The Menomonee Falls and Wauwatosa wrestling teams were competing for a little bit of history Tuesday night in the WIAA State Team Sectional at Arrowhead.
So they decided to put on a good show.
And the final act was the second period technical fall that the Falls' 182-pounder Ayoola Olapo earned over Tosa's Matt Miller that drew the curtain down on a sensational, intense, and thrilling 30-27 victory for the Indians over the Woodland Conference champions.
"It was just a great high school event," said 11-year Falls coach Jim McMahon. "I don't know much it cost people to get in here, but they sure got their money's worth."
"...We talked about the journey, some of these kids were born wrestlers, some have been with us since seventh and eighth grade and some just joined us in high school. They all came together to make this happen."
And with it, Falls earned its first-ever berth in the WIAA State Team Tournament. The Indians will have a quarterfinal match-up against Bay Port on Friday, March 1, in Madison.
Tosa had also been shooting for its first state team berth.
Olapo (42-2) was pleased that the match came down to him, with the Indians trailing Tosa by a 27-25 count.
"It was empowering," he said of the feeling. "I knew I could do it and I needed to do it for the sake of my team. It was tough to watch (the 13 bouts beforehand) because we've been in these situations before. I tried not be scared because I knew I could trust my teammates."
For veteran Wauwatosa coach Kent Morin, it was an indeed a disappointing outcome.
And he knew where the match turned. It turned everytime a Falls wrestling won by pin or technical fall (three pins and one tech fall) and the number of times his team won by pin or tech fall (only one pin).
"You could see how the match-ups were going to fall," he said. "We just couldn't get the add-on bonus points (from major decisions, tech falls or pins). Our middle of the line-up, where we're strong, we just won decisions."
"We needed to be ahead by more at the end."
And they couldn't get there.
Tosa grabbed an early lead on a pin by Devine Burt in 1:03 at 195 pounds, but then Falls seized momentum back with a tough 4-2 decision by 220-pounder Matt Aili, and then added to it with a pin by 285-pounder Trayvon Handy in just 32 seconds, and then with another stick by 106-pounder Aaron Daly over Sean McDuffie (3:04).
In one of the most thrilling matches of the night, Tosa's Kai Castaneda hung on for a 5-4 sudden victory period decision over the Indians Jerrot Holz at 113. The noise built and built during that match.
It was just a prercursor of things to come.
Holz's older brother Bill (40-4) gave the Indians their biggest lead of the night as he finally pinned Tosa's stubborn Zach Miller (37-4) in 5:48. It was 21-9 Falls at that point, but it would get more interesting.
Because the series of intense decisions that Morin referred to were just about to get started.
Tosa would win six matches in a row and one was crazier than the next.
Ben Reagan defeated the Indians' Casey Crangle, 7-2, in overtime at 126; then A. J. Manucci downed Jake McMahon by a 6-0 count at 132.
Tosa's unbeaten Max Nelson (27-0) had to work hard to stay that way at 138, outlasting Falls' Austin Meyers', 8-4. At 145, Marcus Morrow finally tied the team score at 21-all with an 8-5 decision over the Indians' Sam Schwabenlander.
In a 50/50 match, Tosa's Alex Comte outlasted Falls' Jon Haririe, 4-1, at 152, and in the match that had both sides on their feet, Tosa's Sam Bertz outlasted trhe Indians Alex Koch, 10-9, as Koch had Bertz down but out of bounds as time ran out in their 160-pound match.
At that point, Tosa was up 27-21, but Morin and Coach McMahon both knew where the advantage lay going into the final two bouts.
The Indians' Jake Fuiten (34-13) simply overwhelmed Tosa's Sam Hanrahan (15-15) by an 8-0 count at 170 to make it 27-25 Tosa and then the noise got turned up to its loudest all night, as Falls sent out its hammer, Olapo.
"I remained confident all night," said McMahon. "Even as we were losing those matches in the middle, I kept telling everyone 'We're all right, we're all right.'"
And his advice to Olapo before he went out to the mat? "Just win, but be careful."
Miller had no defense against Olapo's aggressive and strong double leg attack as Olapo took him down and let him up time and again as the Falls' crowd chanted "Let's go Ayoola!" over and over again.
When the final whistle sounded, Olapo jumped to his feet and embraced his overjoyed teammates.
McMahon was happy for Olapo.
"I felt very confident sending him out there," said McMahon, "because he's been such a leader for us all year. Just a great kid with a great work ethic."
Morin just wishes his team could have been in better position at the end.
"Like I said, we needed to be up more, but those last two matches weren't the ones that lost it for us," he said. "They (the Indians) got the big matches with the add-on points and that was the story."
And now as Falls and Tosa prepare for the individual sectional tourney on Saturday at Oconomowoc, Coach McMahon just hopes everyone on the Indian side remembers this night.
"I hope this can now be the gold standard for the program," he said. "I read somewhere that it takes 10 years to build a program and here we are (11 years in). I'm excited for the Falls now. Kids want to wrestle, but it's a challenge, it's always a challenge."
"There's no easy route to the top."
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