Krause's experience, Higginbotham's talent pace Warhawks on state mats
Both qualify out of difficult sectional
Germantown - Sophomore 220-pound wrestler Hunter Higginbotham of the Germantown wrestling team briefly celebrated his WIAA sectional championship Saturday with his teammates and then did as he was told.
He got down and did several push-ups - his punishment for being head-thrown and put to his back by his opponent, Mensah Amuzu of Homestead, early in the match. Higginbotham eventually fought his way out of his predicament and went on to pin Amuzu.
"Actually, it's supposed to be about 100 push-ups," he chuckled. "I just said 'Oh my God' because the last thing they (the coaches) told me was watch for the head throw. I knew that he was going to do it, but I just didn't know when."
But that's what an elusive combination of talent and inexperience will do for you. Higginbotham, also a starting defensive lineman for the football team this fall, has a boatload of talent, but is just in his second-year of wrestling. He joins two-time state qualifier and senior 152-pounder Danny Krause when the WIAA State Individual Tournament starts at 3 p.m. Thursday at the Kohl Center in Madison.
How much potential does Higginbotham have?
"Isn't he something?" laughed Krause, a sectional runner-up on Saturday. "Just a second-year wrestler and look at him. If he doesn't wind up winning state medals in the next couple of years, I'll be really ticked."
Coach resorts to sneaky tricks
The Warhawks have taken to bringing in semiretired veteran assistant coach Jeff Smith, an expert at bringing out the best in bigger wrestlers, to work with Higginbotham.
"Whoa, I've found out that this kid has only one speed," laughed Smith. "That's full blast, so I had to resort to some sneaky old guy tricks to try and slow him down (more laughs). Boy, what a talent."
Higginbotham (30-7) will challenge Tomah's Lucas Stromberg-Windau (35-9) in a first-round bout. Quarterfinals will be held later that day. Meanwhile, Krause (29-10) takes on Merrill's Ray Paul (39-6).
The two qualifiers were the highlight of a roller-coaster day for the Warhawks at the Arrowhead sectional, where they also saw two competitors (Tyler Palzkill at 138 and Brandon Goesch at 126) lose out on wrestle-backs for state berths and had another expected state qualifier, senior 195-pounder Mike Knippen come up a little short with a critical loss in the semifinals.
"Oh my goodness, what a day," coach Casey Gabrielson said. "I'm really happy for our two guys (who are going to state). Danny is a two-time qualifier and he just got his 100th career win in the regional a week ago. He's just steadily ticking off all his goals. He's been there before, so nothing should be that much of a surprise to him.
"And Hunter, he's a battler, a fighter, not really a technician just yet. But we've done a lot of scouting for his matches and he just absorbs things so quickly. And he has that relentless attack. That makes up for the lack of technique."
Team places fourth
Germantown wound up fourth in the 16-team sectional with 74.5 points as host Arrowhead won with 148.5.
Higginbotham pinned both Milwaukee Madison (1:22) and Arrowhead (2:31) opponents before meeting Amuzu (26-12). After getting hit with the head-throw, Higginbotham was forced to fight off the bottom for more than 30 seconds before freeing himself and eventually pinning Amuzu for the fourth time this season in 1:55.
He said he will learn from experiences like that.
"Last year I made sectional, but that just motivated me to work a lot harder," he said. "I have some great assistant coaches to work with."
Higginbotham challenged himself by moving up to wrestle Port Washington's powerful Tyler Griswold in a dual late in the season. He lost, but it was another great learning experience.
"This is just unbelievable, amazing," he said of qualifying for state. "I'm speechless."
Krause beat Tosa (technical fall) and Whitefish Bay (12-8 decision) opponents before losing to Hamilton's Ben Hollnagel (34-7) on a technical fall in the final. It was a match that had been much closer in the regional the week before.
"They had me scouted pretty well," Krause said, "but still, we're looking forward to a good time up there. Hopefully, we can ruffle a few feathers."
Others fall short of state
Both Goesch and Palzkill got their wrestle-backs coming up through the consolation side of the bracket. Goesch (27-14) pinned a Tosa wrestler to earn his shot at Hamilton's Phil Flegner (34-11). He fell behind early, but caught Flegner in a cradle late in the match, but did not get the pin, falling 9-7.
"We thought the official might have been on the wrong side," Gabrielson said. "Brandon had a great second half of the season though."
Palzkill (24-20) beat a Falls opponent (5-2 decision) in his third-place bout, but was pinned by Hamilton's Bob Holzem (39-6) in 1:47 in the wrestle-back.
"Tyler has had the most difficult schedule of anyone out there," Gabrielson said. "He just could not catch a break (in his opponents)."
Knippen (38-8) lost a tough 6-4 decision to Arrowhead's Zak Ryder (29-11) in the semifinal. He had beaten him handily in the regional the week before. When Ryder lost the final and Knippen pinned a Tosa opponent in the third-place match, there was no wrestle-back.
"He hadn't been on a stage that big before," Gabrielson said of Knippen. "Sometimes that happens."
Others finishing up their seasons include Tyler Colegrove at 113 (15-24) and Tyler Baran at 160 (fourth place, 25-14).
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