For Dustin Hatfield, Saturday was born from disappointment.
“I came up short last year, and then this year in cross country, I came up short again,” the River Valley senior said. “This was my time to get it done.”
Hatfield closed out a perfect senior season in dramatic fashion with a 4-2 sudden-victory decision over Delafield St. John’s/Brookfield Academy’s Aidan Medora in the 126-pound championship match in the WIAA Division 2 individual state wrestling tournament at the Kohl Center.
One of three River Valley wrestlers to win championships on Saturday, Hatfield was forced to settle for second a year ago and third at state cross country in the fall. This time, though, he had a good feeling.
“I knew it was going to come up right,” Hatfield said. “There’s no way anybody was working as much as I was.”
As memorable as the finish was, Hatfield admitted it was a bit of a blur. Trailing 2-1, Hatfield managed an escape with 6 seconds remaining in regulation to force an overtime period.
Then? A decisive moment of chaos.
“I shot in, and we started scrambling on the edge of the mat,” Hatfield said. “I just … I don’t know. I just got two out of it.”
The Blackhawks backed up Hatfield’s win with victories from Shane Liegel at 160 pounds and Elijah Alt at 170.
“It’s what I’ve been working for all year,” said Liegel, who defeated Oconto Falls’ Nate Trepanier 5-4. “I don’t think it’s sunk in yet.”
Like Hatfield, Liegel’s match ended with some drama. The River Valley sophomore gave up a tying reversal in the final 30 seconds, only to win with an escape at the buzzer.
“I kind of did some sort of roll, got in a big scramble,” Liegel said. “I honestly don’t know what happened. They gave me an escape.”
Alt defeated Luxemburg-Casco’s Dalton Smerchek 3-2.
In Division 3, Deerfield senior Cal Hansen capitalized on a six-point opening period to score an 8-4 victory over Cochrane-Fountain City’s Tate Murty in the championship match at 132 pounds.
“It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had,” Hansen said through tears. “It’s what I’ve worked for since I was little. I’m just happy. No way to describe it, really. When the work finally pays off, it’s the best feeling in the world.”
Hansen became just the second Deerfield wrestler to win a state championship, and first since his uncle Kurt in 1980. Older brothers Hans and Cole also made it to the tournament (wrestling for Marshall), but Cal was quick to claim family bragging rights.
“Anything they say, I’m just going to be like, ‘I won state and you didn’t,’ ” Hansen said with a laugh. “They’re all tough wrestlers, but I’ve got the best thing to say.”
Hansen said the words from Deerfield co-coaches Trevor Dyreson and Paul Haag stuck with him.
“Just go out and have fun,” Hansen related. “This is the fun part. You get to go out and show everyone what you’ve been training for all year. It pays off, just going out and having fun and not worrying about it.”