Englebert, Slezewski Wrestle at State Meet Thursday

Despite qualifying for the Division 3 state wrestling meet for the second consecutive year, Southern Door’s Grant Englebert took the proverbial back seat to teammate Griffin Slezewski. 

Englebert says he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Slezewski, 13 months removed from an Acute Myeloid Leukemia diagnosis and six months after battling a long treatment regimen that led to remission, placed third at 126 pounds in the Bonduel Sectional Saturday and qualified for the state meet. 

“I am so proud of Griff for everything he has overcome and how far he has made it since then,”  Englebert said of his friend since kindergarten. “Making it to state is enough of an accomplishment on its own, but considering what he has had to battle in order to even be on a wrestling mat makes it much more impressive to me. Griffin is a great example of determination and grit and I believe many people could learn a lot from him.”

Slezewski, a junior, qualified for the state meet his freshman year and placed sixth at 113 pounds. He was only the second freshman from Southern Door to qualify for the state meet and the first in 30 years. Slezewski was diagnosed with AML on Jan. 27, 2019, went into remission a month later and completed his fifth and final round of chemotherapy Aug. 1.

“I have just come to appreciate the journey I’ve been on knowing that there might be people not willing to do what it takes to get to where I want to be,” Slezewski said. “I do feel very proud of what I’ve done, but the work isn’t over yet.”

Slezewski started the day with a 4-2 decision over Crandon’s Brett Palubicki and secured a state tournament bid with a 4-3 win over Bonduel’s Tyson Bogacz in the semifinal. Down 3-0 to Rosholt’s Bo Niewiadomski in the final, Slezewski injured his ribs and fell 5-0. Still bothered by his injury, Coleman’s Will Bieber pinned Slezewski in less than a minute in the second place match.

“We went and talked to the physical trainer and she said it’s probably bruised cartilage between my ribs,” Slezewski said. “I’m going to take it easy for the next two days and let it heal up. I think we would have ended up taking the next few days easier because you need to prepare for the big matches coming up.”

Griffin Slezewski state 2020
Griffin Slezewski wrestles in the sectional final. Photo by Dave Walker.

Englebert opened with a pin over Rosholt’s Blade Niewiadomski at 152 pounds. After losing a tough 6-5 decision to Wabeno Area-Laona’s Ryan Roy, Englebert needed two more wins to qualify for the state meet. In the consolation semifinal, Englebert pinned Shiocton’s Parker Moder in the first period and then dominated Jakob Horton from Coleman 6-1 in the third place match.

“I wouldn’t say that qualifying was harder than I expected,” Englebert said. “I knew it would be a battle and I just didn’t come with the intensity I needed. I was very anxious all week and I will really focus on the mental side this week so I don’t end up with the same results. All the work has been put in at this point so there won’t be any major changes in conditioning or technique before state. I can definitely work on battling nerves.”

Southern Door’s third sectional participant, sophomore Brodie Overbeck, lost both of his matches by fall and finished 26-19 in only his second season of wrestling. 

“Brodie gave his best and gained some valuable experience,” Southern Door coach Jerry Englebert said. “His attitude, desire and work ethic will help him to improve quickly and steadily.  We’ll be looking for big things from Brodie next season.”

Slezewski and Englebert both wrestle Thursday evening at Kohl Center in Madison. Slezewski takes on freshman Ashton Meiss (23-6) from Riverdale, and Englebert will square off with Stratford’s Jacob Heiden (39-8). A win will move either wrestler to a Friday morning match against a sectional winner, and a loss is a season ender.

“That changes the mindset a little bit in that I have to be more prepared than I was last year,” Grant Englebert said about his elimination match. “I can’t afford to come out in a daze. Hopefully the experience of being there last year will help with that.”

For Slezewski, the confidence he gained upon his return to the mat increased as the season went along. He added that this state tournament has a much different feel than 2018.

“[State] seemed a lot farther away at the beginning of the season,” Slezewski said. “As I got more condition and more endurance it became more clear to me that it was possible. It will be a little different feeling just knowing that there will probably be a few more people watching me and supporting me.” 

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