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Belmont junior overcomes knee injury, avenges regional loss to earn return trip to state
Belmont junior Michael Douglas won the 285-pound title at last Saturday's WIAA D3 Evansville/Albany Sectional to earn his second trip to the WIAA Individual State Tournament that begins Thursday night at the Kohl Center in Madison. Douglas, who injured his knee in August during the Braves' first football game and missed the rest of the season, was only cleared to wrestle three weeks ago prior to the SWC/SWAL Clash conference tournament.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Athlete of the Week is a web-only feature that will publish each Thursday throughout the calendar year.

Michael Douglas, Jr., 285 pounds, Belmont/Platteville wrestling

      Belmont junior Michael Douglas was only cleared to wrestle three weeks ago. Now he is preparing to compete in his second straight WIAA Individual State Tournament, that begins tonight (Thursday, Feb. 27) at the Kohl Center in Madison.

     Douglas injured his knee in August, during Belmont's first football game and missed the entire season. He rehabbed throughout the fall and into wrestling season. He was originally slated to come back in December, then it was January, then had a setback it was unclear if he would be able to wrestle at all this season. Finally he returned in February for the SWC/SWAL Clash, three weeks ago where he placed third.

     Saturday Douglas (9–1, ranked #7 in Division 3) won the 285-pound title at the D2 Evansville/Albany Sectional to earn a return trip to state. Douglas, who won his opening round match at 285 at state as a sophomore before getting injured in the quarterfinals and forfeiting his next two matches, will return to Madison as a sectional champion after also avenging a regional final loss from the previous week with a 3-1 overtime decision of Cuba City/Benton/Southwestern senior Troy Leibfried (39-6, #1) in the 285 finale on Saturday.

     “It’s been a wild ride for Michael this season. It’s great to have him back on the mat," said Belmont/Platteville head coach Emeric Williams. "He’s where he needs to be. He did a great job out there today. (Michael and Troy) are friends off the mat, but they love going at it on the mat. It’s fun to watch, but not so fun to coach. Today, Michael came out on top.”

     Douglas defeated Edgerton senior Reed Farrington (38-7, #9) in overtime, 4-2, in the quarterfinals, and pinned Portage sophomore Hayden Steinle (26-18) in the semifinals to earn his spot in the finals. Farrington worked his way to earn a state berth, and then was pinned by Leibfried in the second-place match. 

     The Belmont senior will face the winner of the preliminary match between Luxemberg-Casco junior Kyle Kroll (41-9, #4) and GET/MM junior Trevor Daffinson (28-5, #6) in a quarterfinal match at state on Friday.

HONORABLE MENTION (In alphabetical order):
Dawson Bowen, Sr., G, Lancaster boys basketball

     The dead-eye senior shooting guard scored a game-high 23 points in Lancaster's 62–54 loss to Benton Monday night becoming the third player in program history to score 1,000 career points. Bowen, who also poured in a game-high 29 points and had six assists in a double overtime loss to SWC champion River Valley Friday night, now has 1,004 in 65 career games (15.4 ppg). He joins 1992 LHS grad Mark Houtakker (1,562 in 72 games) and 1999 grad and current Lancaster boys' assistant coach Tom Driscoll (1,016 in 62 games).

Justan Ernst, Sr., G, Belmont boys basketball

     Ernst scored in double figures three victories in the past week to lead the improving Braves. Ernst scored a game-and-career-high 17 points, including 9 of 10 at the free throw line, in Monday's 52–43 non-conference win at Pecatonica. He also scored 12 points in Saturday's 48–30 victory over De Soto and had 11 points and eight rebounds in a 57–27 victory over visiting North Crawford last Tuesday night. The Braves, who won just two games a year ago and are 4–63 the past three seasons, are now 9–12 this season under first-year head coach Brad Solberg.

Fennimore senior wrestlers

     Nine Fennimore wrestlers, including eight seniors, earn trips to this weekend's WIAA Individual State Wrestling Tournament with top three finishes at the WIAA D3 Westby Sectional last Saturday. Senior Luke Blair (120 pounds), Alex Birchman (132), Mason Lull (145), Aaron Ragels (220) and Logan Klaas (285) each won sectional titles, Aidan Nutter (138) and Will Ahnen (182) finished second and Nick Blaschke (160) placed third. Freshman Jayden Glasbrenner finished second at 113 pounds to earn his first state berth. The eight Fennimore seniors also led the Golden Eagles (12–0) to a Team sectional championship last Tuesday with a pair of dual meet victories over Royall, 69–12, and La Crosse Aquinas, 52–21, at the D3 Brookwood Team Sectional. Fennimore will defend its 2019 D3 Team Title at the D3 Team State Tournament, Saturday, March 7 at the UW–Fieldhouse in Madison.

Joah Fillardo, So., G, Mineral Point boys basketball

     Fillardo scored nine of his game-high 33 points in overtime to lift the visiting Pointers (11–9, 9–4 SWAL) to a key 69–64 victory over Fennimore (15–6, 7–6) in last Friday night's SWAL showdown. Fillardo had five 3-pointers in the game. By virtue of the win, Point earned the No. 3 seed in the upcoming WIAA Division 4 regional playoffs which begin Tuesday. Fennimore is the No. 4 seed on the same half of the bracket as undefeated, top-ranked Cuba City (20–0, 13–0).

Kiera Holzemer, Sr., G, Cuba City girls basketball

     Holzemer scored a game-high 20 points in a 51–27 victory over Riverdale last Thursday night at the Cubans' clinched a share of the SWAL title. Holzemer also scored a team-high 14 points in a 56–44 loss at Prairie du Chien last Tuesday night.