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Fargo Blog Day 5: Five champions at Junior Nationals highlight Wisconsin men's freestyle

By Gabby Lord-Klein, 07/19/23, 10:00PM CDT


FARGO, North Dakota— Nobody watching wrestling today has a trace of doubt about Wisconsin after the finale of men’s freestyle at the Junior National Championships. With immense energy, full embraces and teary eyes, tonight’s run for Wisconsin is a timestamp of hard work paying off and the support system and love that backs it up. "These kids are special," Scott Kluever said emotionally. "These kids love each other, these coaches love each other, it's just special." 

Five claimed junior titles, a haul that ties the national record for most individual titles by any state in a single year. The performance is also the most Wisconsin has won in a single year, and the team finishing in 2nd place overall is the highest the state has placed in junior men’s freestyle. 

Tonight’s Junior Nationals champions were Haakon Peterson (106), Braeden Scoles (160), Noah Mulvaney (170), Connor Mirasola (195) and Koy Hopke (285). 

Haakon Peterson won the championship final by decision, 6-4, over Iowa’s Tyler Harper. Peterson had a strong run to the finals. In the semis he avenged a loss over Oklahoma’s Aydan Thomas 5-1, and prior to that it was all techs. He’s a first-year junior with four Fargo titles to his name. 

At 160, Braeden Scoles took out New Jersey’s William Henckel 9-4. The Illinois commit had six wins by tech before stepping on the mat for the semifinals this morning, which he won 11-3. Scoles reached the top of the podium tonight after a 3rd place finish last year. 

For Noah Mulvaney, it took was one opening and :23 seconds to put 10 points on the board. His finals opponent Chris Moore had 1 from passivity at the buzzer leaving Mulvaney just shy of the tech at the end of the first period. Mulvaney needed :06 seconds in the second period for a chest wrap to seal the victory 14-1. “I came into the tournament knowing what I was going to hit and just executed perfectly in all of my matches,” said Mulvaney. “It was a great way to end my high school career.” 

Mulvaney, a Bucknell commit, won his title between the victories of teammates. “It’s probably one of the best feelings in my life,” he said. “Being with all my buddies, they’re winning I’m winning, nothing better than that.” 

Connor Mirasola won his second consecutive junior national title, this time at 195 pounds. As far as the scoreboard goes the Penn State commit had a perfect run, shutting out opponents 71-0 at 195 pounds. Cole Mirasola, also committed to Penn State, finished runner-up at 220. Cole’s path to the finals included five wins by tech, and another decision for 6-1 performance at the most prestigious tournament in the nation. 

Koy Hopke had a massive comeback in the second period of his finals versus Aden Atto. “I feel like I have a great gas tank and if I can wear a guy down and be able to catch him like I did it feels pretty good,” said Hopke in his post-match interview. He made smart adjustments coming out of the break to chip away at a 7-1 deficit before turning it in his favor and collecting the fall. Hopke, who had 5 techs before the finals, is eligible for the Triple Crown.

Two more juniors, Charlie Millard and Ben Bast, wrestled their All-American medal matches this afternoon. Millard battled his way into the semifinals before taking a loss in the loaded 160-pound bracket. He won by tech in the consolation semis before dropping a tough 3rd place match to Ohio’s Ethan Birden to place 4th overall with a 6-2 performance. Bast went 6-4 at 126 and placed 8th. 

16U Nationals runner-up Daniel Heiser rounds out the finalists from Wisconsin. Heiser put 4 points on the board with a takedown and lace in the finals but was stopped short of victory by Pennsylvania’s Melvin Miller. All six of Heiser's match wins were by tech, including in the semis over Iowa’s No. 1 seed Nolan Fellers 15-5.

16U All-Americans Caleb Dennee and Garett Kawczynski wrestled back to 3rd place finishes overall after taking a loss early on—Kawczynski in the first round and Dennee in round two. That path through the backside isn’t for the faint of heart. Kawczynski had 8 wins straight, including a gritty criteria win in the consolation semifinals and then a win for 3rd with a final takedown in the 3rd place match to win by decision, 4-2. Dennee went 9-1 at 170. Tyson Martin placed 5th at 195, Nash Banko placed 7th at 160 and Cael Leisgang placed 8th.

Tomorrow we have a break from wrestling, and Greco-Roman resumes Friday in Fargo. 

*Historial stats on records are courtesy of Jason Bryant’s 2023 Fargo Almanac*