Garrett Model’s goal Thursday night was to leave spectators shaking their heads.
The Stoughton senior knew plenty in attendance at the Kohl Center had his 145-pound Division 1 quarterfinal match with Sparta’s Jaden Winchel circled as the marquee matchup of the WIAA individual state wrestling tournament’s first day.
But Model wanted to prove the showdown was nothing special.
“People were saying that it was supposed to be the best quarterfinal match of the evening tonight,” Model said, “I just wanted to prove them wrong — show them that it was just my show.”
The second-ranked Model did just that, pinning the third-ranked Winchel in 3 minutes, 34 seconds and punching a ticket to the semifinals in the process.
“It feels good,” said Model, a University of Wisconsin recruit and last year’s Division 1 champion at 138 pounds. “It means I’ve been putting in the work all season long. I’ve been doing the right stuff, and it was just a matter of showing everyone that that’s what I’ve been doing all season.”
Four of Stoughton’s other five state qualifiers all clinched spots in the semifinals Thursday. UW recruit Tyler Dow (160 pounds) scored a technical fall in his quarterfinal match against Oshkosh West’s Edgar Heredia, while Hunter Lewis (106) and Tristan Jenny (120) both won by decision. Brandon Klein earned a 15-3 major decision over Port Washington’s Preston Makoutz.
Model said having Klein as a practice partner all season helped prepare him for the match against Winchel.
“I consider me and my teammate Brandon Klein probably the two toughest riders in the state right now,” Model said. “Me and him go at it every day in practice, and it’s just a battle to get out from (under) each other. If I can hold Brandon down — and he’s like a little squirrel on the bottom — I can hold anyone down, I feel like. So when (Winchel) picked bottom (to start the second period), I knew it was just a matter of getting my breakdowns.”
Meanwhile, two of the Big Eight Conference’s biggest names are still in championship contention — Middleton’s Kevin Meicher and Sun Prairie’s Drew Scharenbrock both made the 138-pound semifinals. Madison La Follette’s Francesco Schiro ran his record to 43-0 before falling in the quarterfinals.
“It gives me a lot of confidence going into tomorrow,” Meicher, last year’s Division 1 champion at 126 pounds, said of pinning Oak Creek’s Joey Colla in 1:59.
Rounding out the rest of the local Division 1 semifinalists are Zeke Smith (106) and Drew Fjoser (138) of Sauk Prairie; Milton’s Dalton Shea (113), Billy Pitzner (182) and Jerry Lipke (195); DeForest’s Jackson Hemauer (182); and Reedsburg’s Dalton Hahn (195).
While some of the biggest local names in Divisions 2 and 3 had the night off by virtue of a first-round bye, Johnson Creek’s Weston Wichman was happy to be in action.
“At first, I would have liked the bye,” Wichman said. “I was pretty mad at myself that I lost in sectionals, but … usually my first match is my worst match. I went out and got it done, though.”
Wichman scored a 15-3 major decision over Lancaster’s Collin Lull in his tournament-opening match, but his reasoning goes deeper than that. After finishing second in Division 3 at 113 two years ago, Wichman’s 2015-16 season was cut short by shoulder surgery.
And then there’s the matter of expectations. In addition to his own runner-up finish in 2015, Wichman is still finding his way out of his brother’s shadow. Wilder Wichman closed his prep wrestling career with an 87-match winning streak, claiming Division 3 titles in 2015 and 2016.
For his part, though, Weston Wichman says he’s not worried about any of that anymore.
“At the beginning of the year, I felt a little pressure,” he said. “But after I got a couple losses and especially after my loss at sectionals, I stopped wrestling to try to live up to Wilder, stopped wrestling for the Wichman name, whatever. I started wrestling for myself, and it’s taken a lot of pressure off. It feels awesome to be back in this place. I’m feeling good.”