For the Bird: BHS freshman wins state wrestling title
By David Paulsen
It is not often that a high school freshman wins a state wrestling title.
That is just what Burlington High School freshman Josh Bird did, though, at the WIAA Division 1 Individual State Wrestling Championships last week at the Kohl Center in Madison.
Bird won the title by defeating the defending state champion at 120 pounds, Robert Lee of Kaukauna in an 8-6 sudden victory match.
“Josh had one heck of a tournament,” head coach Jade Gribble said. “He just got better. He showed a lot of toughness.”
In the title bout, Lee led 4-1 going into the third period. Bird chose the down position and following an escape and takedown had tied the match at 4-4.
Bird then let Lee go, giving Lee an escape point and a 5-4 lead. But when Bird got another takedown, he had his first lead of the match at 6-5. Lee got a final escape at the very end of the third period to tie the match at 6-6 at the end of regulation.
In overtime, following a scramble, Bird fended off a Lee takedown attempt, and then scored the winning takedown himself.
“He’s worked hard; he’s busted his butt and he did it,” Gribble said.
To get to the title match, Bird opened with an 8-5 decision over David Granatelli of Appleton North.
In the quarterfinal, Bird won by a 5-2 decision over Bill Holz of Menomonee Falls, and then followed that up with a 13-3 major decision victory over Quinn Miracle of Chippewa Falls.
Other Demon grapplers
Burlington had seven other wrestlers at state besides Bird. Two of those seven medaled.
Ben Hornickle took fourth at 113 pounds, and Brody Fitzpatrick fifth at 138.
Hornickle, a sophomore, opened by pinning Kai Castaneda of Wauwatosa West in 1:38.
That pitted Hornickle against Muskego’s Austin Quartullo, who he defeated in dramatic fashion 5-4.
Down 4-0 late in the third period, Hornickle pulled off a reversal, followed by a near fall, all in the final seconds of the match to get the victory.
In the semifinals, Hornickle faced last year’s state champion at 113, Ben Thornton of La Crosse Central. Thornton was simply too strong for Hornickle, pinning him in 5:55.
In the consolation semifinal, Hornickle scored a 5-1 win over Eddie Smith of Sauk Prairie, before losing an 8-2 decision to Collin Kraus of Stoughton in the third-place match.
Fitzpatrick, at 138 pounds, suffered a tough opening-round loss to Mitch Hertel of Marshfield. The two went to overtime before Hertel took a 2-0 win.
Fitzpatrick came back to win his next two matches. He defeated Tyler Turriff of De Pere by an 8-0 major decision, and then took a 4-2 win over Austin Powell of Sauk Prairie.
After losing another close match, a 5-4 decision to Jake Cain of Middleton, Fitzpatrick won a 5-3 decision over Brook Whitehead of Wausau East in the fifth-place match.
The only other Demon to win a match at state was Tyler Kirkeeng at 285.
After losing his opening match, Kirkeeng pinned Greg Aparicio of Ashwaubenon in just 17 seconds.
Kirkeeng lost his third match by pin.
Max Shenkenberg (160), and Greg Miller (195) lost their only matches.
Cody Elsbury (152), and Koty Agnes (220) both had two matches (due to wrestleback opportunities), but lost both of their matches.
Next up for the Demon grapplers is the WIAA State Team Championships.
The Demons take on Wausau West, the No. 1-ranked team in the state according to wiwrestling.com, in the opening round of state. That match will take place Friday at the UW Fieldhouse in Madison.
“We’ve got a tough one right away,” Gribble said. “We’ve got to be ready to go.”