MADISON — Thomas Witkins was all right being higher in his leg ride than the textbook positioning describes as best practice.

The Fort Atkinson junior got an escape early in the third period to take the lead before finishing off a 1-0 decision against Mukwonago senior Maximus Berrios in his WIAA Division 1 individual state wrestleback at the Kohl Center in Madison on Friday.

Also in the Friday morning session, Jefferson senior Dean Neff earned a spot in the Division 2 semifinals with a 10-4 decision against Chilton/Hilbert senior Gaven Lisowe. Neff has taken sixth place and fifth place in his previous two seasons. He is the first Jefferson wrestler to make it to the semifinals since Quintin Gehrmann won his in 2018.

“(Dean) is relaxed and has been wrestling well,” Jefferson co-head coach Devin Weber said. “In years past, he would be over amped at times at the Kohl Center and this year he’s in a good place and is relaxes as I’ve seen him and above all ready to compete.”

The victory by Witkins earned him at least a spot on the podium with a pair of matches looming Saturday. It’s the first podium finish for a Fort Atkinson wrestler since Brady Hansen took sixth place at 182 pounds in 2014.

“That’s huge for him being a junior. I wasn’t real happy with that quarterfinals loss last night, I still think we should be in the semifinals,” Fort Atkinson coach Ryan Gerber said. “It’s huge for him and his progress for next year. It’s also important for the program.

“We talk about needing to get a guy in the state tournament every year. That’s important, but if we want to take the next step as a program, we need to be getting a guy on the podium. That’s big for him and as a junior doing it, it’s big because other people can see it and know that a Fort kid can do it if we’re resolute in our technique and stick to what we have to do.”

Ironically, Witkins wasn’t perfect in technique against Berrios. His hips rode up on the back of Berrios, but it was a position he was familiar with.

“It’s a feeling when you know you’re up on a guy, it’s just a feeling that you’re in bad position,” Wiktins said. “I’m not going to say it’s a good position to be in, but I’m comfortable being there because if I get high, I can break them down and flick their wrists out from under their quad pod.”

Heine, Gutoski eliminated in wrestlebacks

Fort Atkinson senior 220-pounder Mika Gutoski took a 3-3 tie into the third period but found himself on the wrong side of a scramble and was defeated, 7-5, by Frederick Kyles (37-9) of Brookfield Central. It was the first time the Blackhawks had two wrestlers at state since 2016.

Jefferson junior 182-pounder Aaron Heine lost two 8-0 major decisions and was eliminated after winning his first match Thursday with a 25-second pin.

Pronschinske, David pin out

Palmyra-Eagle senior Jake Pronschinske and Johnson Creek senior Lukas David each won their sectionals to earn a bye at the WIAA Division 3 individual state wrestling tournament. Both were pinned twice on Friday and eliminated from the tournament.

Pronschinske was the first qualifier for Palmyra-Eagle since 2015 and concluded his season with a 34-11 record.

David was the lone qualifier for tradition-rich Johnson Creek, which has had a state qualifier each year since 2009. His finished with a 36-7 record.Fort Atkinson senior 220-pounder Mika Gutoski took a 3-3 tie into the third period but found himself on the wrong side of a scramble and was defeated, 7-5, by Frederick Kyles (37-9) of Brookfield Central. It was the first time the Blackhawks had two wrestlers at state since 2016.

Though Gerber emphasized the historic significance for the program to have Witkins reach the podium, the Fort Atkinson junior downplayed it.

“It’s important, but I can’t be thinking about that,” Witkins said. “I think the fact that I’m wrestling one match at a time and worrying most about wrestling good and being good in my technique is the reason I’ve been doing as well as I have been.

“If I’m worrying about all that other stuff, I don’t know if I would be as good.”

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