Middleton's top boys' performances in 2018-'19

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Middleton’s boys golf team (above), led by second-team all-state player Kip Sullivan (below), finished second at state and captured ‘Team of the Year’ honors from the Middleton Times-Tribune./File photo

It was another sensational year for the sports teams at Middleton High School, where the Cardinals remained a model of consistency both in the Big Eight Conference and across the state.

Of course, some achievements rank as the best of the best. Here’s one person’s opinion of that list.

We will hand out boys’ awards this week, and girls’ awards next week.

Team of the year: Golf

One year after a disappointing sixth place finish at the WIAA Division 1 state tournament, Middleton notched a second-place finish. That meant the Cardinals received a large runner-up trophy and a fire truck escort through Middleton.

Mighty Milwaukee Marquette won its third state title in four years after setting a new state record with a two-day total of 594. Middleton was second at 614, while Lake Geneva Badger (623), Kaukauna (624) and Wauwatosa East/West (627) rounded out the top five.

“Marquette’s a pretty tough team to beat, so to get second and beat everybody else is almost as good as we could have hoped for,” said Cardinals’ junior Kip Sullivan, who was Middleton’s low-man with a two-day score of 151. “It was really awesome. I’m so proud of our guys. We showed up this week and did what we needed to do.”

Middleton coach Tom Cabalka agreed.

“Every time something like this happens and a crew like this comes along, it’s pretty special,” Cabalka said. “I speak of all those other kids we’ve had, but I also speak so very highly of these kids. They worked hard all season long. Their goal was to get here and their goal was to play well and we played well.”

They sure did.

Sullivan finished 12th individually, while sophomore Jacob Beckman tied for 16th with a 152. Junior Tommy Kriewaldt fired a 156 and tied for 26th overall, while Middleton also counted an opening round 75 from junior Carson Frisch and a second-day 80 from sophomore Tim O’Malley.

“This year, our goal was to be top-two, so it’s amazing that we met that,” Kriewaldt said. “We wanted to win, but it’s hard to win when you have Marquette in front of you.

“It’s just a great moment. State is just so fun, especially in this final group. So, I just wanted to enjoy the moment.”

Middleton got off to a terrific start during Monday’s opening round, shooting a 303-team score and surging into second place. Marquette led the field with a 296, while Badger (306), Wauwatosa East/West (310) and both Menomonee Falls and Kaukauna (315 each) rounded out the top five.

“I think 303 is probably one of our better scores this year,” Kreiwaldt said. “I think it really set the tone, then we all played really solid (Tuesday). I think it just showed who we were.”

Any visions Middleton had of catching Marquette vanished early on Day 2 as the Hilltoppers refused to blink and only got stronger as the round progressed. Instead, the Cardinals focused on holding off the gaggle of teams chasing them for second.

“It wasn’t that we made a lot of mistakes (Tuesday),” Cabalka said. “We just didn’t give ourselves many opportunities to catch a team like Marquette. And you know they’re just not going to hurt themselves. But overall, we just had two good, solid days.”

Middleton’s state tournament run capped a season in which it won the Big Eight Conference’s dual meet title and postseason championship, then finished first at the Wisconsin Rapids Sectional.

Sullivan was named second-team all-state, Beckman received third-team honors and both Kriewaldt and Frisch were named honorable-mention all-state. Sullivan, Beckman and Frisch were also named first-team all-Big Eight Conference, and Kriewaldt received second-team honors.

As thrilling as state proved to be this year, the 2020 campaign could be even better for these Cardinals. Middleton will return all five of its golfers next year, while three of Marquette’s top five graduated. 

The best of times? They could certainly continue for these Cardinals.

“Next year? I have a good feeling about next year,” Sullivan said. “I’m not going to say anything profound, but I think the target on us has definitely shifted from us being the underdogs to being the frontrunners, which is awesome. That’s exactly what we wanted.”

And what they achieved — thanks to a memorable performance at state.

Honorable mention: Boys cross country (second at state), boys swimming (second at state), boys tennis (state quarterfinals).


Coach of the year: Tony Mirasola, tennis

Mirasola made his first year with the Cardinals a memorable one.

First, Mirasola led Middleton to a first place finish at the Big Eight Conference tournament.

“It feels good. It’s exciting,” Mirasola said. “We’ve just got a great group of kids overall. This was one of their goals.”

The Cardinals then won the WIAA Division 1 Madison Memorial Sectional and qualified for state as a team. Middleton also advanced two doubles teams and top singles player Ryan Gold to the individual state tournament.

At individual state, Gold finished in fifth place in the singles division. And on the doubles side, Sam Dettman and Brandon Bodak also finished fifth.

Middleton’s No. 2 doubles team of senior Alton Yan and sophomore Gene Kim also reached the second round at individual state.

“It was a great weekend with two podium finishes,” Mirasola said. “Only one other school had that.”

The highlight of the year, though, came one week later when Middleton rallied past Hartland Arrowhead, 4-3, in the first round of the state team tournament.

Middleton dropped an exciting 4-3 decision to eventual state champion Milwaukee Marquette in the state semifinals the following day. But the Cardinals’ win over Arrowhead will be talked about for years to come.

Middleton trailed Arrowhead, 3-1, after matches in the lower flights were completed. That meant the Cardinals had to win the final three matches of the night to advance.

Dettman and Bodak took care of their business, defeating Arrowhead’s Sam Kredell and Jared Pietilla, 6-1, 6-4, at No. 1 doubles. At No. 2 doubles, Yan and Kim posted an impressive 7-6 (2), 1-6, 6-3 win over Warhawks’ sophomore Quin Dubofsky and freshman Alex Deubel.

“I knew going in that Arrowhead was a super deep team,” Mirasola said. “And I knew the way the format works, you play those lower flights first, so there was the potential to go down early. But we did a great job fighting back, and that’s a credit to those guys. I think they played better because of it.”

That left the match up to Middleton freshman Ian Connell and Arrowhead junior Cole Contardi at No. 3 singles.

The match took nearly three hours. And the final set alone lasted 75 minutes.

Eventually, though, Connell pulled out a thrilling, dramatic, unforgettable 6-2, 5-7, 7-6 (8) win.

“That was the most tired I’ve ever been,” Connell said. “I just dug deep and tried my best.”

Contardi seemingly had Connell on the ropes early in the third set, though. Contardi — who won the final three games of the second set — also won the first two games of the third set and jumped to a 2-0 lead.

“I was really, really tired,” Connell said. “I just had to take it one step at a time, one point at a time.”

He did. Connell quickly evened the set, 2-2, before another Contardi break helped him surge to a 4-2 edge.

After both players held serve giving Contardi a 5-3 lead, Connell fell behind 0-30 on his own serve and was two points from being eliminated.

“It felt like he was hanging on for dear life,” Mirasola said. “But he did. Every single time. He was fighting the fight and was able to flip the switch at the perfect time.”

This was one of those times.

Connell rattled off seven straight points — the first four allowing him to hold serve and pull within 5-4, and the next three leading to a service break that evened the match, 5-5.

Contardi regained momentum by breaking Connell and taking a 6-5 lead. But Connell responded by breaking right back and sending the match to a tiebreaker.

There, Connell jumped to a 6-3 lead, giving him three match points. But Contardi fought off all three points and won five of six points overall to take an 8-7 lead and earn a match point of his own at 8-7.

Connell responded, though, by winning the next two points on his own serve to take a 9-8 lead. Then, on Connell’s fourth match point of the night, Contardi double faulted. And 4 hours, 38 minutes after the Cardinals and Warhawks began their match, Middleton rejoiced.

“It was relieving, but I also felt bad for him,” Connell said. “You never want it to end on a double fault. But I would say that was one of my best matches. I played pretty well.”

Middleton played extremely well all season under Mirasola’s tutelage, which is why he received Coach of the Year honors.

Honorable mention: Tom Cabalka (golf), Brian Finnel (cross country), Ben White (volleyball), Danny Lynam (swimming)


Performance of the year: Dylan Griffith, volleyball

Griffith, a senior libero, was named first-team all-Big Eight Conference and first-team all-state. 

Griffith, a tri-captain, led the Cardinals with 388 digs, the third-most of the rally scoring era. Griffith also had 47 aces and a 2.32 passing average — which both were Middleton’s second-best figures of the rally scoring-era.

Griffith finished second in school history in digs (615), 10th in career aces (72) and had the best passing average in school history since rally scoring began (2.25).

“I think one of the absolute highlights of the season came at the banquet when Dylan found out he was first team all-state,” Middleton coach Ben White said. “The look of joy and shock was so genuine and real, that it made everyone either smile or cry.

“Dylan has done everything the right way and put in more time and effort on his game than anyone I know. His form is textbook. Everything he does he does with precision. And he plays within himself. Always calm and cool. Never rattled.

“We as a coaching staff are so proud of all he has accomplished. He waited his time to be Libero. We were also impressed at the leader he became. He grew so much as a person from freshmen to senior year.”

Griffith’s steady play helped Middleton reach the state tournament for the sixth straight year. The Cardinals joined Waukesha (1950-1961) and Milwaukee Marquette (2002-2018) as the only schools in Wisconsin history to reach the state tournament in six consecutive years.

“It was a lot of fun and that’s why this was so disappointing because this is such a fun group to be around,” White said. “Every day there was a lot of laughter and a lot of fun and we loved ‘em. 

Honorable mention: Kevin Meicher (wrestling), Andrew Martin (swimming)


Senior athlete of the year: Caleb Easton (cross country, track and field)

Easton, a Northern Arizona recruit, began his senior season by finishing fourth at the WIAA Division 1 boys cross country meet and leading the Cardinals to a second place finish as a team.

Middleton, the 2017 state champion, was disappointed in its runner-up. Neenah won the title with 122 points, while the Cardinals finished with 131.

Middleton was battling a bevy of injuries, though, when state arrived. And afterwards Easton found some positives after the Cardinals’ performance.

“This year will definitely be remembered as a year of rolling with the punches,” Easton said. “Not every race will be ideal, but you have to work with your situation that you are given. Overall this team means the world to me. They have shaped me as an athlete and as a person and I am very lucky to have them.”

Seven months later at the state track and field meet, Easton helped Middleton’s 3,200-meter relay team win a state title. There, Easton teamed with junior Zach Leffel, senior Michael Madoch and junior Braedon Gilles to win the race.

Easton said with all four runners returning from last year’s distance relay, winning a state championship was their primary focus all season.

“We were pretty confident we could do this,” Easton said. “We have a very deep team. We have a lot of younger guys coming up doing great things. A lot of guys who were really close to qualifying for state in their events.

“So I think we were pretty confident about these four. We’ve been running together forever. We’re all best friends. We’d do anything for each other. That gives us a good advantage over the other teams.”

Later, Easton finished third in the star-studded 1,600-meter run trailing only two-time state champion Drew Bosley of Mequon Homestead (4:12.14) and runner-up Rowen Ellenberg of Kimberly (4:12.28).

“Those guys are really good,” said Easton, who finished runner-up to Bosley in the 1,600 at state a year ago. “Hats off to them. They had a really good race, better than mine today.”

Overall, Easton’s strong showing at state helped Middleton finish 11th overall.

Honorable mention: Kevin Meicher (football/wrestling), Sam Dettman (volleyball/tennis), Matt Ballweg (volleyball/baseball), Sam Close (football/basketball)


Breakthrough athlete of the year: Kallion Buckner, football

Buckner entered the season without ever having carried the ball in a varsity football game.

Then he proceeded to run for 1,134 yards, averaged 7.9 yards per carry and rushed for 13 touchdowns during a memorable 2018 campaign. Buckner also caught eight passes for 104 yards (13.0) and a TD.

“His vision, patience and speed were all assets that enabled him to be so good,” former Middleton head coach Tim Simon said of Buckner. “And his explosiveness allowed him to be a threat for a big play on any given snap.”

Buckner had several sensational games throughout the year.

He ran for a season-high 202 yards and two touchdowns against Verona. He had three touchdowns and 146 yards vs. Madison East.

He rushed for more than 100 yards seven times and had four multi-touchdown games.

Then in Middleton’s 42-36 playoff loss to Sun Prairie, Buckner had three touchdowns and 113 rushing yards. Buckner had a 60-yard receiving touchdown, a 63-yard touchdown run and a 97-yard kickoff return for a score.

“He’s pretty unstoppable,” Middleton quarterback Bryce Carey said of Buckner. “He’s a special talent and I know he’ll do great next year and I’m sure he'll play at the next level, too.”

The exciting thing for Middleton’s football program is it has Buckner for one more season.

Honorable mention: Parker Van Buren (volleyball/basketball),


Event of the year: Boys state swim meet

Middleton had a bevy of memorable moments as it finished second to Madison West at the WIAA Division 1 state swim meet in February. The Regents finished with 314 points, while the Cardinals ended with 257.

One of those terrific performances came from Middleton’s foursome of senior Archer Parkin, junior Nate Lamers, senior Andrew Martin and junior Forrest Peterson, who won the 200-yard freestyle relay in a state record time of one minute, 23.12 seconds.

“That was a pretty incredible race,” Martin said. “I was so excited, everyone was just swimming lights out. You could tell we wanted it so bad.

“Forrest coming home, bringing it, really blasted the last split. Nate Lamers, Archer Parkin had incredible swims. That was one of my favorite relays that I’ve ever been on. To have that state record it’s very, very exciting and it’s just a testament to how hard everyone on that relay’s been working this season.”

The fact the Cardinals beat out West, which also broke the state record, made the victory even sweeter.

“That was one of the ones we were going for,” Middleton coach Danny Lynam said. “We’ve kind of been running neck and neck with them all season, back and forth and we really wanted to get that one and the guys went out and got it.”

Lamers agreed.

“We barely missed the state record at sectionals,” Lamers said. “We were really shooting for that state record. We were pretty sure we had the first place down. I saw my split, I saw Andrew’s split and I just knew that we had it. It was just a fun moment, not only winning, but also to get a state record.”

Middleton beat out Sauk Prairie/Wisconsin Heights’ 2009 record of 1:24.32. West finished in 1:23.68.

The relay performance helped Middleton finish second for the third time in school history. The others came in 2000 and 2018.

“We swam as fast as we’d hoped,” Middleton coach Danny Lynam said. “We had a great sectional meet. Sometimes it’s really nerve-wracking to have a really good sectional, you’re not quite sure if you can repeat it at state and the guys just blew it out of the water. They just kept dropping times, kept getting faster and it was a great meet for us.”

While the Cardinals were hoping for a first-place finish, especially after dropping a 384.0-383.5 thriller to West at the Middleton Sectional, there was no disappointment in placing second.

“We were hoping for first, but honestly, all of us swam so well,” Martin said. “I couldn’t have hoped for anything better for the boys. We know we gave our hearts for that race, every single one of those races, and it just so happened that West also did. I’m very proud of the boys, I’m not sad at all that we got second. We did everything that we possibly could. We worked so hard.”

“They’re a great team,” Lamers said of West. “Hopefully we can come back next year and maybe go for that first place spot, but I think right now, I’m happy with what we got.”

After West and Middleton, Waukesha South/Catholic Memorial was a distant third with 161 points. Franklin (157.0) and Brookfield Central/East (131.50) rounded out the top five.

“We had great races all around,” Lamers said. “It was just a lot of fun.”

Honorable mention: Boys basketball — Middleton notches rare win over Madison Memorial; Boys volleyball — Middleton rallies past Kettle Moraine in sectional finals and earns trip to state.


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