Jon Wierzbicki knows Aric Bohn embodies the spirit of the Mukwonago wrestling program. The MHS wrestling coach believes Bohn has an old school feel to him mixed with a toughness few possess. On Feb. 25 at the Kohl Center in Madison, Bohn demonstrated that in more ways than one.
Wearing a Mukwonago singlet from the early 1990s at the WIAA Division 1 individual state tournament, Bohn put on a gritty performance in the 220-pound finals to win a state championship in his first trip to state. The state title was Mukwonago's seventh.
"For us, we just had a moment of perspective as coaches where two years ago he was an undersized freshman heavyweight," Wierzbicki said. "He started wrestling in middle school. It's just not your prototypical road map to a state championship, but what he does have is a ton of heart and fight. Everything we put in front of him, he does and then some. He has that intangible quality. He's a kid, growing up in Big Bend, he fits the personality of our program perfectly. He's just a grinder, has a high character and knows how to work. I couldn't be prouder than I am for him right now."
Against Hudson junior Cole Godbout (37-5), Bohn (40-7) trailed throughout the first period and into the second. Right at the end of the second period, Bohn scored a takedown to tie the match at 3. Ten seconds into the third period, Bohn scored a reversal for the 5-3 advantage. Godbout cut the lead to 1 after an escape, but it was all Bohn from there. The junior registered a takedown and three nearfall points for the 10-4 win.
"I just kept telling myself before my match that all I have to do is wrestle my best and leave nothing on the mat," Bohn said. "If I did that, the result is going to be what it needs to. I just knew if I wrestled to my best I was going to win that. Even if I didn't, I was going to be happy with the result."
Bohn had quite the challenge in the semifinals when he took on undefeated Wyatt Wells of Beaver Dam. Bohn and Wells were tied up with 10 seconds remaining in the third when Bohn shot for Wells' right leg and was able to get the takedown with a second to spare for the 3-1 victory. Earlier in the season, Wells beat Bohn in a tight decision.
"I knew I didn't wrestle my best that first match," Bohn said. "I knew there was a little something I left out there. You don't get many opportunities to do it again, so I knew I was just going to leave it out there this time."
A video slideshow showing the area's state wrestling champions and the runners-up from the Milwaukee-Waukesha area. Christopher Kuhagen/Now Media Group
Bohn also picked up wins by major decision and decision on the first day of the tournament. The state experience was even sweeter after not making state his first two seasons at Mukwonago.
"I don't know if I can explain how much that drove me," Bohn said. "I think I would have had that drive even if I did (qualify for state in the past), but that thought comes to my mind some days. It's a little hard in practice that I missed my two opportunities those two years, and I've only got two more left and I have to make the best of that."
Wierzbicki knew a tight sectional defeat last year was extra motivation this time around.
"I think last year being third in the sectional was something that motivated him every day," Wierzbicki said. "Just the whole journey, the time and energy put into it. Even his experience in football where he started both ways on the line and never left the field and just learned how to battle."
On the first day of the tournament on Feb. 23, Bohn had four stitches put in above his right eye. Bohn wrestled with the stitches, which broke open after his finals match, throughout the tournament.
Junior Aaron Schulist (34-5) finished fifth at 126 and became the only Mukwonago wrestler to medal three times at state as an underclassman. Schulist, a two-time state finalist, lost in his opening match to Hortonville's Jacob Barnett, who placed second, by tech fall. Schulist went on to win three more matches for fifth.
"I think for Aaron right now, it's 100 percent mental for him," Wierzbicki said. "Sometimes you put a little too much emphasis and maybe it bit him a little bit. I trust he is going to come out of this process better and stronger. It's a heck of a tournament. There's a lot of good kids out there. He still brought home a medal and took fifth. He was up a couple classes as a sophomore. In retrospect, obviously he was hoping for a higher placement, but he still came home with a medal and we've got him for another year. He'll come back even more motivated I'm sure."
Sophomore Jake Schulte (26-16), in his second trip to state, was defeated in his opening match at 120. Schulte did not have a wrestleback.
Mukwonago will have all three of its state competitors back next season, plus a strong group of underclassmen ready to return to team state.
"I think we all know where we want to be next year the week after this," Bohn said. "I think we're going to have a real tough team next year. I don't think there's going to be much screwing around. We're going to be a very focused team next year."