Bill Prochniewski never put his head down, figuratively or literally, and he walked away from the Kohl Center in Madison with his head held highest of all, a newly decorated state wrestling champion.
The Waukesha South senior won the 113-pound state title in Division 1, topping previously unbeaten Ben Thornton of La Crosse Central in the championship match, 8-4.
"I'm feeling great," Prochniewski said. "This is the best feeling ever. It's been four years of building and getting better over time and hoping I'd get there eventually."
The 2012 finish had been a bitter pill to swallow, after Prochniewski lost in a controversial overtime call to Bobby Nachreiner of Hartford in the semifinals, 6-4, and wound up taking third place at 106 pounds. He took fifth at 103 the previous year.
His mother, Mary Carlton, was on hand to witness her son's crowning achievement.
"I had the same recurring dream of going over to her right after (winning a state title)," he said "...This one is for her, my team and my coaches. ... My thought was, was that I never won (big) ever in kid's club and not in high school either, and that this was my last shot. And now I did it."
Prochniewski went down to the defending state champion Thornton early, 2-0, but racked up five points by employing a Granby roll and putting the Central senior on his back. The lead swelled to 7-2 on a second-period reverse, and Prochniewski rode out the third period before giving up a late two points.
"I just couldn't stop," Prochniewski said of the five-point maneuver. "I knew I could get it (the throw) if I just did the right things. And once I got the lead I knew I couldn't slow down. I didn't want to slow down and I didn't want the moment to stop."
South coach Ryan Green said Prochniewski finally got his reward for the hard work.
"The thing about him is that he never has his head down," Green said. "He is always wrestling at full speed. He just kept his feet moving at all times. It's why he never gets hit for stalling. He's also such a coachable kid. That was apparent his freshmen and sophomore years. If I want him to pick it up a little bit all I have to do is say something like 'tempo'. Just pick up the pace, he knows that's how you break a guy down. That just makes him so great to coach. It didn't take much to motivate him for this match. Even after yesterday (the semifinals), we just talked about not being done yet."
"His attitude is not 'Hey, maybe I can beat this guy.' He knows he can do it. This just means so much to him."
Prochniewski notched a major-decision win over Bay Port's Henry Prange to open the meet, then topped Jerott Holz of Menomonee Falls with a pin. In the semifinal against Collin Kraus of Stoughton, Prochniewski (47-2) notched an 8-6 win to reach his first final.
Thornton, who had not lost a match since falling in the championship match two years earlier, was in his third state final.
Milkent falls twice
Few wrestlers had to endure the gauntlet thrown at South heavyweight Brock Milkent, who met eventual state champion and No. 1-ranked Jessie Nelson of Stoughton in the opening round.
Milkent kept it very respectable, dropping a 5-3 count. He then drew No. 3-ranked Riley Budde of Beaver Dam in the second match and fell via pin, and Budde went on to take fourth.
Milkent finished 35-8.
Delapaz, Dentici fall
Nick Delapaz of Waukesha West had a similar uphill battle, meeting undefeated eventual state champion Jared Scharenbrock in the opening round.
Delapaz (25-13) was pinned in that match, as well as against fourth-place finisher Jordan Gundrum of West Bend East in the backdraw.
In Division 2, Catholic Memorial's Justin Dentici (39-6) dropped his only match at 182 pounds, 10-5 to Lucas Stephenson of Sturgeon Bay.