It was one dose of the expected and two doses of the dramatic at the WIAA State Individual Wrestling Tournament Thursday in Madison as Aaron Daly and Casey Crangle of Menomonee Falls and Hunter Higginbotham of Germantown all made Friday night's semifinals.
The expected was Daly, as the returning state 106-pound runner-up was completely dominant at 106 again in earning his semifinal berth. He pinned Trevor Hanson of Baraboo in 1:04 in the first round and then downed Hortonville's Jacob Burnett in a nippy 29 seconds in the quarterfinal.
Daly (43-7) credited his move down from 113 pounds for the state tournament series for reinvigorating his season.
"I was a little out of it mentally halfway through the season," he said. "I got into Ringers' (the area club) some more and then I started kicking it up a notch. ...This was a good day. I stayed focused and stayed strong mentally."
He will face Greater Metro Conference rival Tyus White of West Allis Central (41-2) in the 7 p.m. semifinals on Friday for the right to advance to Saturday's 6 p.m. championships. Because Daly was at a higher weight most of the season, the two have not faced each other this season.
Daly will be joined by Falls' teammate Crangle (44-5). Crangle, long known for his unorthodox style, fell behind both Kenosha Bradford's Oscar Ramos and Menasha's Bailey Whipple before overpowering both of them in unexpected fashion with pins at 5:42 and 5:38, respectively.
"From the beginning of the season, when I was losing some tough matches, I realized that I had to wrestle all six minutes (if I was to win)," he said. "That idea really paid off today."
Crangle will face Verona's Eric Schmid (46-4) in his semiifnal. He can't wait for that opportunity.
"This feels amazing," he said. "This (making semifinals and getting on the medal stand) is something that I've wanted since freshman year."
Higginbotham (45-0) came in with a gaudy record, but his trip to the semifinals was anything but easy and expected. He said "remaining humble" really helped him beat back some adversity today.
Higginbotham had to fend off a determined underdog Tyler Kirkeeng of Burlington, 7-6, in his first round bout.
"Even though this is my third time at state, I let the first match jitters get to me," he said, "because it still blows my mind how many people show up and watch."
He had to get over his jitters fast, as the third-ranked in state Higginbotham then had to face second-ranked Brock Milkent of Waukesha South (43-3) in the quarterfinals.
And it went badly at the start. The two bear-hugged and Milkent got the better of it on the throw putting Higginbotham to his back and holding them for long seconds before Higginbotham was able to squirm out of bounds for a restart down 5-0.
He got an escape to close out the first period and make it 5-1. He chose bottom in the second period and got a reversal to make it 5-3. Milkent got out to make it 6-3, but then Higginbotham caught Milkent and put him to his back pinning him in a shocking 3:45 for his spot in the semifinals.
"This (state) is all about learning," said Higginbotham. "You have to be humble. I was too cocky (at state) last year. I learned from that."
And what of being on his back like he was against Milkent?
"It was a little hard to breath," he said, "...but I didn't lose confidence. You lose confidence and that's what gets you in the end. You have to remain confident."
He also didn't let the gravity of the match get to him.
"I didn't listen to any of it (the conversation about the Milkent bout)," he said. "I really didn't look at the brackets. I just look at the match ahead of me. That's how you have to do it. Match by match."
He will face Jared Baldwin of Menomonie (39-6) in the semifinals.
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