Burlington High School

Two tickets to Kaukauna

Burlington’s Jaden Bird scores a 7-5 win over Luca Paladino of Oak Creek in the finals of last Saturday’s WIAA Division 1 Sectional Meet in Brookfield. Bird (13-0) will compete in the state tournament this Saturday. He is slated to face Oscar Wilkowski (11-1), of Watertown, in the first round. (Photo by Michael Stefanich)

Bird, Koenen overcome toughest sectional to advance to state

By Mike Ramczyk


It’s on the mind of Burlington junior Andrew Karnes.

As he stood silently, yet intently watched a match at Saturday’s Brookfield Sectional, he couldn’t help but act a bit down, knowing he wasn’t going to advance to state.

Any other year, Karnes’ performance probably would’ve sent him to the state tournament, but this year the 28-team super sectionals offers nearly twice as much competition as regular years, when 16 teams make up more sectionals.

“I took third today at 160,” Karnes said during Saturday’s tournament. “I’m very happy with our performance and my performance. Maybe if I had a little more time before COVID, I maybe would have made it, but I wrestled my heart out.

“This COVID thing really threw us off. I did the best I possibly could. With more matches, I think I didn’t get myself figured out.”

Burlington just missed qualifying for team state after finishing third overall Saturday.

Waterford won the sectional, and Brookfield East took second, and those teams advance to WIAA Team State competition.

As for the Individual State meet, which takes place all day Saturday at Kaukauna High School, two Demons, Jaden Bird and Grant Koenen, will compete for state crowns.

Bird placed third in 2020, and his dominant sectional championship performance has him on the right path to winning it all, something his late brother Josh did in 2013 and 2015.

Josh Bird and Waterford wrestling head coach Tom Fitzpatrick are the only two Demons in Burlington High School history to win multiple state wrestling titles (both won 2).

For Burlington head coach Jade Gribble, it was tough to not see more kids move on.

Zeke Tiedt, a 220-pound powerhouse who zipped through his preliminary matches Saturday, fell in the second place wrestleback match at Brookfield, signifying the end of his season.

“The six kids that were here did great,” Gribble said. “We actually had a great day. We got two through.”

“JJ (Bird) is staying real composed and disciplined, and he’s really been mentally strong. He’s a pretty technically sound wrestler. He loves the sport and puts the time in.”

Koenen lost to senior superstar Hayden Halter of Waterford in the sectional title match, but he landed in second place.

The Demons will have their first matches at 9:30 a.m. Saturday for Division 1.

Divisions 2 and 3 will be at different high schools.

“Grant is really funky, not necessarily technically sound but dangerous in any position,” Gribble said.”

As for Karnes, Gribble calls him one of the hardest workers in the room.

“He goes hard all the time, so nobody at practice ever wants to wrestle him.”

Gribble added that Tiedt’s third-place performance was good, but the competition was tough.

Austin Skrundz took fifth place on Saturday.

As for state, the different venue with fewer competitors, only eight in each weight class, will be strange.

“To get kids on the podium,” Gribble said when asked about goals this weekend. “Six out of eight now place. It will be different.”

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