The thunderous takedowns kept coming, and more and more spectators at Fort Atkinson High School began paying attention to Brookfield East's Larry Watson.
With a berth in the WIAA Division 1 state tournament on the line, Watson defeated the No. 2 wrestler in the state at 171 pounds, Mukwonago's Ryan Aprahamian, and won his flight in a dramatic 17-15 overtime decision at Saturday's sectional. Watson earned one of two East tickets to state and one of three local berths from Brookfield wrestlers overall.
"I felt I was better on my feet, and he's tough on top, so the longer the match went on, the more I realized I needed to score more points on my feet," Watson said. "I just took my opportunity and capitalized."
Aprahamian (44-3) entered the meeting ranked second in both state rankings systems, but he was repeatedly caught off guard by Watson's aggressive shots - the last of which came seven seconds into overtime after the two wrestlers captured the attention of all on hand in a 15-15 battle through regulation. Watson, who permitted several Aprahamian escapes to maintain the advantage he felt he had in neutral position, received a standing ovation after the victory.
"I felt it," Watson (38-7) said of the crowd. "I usually don't, but in a match like this, everyone was so loud. I couldn't ignore it. It helped a lot."
It will be Watson's second straight trip to the state meet, beginning Thursday at the Kohl Center in Madison.
"That's the top kid in the state, and Larry put it out there and the other kid put it out there," said East coach John Veal. "Larry was just the better man today. He showed a lot of heart and beat him on his feet. Everyone knew the match was going to go down to his feet. The guy wanted to wrestle on the mat. Larry hit a bunch of moves on his feet and held through. We just have to get him to go through the feet and keep the same focus."
Watson won both of his other matches on the day by major decision.
"Larry's a great wrestler, he's one of my best friends," said teammate Tyler Lecher, competing at 215 pounds. "I didn't doubt it for a second, I knew he'd pull it out in the end. There was no doubt in my mind."
The day was just as satisfying for Lecher (43-3) at 215 pounds, though perhaps not as dramatic. He won by pin and major decision before taking down Dakota Johnson of Elkhorn (32-6) in the title match, 15-4, earning his first ticket to state.
"I started getting really nervous," Lecher said. "Last year, it didn't finish like I hoped to, so this year I just focused on taking it to him every single second. I used every single move I can, didn't take any breaks, and it worked out the best for me."
Last year, Lecher fell in the wrestleback at the sectional, coming achingly close to the state meet.
Casey Dentino, who did qualify for state last year, fell just short at 119 pounds after a semifinal loss to Waterford's Kody Azarian. Dentino won the third-place match, but Azarian was awarded second place by rule.
Andy Wanta finished in the same boat at 140, falling to Cody Foerster of Fort Atkinson in the semis and taking third place when Foerster lost in the finals. East's other qualifiers, Stuart Jennings, Zech Copeland and John LeClaire, lost opening-round matches.
Day wins for Central
In a wide-open bracket at 152 pounds, Brookfield Central's Keith Day broke a 2-2 tie in the third period and went on to defeat Kyle Johnson of Waukesha South in the title match, 4-3, to advance to state.
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