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State Champs: for family
Div. 3: 106 lbs Aidan Gruenenfelder Pec-Argyle
s022824_ONE Aidan Gruenenfelder
Pecatonica-Argyle’s Aidan Gruenenfelder won Division 3 state wrestling title this past weekend at the Kohl Center in Madison. Gruenenfelder (106 lbs) won 1-0 over Marathon’s Blake Underwood. - photo by Natalie Dillon

MADISON — After winning the WIAA individual state title, Aidan Gruenenfelder immediately went to the stands where his family was waiting with open arms — but there was one special person missing.

Aidan’s grandfather, Gary Gruenenfelder, was struck and killed by a drunk driver on Dec. 5, 2023. Gary was an avid wrestling fan and supported Aidan at his events. 

“My grandpa passed away in December,” Aidan said. “It was tough, but I know he’s up above watching me and cheering me on from the front row, like always.”

The following weekend at the Waunakee Warrior Invite Aidan picked up his 100th career win, took first in his weight class and was named the most outstanding wrestler of the tournament.

Aidan carried that motivation and support through to the WIAA individual state wrestling tournament, where he won the 106-pound Division 3 title on Saturday, Feb. 24. 

Entering the tournament, Aidan received the No. 1 seed with a 50-1 record. His lone loss was a 5-2 decision at the Mid-States Wrestling Classic to Bruno Cassioppi of Hononegah, who is ranked No. 4 in Illinois’s 3A Division. 

Aidan Gruenenfelder immediately went to the stands where his family was waiting with open arms. - photo by Natalie Dillon

Although his perfect season was chased, Aidan knew it was for the better. In 2023, Aidan entered the WIAA individual state tournament 48-0. He suffered his only loss of the season in the championship to Drew Dolphin.

“I feel as if my loss earlier this season most definitely prepared me for the 2024 state tournament,” Aidan said. “It’s better to take a loss during the season instead of when it really matters at the Kohl Center.”

This year at state, Aidan pinned Parker Mlsna in the quarterfinal. In the semifinal, he defeated Reegan Roy by tech fall, 19-3, setting up the championship match against Blake Underwood. 

Underwood, the No. 2 seed, also entered the 2024 tournament with just one loss — but Aidan had the upper hand. A season ago, Aidan defeated Underwood 2-1 in the semifinals.

In the first period of the 2024 state tournament championship, neither Aidan nor Underwood earned a point. Aidan chose the down position to start the second period and scored on an escape — the only point of the match. In the third period, Aidan held Underwood down the entire two minutes to clinch the title.

“I was just looking for my turns. I couldn’t get any, but it worked out,” Aidan said. “Winning your first time shows that if you put in the work, it works out in your favor. All that training was worth it in the end.”

Aidan just the second state champion wrestler in Pecatonica school history — Gene Spellman won back-to-back 113-pound titles in 1980 and 1981.