FAB FIVE: Middleton ties record with five state titles in 2023-24

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Middleton's boys volleyball team won the state championship in Nov., 2023, one of five state titles MHS won in the 2023-24 school year./Times-Tribune photo by Rob Reischel

Middleton boys soccer coach Kevin Pauls called it “amazing.”

Cardinals girls swimming coach R.J. Leiferman used terms like “exciting” and “proud.”

And MHS boys volleyball coach Dylan Griffith said he was “very happy.”

It’s easy to see why as Middleton’s athletic department made history during the 2023-24 school year.

The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association and Wisconsin Independent Schools Athletic Association merged their organizations in the fall of 2000. In the time since then, Hartland Arrowhead set the record for most WIAA Division 1 state championships in one school year with five in the 2008-09 campaign.

Middleton matched that total during the 2023-24 school year, winning state titles in boys soccer, boys volleyball, girls swimming, boys swimming and boys lacrosse.

After tying Arrowhead for this historic achievement, those responsible for this remarkable feat were beaming.

“It is so amazing to see the success stories of so many programs in our community,” said Griffith, who led Middleton to its first-ever state title in boys volleyball. “Not only did we have the opportunity to make history in our program and sport, but got to make history in the state of Wisconsin.

“I think this a testament to the amazing support we all receive from athlete's families, our athletic department, and our community. It takes a lot of work and dedication to reach the top of the podium at the end of the season, so I'm just really happy to see so many young athletes succeed and live out their dreams.”

Pauls, who led Middleton to its first boys soccer title in 19 years, agreed.

“I think it's amazing to be in such a community,” Pauls said. “All the athletes, families, coaches working together for these accomplishments says a lot about our school and its people.”

While Middleton and Arrowhead now sit atop the record books with five state titles in the same school year, Muskego (2018-19) and Arrowhead (2023-24) are the only D1 schools with four titles since the merger.

Interestingly, Middleton defeated Arrowhead this past school year in the boys state volleyball finals and in the boys soccer sectional finals. Had those results been flipped, the Warhawks would have finished with at least five state titles, and perhaps six.

There have been 19 times Division 1 schools have captured three state titles since the merger. Milwaukee Marquette won three titles seven different times (2002-03, 2005-06, 2007-08, 2008-09, 2011-12, 2014-15, 2017-18), Arrowhead did so six times (2003-04, 2007-08, 2009-10, 2013-14, 2014-15, 2022-23), while Middleton (2019-2020), Brookfield Central (2003-04), Stevens Point (2003-04), Waukesha West (2005-06), Kimberly (2016-17) and Kaukauna (2020-21) all did it once.

Marquette leads all Division 1 schools with 52 state titles since the WIAA and WISAA merged, while Arrowhead is a close second at 51. Middleton has 22 state championships in that time, highlighted by its Fab Five in 2023-24.

“Our team is very grateful to be part of this accomplishment,” Leiferman said. “It is always exciting to see other sports from our school be successful, and we are proud to be able to represent our school and our community in such a positive way.”

Here’s a look at the five teams that helped Middleton make state history.



The Cardinals went 18-4-3 overall, upset top-seeded Arrowhead in the sectional finals and won a pair of games at state on penalty kicks.

Middleton and Marquette played to a 1-1 draw in the state semifinals, but the Cardinals prevailed in a shootout, 5-4. Middleton’s Carson Fitzgerald, Elliot Staresinic, Miles Benson, Brennan Mauer and Quinn Davis all connected on their penalty kicks.

Then in the state finals, Middleton and No. 1 ranked Brookfield East played to a 1-1 draw, before the Cardinals prevailed on penalty kicks, 4-2.

Fitzgerald, Staresinic, Benson and Mauer all converted their PKs in the championship match.

“It’s amazing,” Pauls said. “These kids have worked their (tails) off for — obviously most of their lives they’re playing soccer — but as far as this team goes, since August. Seeing how excited they are … I’m super happy for them.”



Twenty one minutes after Middleton’s soccer team won gold, the boys volleyball team did the same.

The Cardinals had five players post kill percentages of at least .200 and posted a 25-18, 21-25, 25-22, 24-26, 15-6 win over Arrowhead at the Resch Center.

Middleton finished the year 33-3.

The Cardinals were making their 14th trip to the state tournament, but had lost 10 consecutive matches at the state tournament. Not this time, though.

“From the beginning of the season, we set this out as one of our goals and we decided that we were going to do anything possible to get us there,” Middleton first-year coach Dylan Griffith said. “We bought into the culture that we set for ourselves this year and for our program. We bought into being the best possible teammates for each other … and we came into the tournament playing our absolute just craziest, best volleyball that I’ve seen from a high school team before.

“And it’s so surreal to have the first state championship in school history, let alone play in the first state championship in school history. It just completely goes out to the testament to every guy on this team.”



Verona entered the state meet seeded 21 points ahead of Middleton and the frontrunner to claim gold. But the Cardinals exceeded expectations at several spots and finished with 212.5 points to edge the runner-up Wildcats (202).

Arrowhead (198), Brookfield East (196) and the Badger co-op (163) rounded out the top five at a meet held at Waukesha South High School.

Verona held a 7.5-point lead over Middleton heading to the 400-yard freestyle relay.

But the Cardinals’ quartet of sophomore Sulia Miller, junior Audrey Alexander, freshman Brynn Sundell and Haag finished third overall. And when Verona settled for 10th place, the Cardinals passed the Wildcats for first place, then jumped into the pool to celebrate.

Middleton became the first-ever team champion that didn't have an individual winner during the meet. Instead, the Cardinals accomplished this with teamwork and a number of swims that exceeded expectations.

“Winning a state title is the reward for all of the hard work that our girls have put in this year,” said senior Piper Garcia Hall, who anchored two of Middleton’s relays. “We as a team have grown tremendously, as swimmers and as high school students. I personally have seen many of our girls grow into fine young women, and I couldn’t be prouder.”



This was the one state title where Middleton didn't have to sweat things out.

Middleton notched three first place finishes, had four second place showings and ran away with its second consecutive state title. The Cardinals finished with 273 points to easily outdistance runner-up Madison Memorial (178).

Middleton posted the largest margin of victory since 2016, when Madison Memorial won the meet by 112 points over runner-up Madison West. The Cardinals also won the third state title in school history, all coming since 2020.

“I would say that our goal is to get back and do it again next year,” standout sophomore Max Carter said. “We’re going to try and work our butts off and do it again.

“I wouldn’t take any other teammates. Like, to have this good of a sophomore class … it gets me excited that I’m going to be teammates with these guys for a few more years. We’re just excited about this one and ready to chase another.”



The Cardinals captured gold in the first season lacrosse was sanctioned as an official WIAA sport.

Middleton trailed Neenah, 6-5, in the closing minutes of the state championship match.

Roan Johnson scored the tying goal with 1:27 remaining and his brother, Arjay, notched the game-winner with 37 ticks left to propel the Cardinals past the Rockets.

Middleton finished the season with an 18-game winning streak and went 19-3 overall.

“For this group of seniors, this is everything,” Middleton coach Nate Lutterman said. “We had 19 seniors on this team, and they put in so much work. This was a team that had so many chances to give up. We were down two goals to Kettle Moraine, and we were down one goal here. So many chances, and we kept responding.”

Middleton responded from start to finish in 2023-24, on its way to tying the state record for most championships in a single school year.

“It’s an incredible accomplishment and a testament to the good work of the athletic department and those in charge,” Lutterman said of Middleton’s five titles. “We are lucky to be in a great community with great athletic leadership and I think the results are expected when you put the pieces in place to let our kids excel.”

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