Drew Malicki’s wrestling style can be categorized as unorthodox. The same can absolutely be said about his path to the WIAA Division 1 state tournament.

The Waukesha North senior wasn’t even supposed to be at the sectional held at West Allis Central on Feb. 18 – an email just two days earlier told him otherwise. While he was there, he pulled some stunners and finished in second, good for a spot in the forthcoming state meet in Madison, beginning Feb. 23.

When he endured his own upset at the hands of Dawson Sayles of Waukesha South at the Brookfield Central regional Feb. 11, Malicki battled back to win his backdraw matches but ultimately finished in fifth place, with top-four finishers advancing to sectional. Sayles took fourth but had sustained a head injury at the regional.

“It was never confirmed that he had a concussion that would make him not participate,” Malicki said. “I didn’t know I was participating until Thursday night. I was practicing pretty laid back, thinking I’m done. I got the news on Thursday.”

Not a wrestler who follows conventional technique, Malicki (34-9) can be unpredictable. That sometimes leads to upset losses like the one at the regional and sometimes surprising wins, such as the opening-round upset over Jordan Danowski of Waterford at the sectional, a pin in 40 seconds.

“It makes me very hard to come at, not knowing what I’m going to do,” Malicki said. “Half the time, I don’t even know what I’m going to do before a match. You

just have to do what it takes. Sometimes you have to get taken down and build back up from it. Being unorthodox is kind of a benefit in wrestling. Someone can’t map out what you’re going to do. But it does give nerve-racking moments like that.”

Malicki followed that with another pin over Adam McNally of Muskego, then took a lead on Saif Ibraheem of Brookfield East on the final before slipping, 13-10. That led into a wrestleback with Hunter Bourdo of Mukwonago, who took a 7-0 lead in the opening period.

But in the final seconds of the period, Malicki turned Bourdo for a pin just as the buzzer sounded. Mukwonago coaches contended that the pin call came after time had expired.

“I didn’t see that outcome from where I was (in the match),” Malicki said. “I was in some bad positions in the start. In this sport, you can’t just stop. Even if you’re down 14 points, you can pin a kid. You have to keep going.

“It was actually just a basic Half (Nelson),” he added. “I had a left hand on the wrist, swung him over and slowly eased him over. It was probably the tightest Half Nelson I’ve ever had, and that was it. I was so happy when I heard the ref call it, and then there were some complications, and so it was nerve-racking.”

Malicki is the program’s first state qualifier since Cody Ybarra in 2010.

Gantz wins high-profile match

Battling No. 1-ranked Peyton Mocco of West Allis Hale at 152 pounds, Waukesha West’s Shane Gantz (38-1) landed a 7-5 victory in the title match for a sectional crown. Gantz was ranked No. 6 heading into the sectional.

“I wrestled at Higher Level, and one of my buddies wrestled him earlier and lost by 1 point, so he was giving me advice,” Gantz said. “I didn’t wrestle like a normally wrestle; I put my hands down because I knew he had a really nice double-leg (takedown). It was a tough adjustment at first, but once I got it, I practiced it a lot, all week. Starting last week right after regionals, I knew I was going to wrestle him in the finals.”

Gantz took sixth at last year’s state meet.