Madden not just a face in the crowd
Madden goes from bystander to conference champion
A fter Mukwonago's wrestling team put the finishing touches on a 44-25 dual win over Muskego on Dec. 13, a familiar face came down from the bleachers to speak to Indians wrestling coach Jon Wierzbicki.
It was Mayson Madden, a former wrestler in the program who had decided to walk away from the sport after his sophomore year. Now a senior, he wanted to right a decision that he said he has "regretted ever since."
"My littlest brother was sitting next to me (at the dual) saying, 'Mayson, why don't you do this (wrestle)?'" Madden said. "I couldn't give him an answer."
Wierzbicki gave Madden a list of things he needed to do before ascending to full-time varsity status. A month and a half later, Madden was a conference champion, and he's one reason why the Indians are team champion, as well.
Madden's underdog story fits neatly into the context of the team title for MHS, which edged Arrowhead for the fourth time in five years despite falling in the dual-meet season to the Warhawks on each occasion. Mukwonago overcame injuries and pulled in titles from Madden (182 pounds), Kirk Zylke (160) and Will Hendriksen - whose story might be the best of all after he won the JV conference title and filled one of the sudden vacancies on varsity to take the 170-pound title.
"The biggest thing for us was just how we responded to adversity," Wierzbicki said. "We had our starter out at 220, Mitch Geisler, who was in a car accident. We lost Alex Winski about Friday at 5 p.m. with an injury at practice that was an absolute crazy thing. Andrew Williams was out with illness, so we were really minus three starters. Somehow we found a way."
Every entrant took fourth place or higher. Zylke defeated Zach Barbee of Arrowhead, 6-3, Hendriksen beat Joseph Bergren of Arrowhead with a pin in 3:13, and Madden scored a 12-6 win over Catholic Memorial's Justin Dentici, who came in with a 34-4 record and possessed the bracket's top seed.
"Mayson really controlled things and wrestled well," Wierzbicki said. "It's unusual to have an athlete come out midyear and have his sights set on the state tournament and doing some of those things, but his energy and enthusiasm has been very refreshing through the second half of the year, and he's done everything right."
Change of course
Madden pinned his man at 171 pounds in the team state semifinal against Arrowhead in early 2011, though the Indians lost the dual, 36-28. The team moved up state-ranked Ryan Aprahamian up to 189 in that match, leaving Madden to compete at 171.
"I was Ryan Aprahamian's beat-up doll for two years," Madden said with a laugh, referring to practices against Aprahamian. "I got better if I think about it, but football and lifting weights was something that I actually enjoyed, so I quit wrestling. I never should have done it."
Wierzbicki said Madden has been frank about his love-hate relationship with wrestling.
"All his uncles, his father, his cousins, they all wrestled, and he comes from a big Mukwonago wrestling family," Wierzbicki said. "His uncle Dan ran our youth club for years. He took third in the conference as a freshman but had some injuries and ended up being Aprahamian as sophomore. He came to a couple offseason things as a junior and came to sign up but decided he didn't want to do it. It wasn't hard feelings or anything like that. I know how much he loves football and was putting in all the preparation with morning lifts in football. He hit a point where he just missed it.
"Maybe his family was giving him the nudge over Thanksgiving turkey and gravy about doing it, about just having fun with it, and I think that's been a real key to his success. He doesn't overthink it, he just has fun. He's athletic, powerful, putting a lot of time in the weight room; he's the exact kind of athlete that you need to have on your team to be successful with the new Federation eight classes, those football kids that are able to execute. He's learning something every night."
Wierzbicki said he wouldn't give Madden much information about the wrestlers he was up against. That included a strong showing at the Burlington Duals, when Madden defeated state-ranked Tom Mitchell of South Milwaukee and Brady Hansen of Fort Atkinson without knowing their standing.
"State rankings mean the guys work hard and get people to notice them, but wrestling is wrestling, and it's just about working hard each time," Madden said.
Dentici was honorable mention in the Division 2 state ranks.
"I had to plan a lot," Madden said of his title clincher. "He had bear paws, he's a really strong guy, and it was a really good match. I had to make sure I was aware where I put my body. It was a lot of fun to wrestle him, I had to think before I'd do, and then I'd just have to go with it.
"I'm happy it happened, but I can't quit now, I've still got two more weeks, hopefully we can get to team state."
Wierzbicki said he doesn't believe a wrestler has ever before won a JV crown and the varsity title in the same year, as was the case for Hendriksen.
"To say it was surprising is an understatement," Wierzbicki said. "Will defeated a teammate (Jon Ryback) in the finals at JV conference, so we have some pretty serious depth there. It's a real testament to it when we can have some JV guys step in there. It's kind of the magic of high school sports. He has just quietly gotten better and better."
Competing in perhaps the most loaded bracket at the tourney, Nathan Smith took down honorable-mention state-ranked Nick Palzkill of Waukesha West (24-2) at 106 with an ultimate tiebreaker in the semifinal before falling to Aidan Yde in the final. Darius Schwartz took second at 120 before meeting Austin Quartullo of Muskego, the No. 1 ranked wrestler in his class.
Mitch Major placed second at 195, falling to Noah Martinez of KM in the final, 6-5. It was a solid improvement for a wrestler who was a JV conference runner up one year earlier and now has 30 wins on the season.
Brothers Hank and Joe Mattson were their usual steady selves, both taking second place.
Tyler Wozny added a third place at 152 pounds, and Nick Armstrong took third at 113 while Nate Arquinego took third at 126.
Tom Stingl, who moved down to 220 pounds with Geisler unavailable, placed third as well.
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