Warhawks' Asmondy surprises self in earning state wrestling bid
Higginbotham also claims repeat berth
A few years ago, Germantown 195-pound wrestler Steve Asmondy would not have bet upon himself and his size 17 feet to do anything of grand importance in his chosen sport.
But that was before the last match of the WIAA individual sectional at Oconomowoc on Saturday, when Asmondy (38-9 on the season) got a reversal with about 3.8 seconds left to pull out a 6-5 victory over Cedarburg sophomore Tyler Watson in the wrestleback for the second-place state berth in his weight class.
"This feels amazing," said the senior. "Freshman year, I think I was a one-win JV guy, but I just kept working at it. The end of the match was amazing because I never look at the clock. I knew it was getting close to the end and I just worked until I got it (the reversal).
"Wow, is this amazing. If you had told me as a freshmen that I'd make state someday, I'd have told you 'No way!' "
But instead, it was "Ye, way" as Asmondy joins his training partner, repeat 220-pound state qualifier junior Hunter Higginbotham (41-4) on the mats at the Kohl Center in Madison at 3 p.m. Thursday for the WIAA State Individual Tournament.
Asmondy takes on Menomonie's powerful Eric Peissig (45-0) in his first round bout while Higginbotham challenges Menasha's Zeek Hooyman (36-4) in his first match.
Warhawks coach Casey Gabrielson is happy for the wrestlers, but especially for Asmondy.
"Oh my, I'm still trying to recover," he chuckled a few minutes after Asmondy's match. "He came in as a roly-poly freshman and his feet were still just as huge then (laughs) only he weighed just 160 pounds at the time, but he got a little bit better and improved about 10 wins a year the last couple of seasons. He cut out the baby fat, and now here he is."
The wrestleback was the fourth time Asmondy had beaten Watson this season.
"And each time the match got closer," Gabrielson said.
Asmondy had beaten Wauwatosa (4-0) and Nicolet (pin 3:48) opponents before losing on a pin to Oconomowoc's Brett Samson (33-8) in the final. Watson earned his wrestleback try when he pinned the same Nicolet opponent Asmondy had defeated in the third-place match.
The wrestleback was close all the way and the third period featured three lead changes including Asmondy's final push.
Higginbotham, meanwhile, got his chance to work with his familiar training partner another week by also taking second. Higginbotham pinned Nicolet (0:48) and Milwaukee Riverside (2:34) opponents before losing to Oconomowoc's Nick Gomez, 7-2, in the title bout. Gomez hit a big five-point throw in the first period and Higginbotham couldn't recover.
Gomez had pinned Higginbotham with a similar maneuver in the Feb. 9 regional.
Higginbotham, an intense competitor, was so hot after the defeat, that he pulled down the top of his singlet and stormed to the far side of the field house, where he barged through the doors and into the 12 degree temperatures to cool down while accompanied by a couple of coaches.
"I just got out of position," Higginbotham said after coming back in, "but I'm back to state and my goal is to push through things (until I get on the podium). I'm on a mission now to get as far as I can.
"Last year, this was all new to me. I'm a little more mature now and more ready for it all. I have a job to finish."
Gabrielson was happy qualifying two to state in a rebuilding year.
"We weren't supposed to get any through, but our guys pulled a couple of upsets," he said. "What they accomplished in getting this far was really something."
Also making it into the semifinals at the sectional but coming up short for a state berth were senior 160-pounder Tyler Palzkill (fourth place, 28-20) and junior Hunter Valenta at 182 (fourth, 16-9).
Others competing at the sectional but losing in the first round were seniors Tyler Colegrove at 126 (19-15), Brandon Goesch at 145 (24-18), and Tyler Baran at 170 (23-19).
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