saturday at the Kohl Center, Kicmol etched those words into the WIAA state wrestling history book.
Kicmol used a pair of second-period near falls to beat Brodhead/Juda junior Jackson Hauri 10-2 in the Division 2 152-pound state title match, realizing a dream he spelled out three years earlier and ending a 42-year state wrestling championship drought in Evansville.
In a bit of an ironic twist, Kicmol said the state championship was a byproduct of not focusing on winning a title at all.
“Last year, I was too worried about trying to win a state title that I forgot to go out and score points,” Kicmol said. “This year, my coaches and I decided we don’t need to worry about winning state, just go have fun and score points.
“This was the funnest tournament of my life.”
And he capped it by winning a rubber match against a Rock Valley Conference foe.
Kicmol beat Hauri in the conference tournament, but Hauri earned a 10-6 overtime victory in the regional title match at Belleville/New Glarus two weeks before state.
Kicmol wasted little time going to work in the third meeting. After a long first-period scramble, Kicmol scored a takedown in the final 10 seconds to grab the lead. In top position to start the second period, he turned Hauri twice for a pair of three-point near falls and rode out the first two minutes for a commanding 8-0 lead.
“That was a seatbelt tilt, and he set it up a couple times,” Evansville/Albany coach Rob Kostroun said. “He didn’t get it the way he was initially trying, so he reversed it and really just horsed him over.”
Hauri and Kicmol traded two points apiece in the third, but Kicmol’s victory was never threatened.
That he even made it back to the Kohl Center was a story in its own right.
Kicmol finished third at state as a junior and was state runner-up as a sophomore, so getting back there seemed like a given. But a clash of heads in the first round at sectionals threatened to keep Kicmol home.
He fought through a cut to his head to win the match but then forfeited his sectional semifinal against Mauston senior Jarrett Dolata when coaches were worried he could worsen the gash.
Kicmol did, however, wrestle his way to third place to qualify for state.
There, after breezing through his first two matches, he beat Dolata 3-2 in the semifinals to earn another shot at Hauri on the way to a state championship.
“There was a doubt (I’d be here) at some point, but in the back of my mind, I knew these coaches have always put me in the right position and know what’s best for me,” Kicmol said. “It’s honestly been a blessing to wrestle for them the past four years.
“And to have all the practice partners in our room to get me here. Ben Barmore and Tyler Aasen hammered on me all year. It’s as much their state title as it is mine.”
It’s the third state title in program history. Mitch Hull won the first in 1975, and Brian Benash followed with another a year later—both competing for what was then just strictly an Evansville program.
Hull, a Wisconsin Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Famer who went on to compete at Wisconsin, later qualified to compete for Team USA on the World Championship stage and coached with USA Wrestling for more than two decades, was at the Kohl Center to witness Kicmol’s feat.
“I had to be back for this one,” Hull said. “He’d be the same great kid whether he won or not, but he’ll be a state champ now forever.
“Hopefully we don’t have to wait another 42 years.”
WIAA state wrestling
Kohl Center, Madison
106—Consolation semifinal: Beau LaDu (Badger) dec. Sam Lorenz (Waunakee), 9-3. Third place: Cody Minor (Ashwaubenon) dec. LaDu, 8-2.
113—Consolation semifinal: Zeke Smith (Sauk Prairie) pinned Mason Dutcher (Milton), 0:27. Fifth place: Reuben Guzik (Rhinelander) dec. Dutcher, 7-4.
132—Consolation semifinals: Daniel Stilling (Elkhorn) dec. Reese Thompson (Oshkosh West), 9-2; Isaac Riddle (Germantown) dec. Nate Ellis (Janesville Craig), 4-2 (OT). Third place: Stilling maj. dec. Riddle, 11-0. Fifth place: Thompson dec. Ellis, 8-1.
285—Championship: Keaton Kluever (Kaukauna) pinned Keeanu Benton (Janesville Craig), 1:43.
132—Consolation semifinal: Nathan Ronsman (Luxemburg-Casco) majl dec. Cole Bavery (Edgerton), 12-0. Fifth place: Bavery pinned Mike Smith (Amery), 2:25.
152—Championship: Nolan Kicmol (Evansville/Albany) maj. dec. Jackson Hauri (Brodhead/Juda), 10-2.
182—Consolation semifinal: Jimmy DuVal (Whitewater) dec. Matt Koelbl (Campbellsport), 6-2. Third place: Andrew Henschel (Wautoma/Wild Rose) maj. dec. DuVal, 9-1.
285—Consolation semifinal: Josh Frerk (Denmark) dec. Branden Lange (Evansville/Albany), 9-2. Fifth place: Lange pinned Jon Rolle (Elkhart Lake), 1:39.