Clayton Whiting of Oconto Falls wins historic fourth WIAA wrestling title
Senior Clayton Whiting of Oconto Falls put the finishing touches to one of the best high school wrestling careers in state history Saturday at the Kohl Center in Madison, becoming the 22nd grappler to win four WIAA state championships.
Whiting beat Northwestern sophomore Ian Smith for the second straight season in the 182-pound Division 2 final, this time a major 17-5 decision.
He beat Smith in 2021 with a pin in 2 minutes and 27 seconds.
“Hours and hours of work, day and night, relentless belief in myself and my work is going to come out very positively,” Whiting said. “Just mental toughness and positivity over the last few years.
“It means a lot that my hard work is paying off and all those years of blood, sweat and tears have finally come true and I ended up getting my fourth tonight.”
The University of Missouri rookie is the second wrestler from the region to win four state titles and the first in more than a decade.
Former Luxembourg-Casco star Zac Cibula accomplished the feat from 2005 to 2008.
“My aggression was much more toned down,” Whiting said. “I didn’t want to rush anything, I didn’t want to make simple mistakes. My high crotch and double leg have been amazing all week, and now I just have to keep improving.
Whiting lived up to the high expectations he placed on his shoulders when he arrived in Oconto Falls four years ago. He said before his first state tournament as a freshman that he plans to win a title every year of his career.
Not only did he do it, he did it spectacularly.
He won the 152-pound title as a rookie with a major 9-0 decision and won the 170-pound title with a 17-1 technical fall ahead of his back-to-back performances against Smith.
Whiting hopes his legacy will help young wrestlers in the Oconto Falls program and others who aren’t even in high school yet, showing and motivating them that anything is possible with hard work.
With his decorated prep career over, it’s clear Whiting made the right choice when he was younger to focus entirely on wrestling.
He was a defensive end in football and played baseball growing up. Football didn’t work out because he figured he’d rather spend those training hours working on the mat. Baseball might have worked, except he was worried about getting hit with one.
His father always knew he would be a wrestler, just like he was when he was in high school. This victory and all the previous ones were as much for him as for Whiting.
“He pushed me so much for 14 years,” Whiting said. “Even more. I don’t even know. He pushed me every day. It’s in the gym. Practice. Work one-on-one with him sometimes.
“That’s why I always kept improving. I focus and want to keep improving when I make a mistake, and he notices. We are working on it. We talk about it. We are watching a film. He’s just been a huge help in my wrestling career, helping me improve and become a No. 1 guy.”
Now that he’s won all four state titles, Whiting needs another goal to focus on.
He’s thinking even bigger now, and at this point, who would dare doubt him?
“Try to win an Olympic gold medal,” Whiting said.
Mike Sherry of USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin contributed to this report.