MADISON — A week after a disappointing second-place at the Division 3 Necedah Sectional, Iowa–Grant junior Luke Nowak set his sites on the ultimate prize.
With a perfect run through last week’s WIAA Individual State Wrestling Tournament at the Kohl Center in Madison, Nowak avenged his runner-up sectional finish by winning Iowa–Grant’s 13th individual state championship in the sport.
With a controlling 9–7 victory over Boyceville’s Brian Halverson in the Division 3 160-pound title match on Saturday night, Nowak became just the 11th different state wrestling champion in school history, joining head coach Ryan Allen, a 2001 state champion, and former teammate Tucker Sawyer, who won the 138-pound title a year ago.
Along the way Nowak (38–11) defeated Blair–Taylor’s Pat Vehrenkamp 8–1 in Thursday’s opening round, then knocked off top-ranked Dexter Karban (39–6) of Coleman by the count of 9–4 in Friday morning’s quarterfinal round.
“Luke had an unbelievable tournament,” said Allen. “He started off with a nice win first round and then beat the number one ranked kid in the quarters. I think that was kind of when Luke realized he could win it. Once he beat [Karban] in the quarters he seemed to go into his zone and he just attacked nonstop.”
In Friday night’s semifinals Nowak scored a dominating 11–2 major decision Ozaukee’s Kevin Beckmann (42–8), the second-ranked wrestler in the bracket.
“In the finals he got a nice lead and then made one little mistake in the third period which made it a one point match,” added Allen.
Nowak, however, regained his composure and got an escape to make it 9–7, then almost scored another takedown as time expired.
“Luke has worked very hard and dedicated much of his life to wrestling,” said Allen. “He deserves this title and I am looking forward to watching him prepare to defend it this offseason.”
Ironically, Nowak never had to face New Lisbon’s Myles Conner (42–7), who defeated him for the sectional crown a week earlier. Conner lost to Boyceville’s Hellman 10–9 in Friday night’s semifinal and went on to finish third.
Nowak was joined at this year’s state tournament by senior teammate Cody Rider and fellow junior Brian Halverson.
Rider (36–15) battled his way to a third-place finish at 182 pounds after a heart-breaking 5–3 overtime semifinal loss to eventual champion David Chadd (48–3) of Lancaster.
He pinned previously unbeaten Henry Fielding (40–2) of Shiocton in the quarterfinals to earn a shot at Chadd.
Chadd bounced back to pin Cedar Grove–Belgium’s Greg Wenzel (36–8) Saturday morning in the consolation bracket, then once again defeated Fielding, this time by the score of 6–3 in Saturday afternoon’s third-place match.
“Cody also wrestled very well all weekend,” said Allen. “Cody lost in overtime to Chadd, but wrestled a great match and did everything he could to get the win. I was a little worried after the loss to Chadd, as it can be very tough rebounding from a tough loss like that, but that loss only seemed to fuel him even more. I was very happy for Cody as he also has come a long way since his freshman year.”
Halverson (36–17) went 2–3 and placed sixth at 170 pounds.
He opened the tournament with a 6–4 overtime victory over Weyauwega–Fremont’s Brandon Loehrke (31–10) and a 7–2 decision over Lomira’s Jordan Michael (38–9) before suffering three straight losses to finish sixth.
“Brian had a great tournament and a phenomenal year,” said Allen. “He made it all the way to the semifinal round and lost by two points to the eventual runner-up. I really wished Brian would have won that fifth-place match but it’s tough when you’re giving up as much weight as he was. I am very proud of Brian and the time he has put in to this sport. He is a very hard worker and it’s great to see a kid reap the benefits of that effort.”
WIAA Division 3 State Championships
(from Saturday, Feb. 27–March 1 @ Kohl Center, Madison)
Iowa–Grant state qualifiers
160 — Luke Nowak (38-11) placed 1st and scored 23.00 team points.
Champ. Round 1 - Luke Nowak (Iowa-Grant/Highland) 38-11 won by decision over Pat Vehrenkamp (Blair-Taylor) 29-8 (Dec 8-1)
Quarterfinal - Luke Nowak (Iowa-Grant/Highland) 38-11 won by decision over Dexter Karban (Coleman) 39-6 (Dec 9-4)
Semifinal - Luke Nowak (Iowa-Grant/Highland) 38-11 won by major decision over Kevin Beckmann (Ozaukee) 42-8 (MD 11-2)
1st Place Match - Luke Nowak (Iowa-Grant/Highland) 38-11 won by decision over Bryor Hellmann (Boyceville) 42-7 (Dec 9-7)
170 — Brian Halverson (36-17) placed 6th and scored 7.00 team points.
Champ. Round 1 - Brian Halverson (Iowa-Grant/Highland) 36-17 won in sudden victory - 1 over Brandon Loehrke (Weyau.-Fre.) 31-10 (SV-1 6-4)
Quarterfinal - Brian Halverson (Iowa-Grant/Highland) 36-17 won by decision over Jordan Michael (Lomira) 38-9 (Dec 7-2)
Semifinal - Jacob Wudtke (Bonduel) 41-7 won by decision over Brian Halverson (Iowa-Grant/Highland) 36-17 (Dec 5-2)
Cons. Semi - Isaac Tuttle (Glenwood City) 35-10 won by decision over Brian Halverson (Iowa-Grant/Highland) 36-17 (Dec 8-2)
5th Place Match - Kyle Heinsohn (Cameron) 42-7 won by decision over Brian Halverson (Iowa-Grant/Highland) 36-17 (Dec 7-3)
182 — Cody Rider (36-15) placed 3rd and scored 20.00 team points.
Champ. Round 1 - Cody Rider (Iowa-Grant/Highland) 36-15 won by fall over Tanner Akers (Westfield Area) 38-10 (Fall 3:07)
Quarterfinal - Cody Rider (Iowa-Grant/Highland) 36-15 won by fall over Henry Fielding (Shiocton) 40-2 (Fall 3:48)
Semifinal - David Chadd (Lancaster) 48-3 won in sudden victory - 1 over Cody Rider (Iowa-Grant/Highland) 36-15 (SV-1 5-3)
Cons. Semi - Cody Rider (Iowa-Grant/Highland) 36-15 won by fall over Greg Wenzel (Cedar Grove-Belg.) 36-8 (Fall 4:26)
3rd Place Match - Cody Rider (Iowa-Grant/Highland) 36-15 won by decision over Henry Fielding (Shiocton) 40-2 (Dec 6-3)