Featured photo of Braeden Scoles by Jenni Peterson.
TLDR: Wisconsin has eight athletes in the men’s freestyle semifinals. Juniors: Braeden Scoles (160), Charlie Millard (160), Cole Mirasola (220), Connor Mirasola (195), Haakon Peterson (106), Koy Hopke (285), Noah Mulvaney (170). 16U: Daniel Heiser (145). Twelve more are wrestling in the consolations: JR: Aidan Gruenenfelder at 106 and Ben Bast 126. 16U Bryson Bussler (88), Cael Leisgang (220), Caleb Dennee (170), Dale Corbin (120), Garett Kawczynski (220), Jacob Herm (132), Liam Crook (160), Nash Banko (160), Owen Burling (182), Tyson Martin (195). Wrestling resumes at 10AM Wednesday. The junior team currently sits in 1st place, 16U is tied for 15th.
FARGO, North Dakota—Wisconsin just wrapped up a massive day of wrestling at the FargoDome. The intensity was higher as sessions went all the way through the championship quarterfinals and multiple rounds of consolations. Twenty wrestlers remain in the tournament, including eight semifinalists that have clinched their spots as All-Americans.
Seven of those semifinalists are part of the impressive junior team, which sits in 1st place overall leading into the final day of competition.
Homestead’s Charlie Millard has 5 techs in the 160-pound bracket. In the last two matches—the round of 16 and quarters—Millard trailed his opponents into the second periods and then outscored them 14-4 and 17-7. Just a sharp reminder to everyone how quickly the scoreboard can flip with a few sequences if you stay in the match.
No. 1 seeds Braeden Scoles (6-0 at 160) and Connor Mirasola (5-0 at 195) are all techs two days straight.
The same goes for Koy Hopke (4-0 at 285) and Haakon Peterson (4-0 at 106), who haven’t given up a single point. Peterson is the young gun of this group as a first-year junior, but he doubled up titles here at Fargo in 16U last year. Hopke won a gold medal at the U17 Worlds last year and the Triple Crown in 2021.
Noah Mulvaney, a Bucknell commit and 5th place All-American in 2022, has 4 techs and a win by decision in the quarters at 170. Cole Mirasola (5-0 at 220) was the last to punch his ticket to the semis this evening with an 8-4 decision over California's Coby Merrill.
As of tonight, the junior semifinalists have outscored their opponents an unbelievable 367-26.
In the 16U division, Daniel Heiser (5-0 at 145) made it through the quarterfinal round and into the semis for the younger group.
That’s a ton of power and presence on the championship side from Wisconsin here in Fargo.
Coach Max Askren says this level of success is a result of focus on the long game. “We have kids that love wrestling, that can’t get enough of being on the mat, that want to work hard and are doing the right things,” he said. “I think when you have that it’s only a matter of time until they do well.”
Part of that long game, however, is understanding that losses at a young age—or ever—aren’t the end of the world. “. . . I’m really competitive, and so is my brother, so it’s hard to lose when the kids are younger but understanding that they’re building the pieces that are going to make them successful later on and that we’re doing right by them, is what kind of allows us to kind of stay together.”
Askren, named developmental coach of the year by USA Wrestling in 2022, said tomorrow is an opportunity for the athletes that remain in the tournament to show how much hard work they’ve put in.
“We had a couple guys lose first round that have battled back and taken it one match at a time,” he said. “That’s all they can do is stay in the present, make adjustments they can make, and do what they can. When you look past that you lose a lot.”
This sentiment flows through the Wisconsin coaching staff. Coach Jordan Crass called it ‘the next best thing’ philosophy. “If I can’t get gold I gotta get the next best thing in line.” He said, “body language is huge, and just getting the guys to believe in themselves and stand tall out there and battle hard.”
Twelve are currently in that battle on the backside. In juniors we have Aidan Gruenenfelder at 106 and Ben Bast 126. In 16U we have Bryson Bussler (88), Cael Leisgang (220), Caleb Dennee (170), Dale Corbin (120), Garett Kawczynski (220), Jacob Herm (132), Liam Crook (160), Nash Banko (160), Owen Burling (182) and Tyson Martin (195). These guys wrestle in the blood round first thing tomorrow morning.
This is the first time the entire men’s freestyle discipline is being held on the same days. Crass said this works well for the parents who may have otherwise stayed an extra day or two in years prior. “And they also feed off each other,” Crass said. “The juniors enjoy the cadets and the cadets have a lot they can learn from our junior team, especially this year, so it was a good opportunity for our younger guys to learn from our older guys.”
Not mentioned are the many many wrestlers that battled 5+ matches and didn’t make it past this second day. Because sometimes the next best thing, especially at the largest tournament in the world, comes packaged as an opportunity to improve. “. . . those guys having those losses and those heartbreaks if they’re in the right perspective it allows them to go back, reset, face reality and make adjustments to their technical game, and also develop as human beings,” said Askren.
Team Wisconsin is the real deal. Wrestling resumes at 10AM Wednesday with the semifinals. Watch everything live on FloWrestling.