Verona wrestler Jay Hanson and coach Bob Wozniak sat in the highest row of seats at the Kohl Center on Friday, Feb. 28, watching competitors in the consolation bracket at the Division 1 individual state tournament.
Hanson had his hopes of a medal dashed in the first round by Merrill senior Zach Iribarren, who pinned the sophomore heavyweight in 1:20 the previous day.
“I thought Jay wrestled well,” Wozniak said. “He tried to throw and missed it. He almost got out and scored an escape and reversal, but got his hips in a bad position and he (Iribarren) turned him.”
Hanson (40-8) entered the postseason ranked ninth in Division 1 by WiWrestling.com, but earned a tough draw. He did not have a chance to compete in the consolation bracket after the fifth-ranked Iribarren lost his quarterfinal bout by 3-2 decision to second-ranked Bay Port senior Max Meeuwsen.
“I should have slowed down and wrestled at my pace,” Hanson said. “I felt like I rushed things a bit.”
Iribarren went on to win his final four matches and place third, while Meeuwsen won his second consecutive state championship.
Hanson’s road to state began with him going under the knife. He had surgery last Jan. 25, 2019, to repair torn cartilage in his right hip and missed all of his freshman season.
“I went through six months of physical therapy, then slowly worked my way back to wrestling,” Hanson said. “I started the season around 80% healthy, but progressed all the way back to where I was.”
Hanson proved himself to be a state contender with a fifth-place finish at the B-State Classic on Dec. 28 and was consistent down the stretch. He placed second at the Big Eight Conference Tournament, won the Middleton Regional title and took second at the Verona Sectional to qualify for state.
Hanson was the only sophomore and one of two underclassmen (along with Stoughton freshman Griffin Empey) in the Division 1 heavyweight bracket.
“Coming here as a sophomore will make it easier for me next year,” Hanson said. “I’ll have a better routine, and I’ll work on getting faster and stronger to stay in shape.”
Verona advanced seven wrestlers to its own sectional, but only Hanson broke through to state. Wozniak and Hanson share a common goal of the heavyweight earning a medal at next year’s state tournament, as well as having more Wildcats on the Kohl Center mats.
“We’re going to get more guys here for sure,” Wozniak said. “A few sophomores and junior Ben Grandau are right on the cusp of qualifying.”