By Rich Palzewic
MADISON – As a sophomore at Bay Port High School, Max Meeuwsen knew nothing about wrestling, but he joined the sport to better himself for football.
Two years later, Meeuwsen is now a two-time state champ on the mat.
Meeuwsen beat Menasha’s Cullen Quick 5-2 in the finals of the 285-pound weight class at the 77th Annual WIAA Division 1 Individual Wrestling Championship Tournament Feb. 29 in Madison.
An estimated 17,000 fans watched the finals from their seats inside the Kohl Center.
“It hasn’t hit me quite yet,” said Meeuwsen, who also helped lead the Pirates to the WIAA Division 1 football state title game last fall. “Once time moves forward, the realization I’m a state champ will be something great to look back upon. It shows I have amazing coaches. Everything I accomplished I owe to them and my practice partners.”
Meeuwsen said he didn’t have any doubts he could repeat his state title from the 2019 season.
He also said he was a bit more nervous this year compared to last season when he finished 43-1.
“I listened to my coaches, and they said it was possible to win again, so I believed them,” Meeuwsen said. “I put the same amount of effort and work into this year.”
Meeuwsen pinned Sheboygan North’s Cassius Rohadfox in the first round and then beat Merrill’s Zach Iribarren with a 3-2 decision to advance to the semifinals.
“I had some close matches throughout the tournament,” Meeuwsen said. “After an early takedown [against Iribarren], I’m not sure why, but I went more on the defensive, and things got close at the end.”
Meeuwsen pinned New Berlin’s Donoven Acevedo with two seconds remaining in his semifinal victory.
Meeuwsen said with 30 seconds left, he was down one but gained a point because Acevedo was called for stalling, tying the match.
“He tried to throw me with the score tied, but I sunk my hips and basically fell on top of him and closed it out,” he said.
Advancing to the title match, the 46-1 Meeuwsen had his 7-1 loss to Quick at the Feb. 21 Ashwaubenon Sectional meet on his mind.
“I got behind early in that match and had to play catch-up,” said Meeuwsen, who went a combined 89-2 in his last two seasons on the mat. “The coaches and I went over the [sectional] loss a few times and figured out what I did wrong. I definitely thought I could beat him if I faced him again.”
Meeuwsen said throughout the entire tournament, he and Quick crossed paths several times, but no words were ever exchanged.
“In my head, he was who I was going to face in the finals if I got that far,” said Meeuwsen, who gave Quick his only loss of the season in the finals. “I had to mentally prepare for that. I shook his hand before the match and then got the victory. Afterward, I told him to keep his head up, and we chatted a little bit about school.”
Meeuwsen is a Division 1 football commit to the Naval Academy and will head to Annapolis, Maryland, later this summer.