Falls' Daly and Olapo both state wrestling runners-up
First Indian finalists since 1981
Menomonee Falls wrestlers Aaron Daly and Ayoola Olapo are both looking to the future.
The dueling WIAA state runners-up who smiled at each other across a hotel room Saturday afternoon, imagining the march of champions yet to come that night and the potential of elusive state glory, of climbing the top step on the podium at the far end of the Kohl Center in Madison at the end of the evening, took two far different roads to get there.
They had heard the stories of Pat Koel, the only state champion in Falls history. A sturdy and reliable athlete who caught fire late and won the 138-pound crown in 1981 for old Falls East.
But there had been none to follow him to the finals, not in the decades that followed.
Until Saturday, when this new Indians pair were the talk of the tournament.
For Daly, the sophomore 106-pounder, who has spent a lifetime wrestling, he heard the great state stories from his Reedsburg-born, two-time state champion father, Tom, who used to battle current Indians coach Jim McMahon while the pair were in high school (McMahon is from Portage) before both their families gravitated to the Falls - where hard work and hope combined into a potent brew.
Aaron himself dreamed of a moments like that himself, one where he could share a knowing smile with his dad. For him, the future is still bright and shiny.
His opponent in the final, Nolan Shea of Milton, is someone whom he has seen many times in off-season events and he will likely see him again in the coming years at other state tournaments.
Daly took the first steps of all the finalists taking part Saturday night when the fanfare blared and the strobes flashed for that moment of moments, the march of champions.
Daly will return next year with the other powerful Falls lightweights, brothers Jerott (113 pounds) and Bill Holz (120), both of whom went 2-2 on the state mats during weekend.
And his dream is powerful.
"The moments were all so cool," Daly said. "I've never participated in anything like that (the march of champions). It was such a great moment, even the guy behind me seemed to be a fan of ours.
"… My goal next year, though, is to be in the same spot, and win it. Get to the top of the podium."
For the senior Olapo, the future is somewhat different. He came to the sport late: Just two-and-a-half years ago. He had been a speedy and strong forward for the Falls soccer team whose parents turned down his initial request to take up wrestling in seventh grade because they felt it was too rough.
But when former Indians wrestling coach Jeff Dillman recommended the sport to the athletic individual again his sophomore year, Olapo convinced his parents that this could be his athletic future.
And he convinced McMahon of that same fact a few days later.
"Not everyone who's talked into wrestling will turn out," McMahon said, "but we only had three practices with him (Olapo) and we could tell that this kid gets it. You could tell right away."
He split time on junior varsity and varsity his sophomore year, winning the combined Classic 8-Greater Metro junior varsity conference title.
"Guys do that, they're usually high-caliber varsity kids the next year," McMahon said.
And that proved to be the case, as Olapo, who took on the sport because he liked its mental and physical challenges and because it gave him a sport where his success would be wholly dependent on himself, earned his first state berth his junior year. He joined the Ringer's wrestling club in the off-season, improved his game and set his goals high.
"A state title is all I wanted," he said.
He and the Indians took on all-comers in a challenging schedule. He and they got better. He set a new school individual wins record with 48 this season and the Indians won team championship after team championship.
At state on Feb. 21, he celebrated a pivotal second-round state win over Hudson's Derek Schindler by running to the stands and hugging his mother.
Schindler had given him one of his two regular season losses.
But the fire burns bright in Olapo.
Disappointed in loss
His 5-2 loss to undefeated and national off-season champion Aaron Rothwell of Sheboygan North was difficult for him to understand. He pulled down the top of his singlet, sweat covering his body and he walked nearly the entire circumference of the Kohl Center trying to find solace and meaning.
He felt he had not used his great speed, his best asset, fully to his advantage this night.
McMahon had to work hard to make sure Olapo was able to get dressed and get to the medal stand, to collect the honors that were due him. He was a stoic and unsmiling figure on the stand.
But for Olapo, his wrestling future may be only beginning and the possibility for smiles may still be there in his newly adopted sport.
McMahon said that Olapo has caught the attention of college coaches, who see a diamond in the rough, someone who has great potential, but who doesn't have years of bad habits to wear away. Questions will be answered on what the future holds for this probable computer science major in the coming weeks and months.
The immediate future, however, holds more wrestling for Daly and Olapo as well as the Holz brothers and the Falls' team. A first-ever WIAA state team berth is in the offing on Friday at the UW-Madison Fieldhouse where they take on Bay Port at 7 p.m.
"We'll refocus by Friday," said a determined Olapo. "We will be ready."
Olapo and Daly
State finalists for Falls individual records at state
Daly 106: Defeated Ethan Averill of Kettle Moraine, 7-5; beat Xianou Xiong (Franklin), 5-1; beat Preston Ernst (Waunakee), 6-1; lost to Shea (Milton), 11-4.
Jerott Holz 113: Beat Noah Larson (Franklin) 13-0; lost to Bill Prochniewski (eventual champion Waukesha South), pin 5:06; beat Henry Prange (Bay Port), 5-0; lost to Eddie Smith (Sauk Prairie), 6-2.
Bill Holz 120: Beat Wyatt Davidson (DeForest), 7-0; lost to John Bird (Burlington), 5-2; beat David Granatelli (Appleton North), pin 2:50; lost to Kody Azaraian (Waterford), 4-2.
Olapo 182: beat Aaron Sweeney (Milton), 10-4; beat Schindler (Hudson), 3-1 overtime; beat Jordan Reisinger (Tomah), 3-2; lost to Rothwell (Sheboygan North), 5-2.
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