Undefeated championSuperior’s Niko Bogojevic finished his high school wrestling career with a 48-0 record and state title
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
For the first time in more than four decades, Superior High School has a state wrestling champion.
SHS senior Niko Bogojevic rolled through last week’s Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association state wrestling tournament and won the 285-pound championship match to end his season with a 48-0 record.
“I’ve got a little wrestling blood in me I guess,” Bogojevic said.
He’s not joking. Tracing Bogojevic’s heritage along his mother’s side of the family tree, he has a ancestor who was also a skilled wrestler — his great-grandmother.
“She was my size, 5-foot-5 and about 280 (pounds),” Bogojevic said. “They called her ‘Cattle Kate;’ I don’t know her real name.
“My great-grandmother had seven kids. She was a big Greek woman,” Bogojevic continued. “Back then they didn’t have any welfare, and she didn’t want to have anyone take her kids away.”
So Bogojevic’s great-grandmother worked odd jobs and took on whatever employment she could find to scrape together enough cash for her family. One of the jobs she came across during that time was a wrestling act.
“That was her night job — go wrestle in the carnivals,” Bogojevic said. “She’d throw her best friend around and my mom said after that she’d have coffee with her.”
Bogojevic seems to have inherited not only his great-grandmother’s knack for wrestling but also her civility after a match ends.
“Niko was always very gracious,” said SHS wrestling coach Bill Gedde. “He would take them down, pin them, help them up and send them on their way. He was all business-like, never embarrassing anybody. He’s just very humble, and because of that, coaches, referees and fans just think the world of Niko.”
Bogojevic’s classiness helped him draw opponents this year. According to Gedde, many area coaches hesitated to send their 285-pound wrestlers to face Bogojevic. They would just as soon accept a forfeit. Often it took words of persuasion from Gedde to set the matches.
“We all know Niko is something very special,” Gedde said. “I would tell coaches, ‘I think you should send your boy out there so someday he’ll be able to say, I wrestled Niko.’ When I approached it from that point the coaches would send the boy out there.”
In most of his regular season matches, Bogojevic had his opponents pinned to the mat very quickly. That trend continued when he opened state tournament action Thursday.
In his first match, Bogojevic defeated Seth Brand of Reedsburg Area with a pin in just 37 seconds. Bogojevic’s pin was the fastest of day. Later on Thursday he defeated Jake Schall of Slinger in a 5-2 decision.
Bogojevic advanced to the title match with a 5-1 decision over Kenosha Tremper’s Najee Parker (48-3) Friday night, and on Saturday he pinned South Milwaukee’s Bill Mitchell (18-1) in 4:37 to earn the 285-pound title.
“It was a big relief on Saturday night because that was probably my most frustrating style,” Bogojevic said. “I’ve had a lot of downfalls in that style, and it was just a relief to finally win that.”
Now that he’s finished the season undefeated, it’s been some time now since Bogojevic has known the feeling of losing. The last time Bogojevic suffered a loss in a WIAA event was at the 2009 state tournament.
Bogojevic entered the 2009 state meet with a 37-4 record and faced Richard Skaife of DeForest in the first round. Bogojevic fought hard but lost a 3-2 decision in double overtime to end his tournament hopes early.
“When I had that loss from state, I believe it made me better because it made me realize I’ve been doing this for so long, I’m putting in all this time and effort and money, I should be winning titles,” Bogojevic said. “Before going to Nationals I said, ‘You know what, no more losing.’ And no one scored a point on me the whole summer in Greco.”
During the summer, Bogojevic wrestles in numerous state and national tournaments. In July, he faced wrestlers from across the country in one of the premier events, the Junior and Cadet National Wrestling Championships held in Fargo, N.D.
Bogojevic took first place in the Greco event and third place in the folkstyle event, which drew the attention of an assistant coach from the University of Wisconsin. The Badger coach approached Bogojevic at the tournemant, and by November the SHS senior had signed with Wisconsin.
“I wasn’t really good at any other sports,” Bogojevic said. “Like football I was decent at, but I wasn’t really good at those fancy sports.”
Spartan football coach Bob DeMeyer would probably love to have a team filled with “decent” players. Bogojevic anchored Superior’s defensive line and was named to the Big Rivers Conference All-Conference first defensive team as both a junior and a senior.
His success in football aside, wrestling has always been Bogojevic’s choice sport.
Bogojevic’s love of wrestling began early. He started wrestling in first grade and was a fan of professional wrestling as a boy.
“I watched a lot of old pro wrestling when I was a kid,” Bogojevic said. “The Hulk Hogans, the Roddy Pipers, I loved those guys.
“My mom found out there was youth league wrestling going on in the old Central Middle School, and she signed me up for that. Ever since then I’ve been hooked on it.”
At the high school level, Gedde said Bogojevic always had the skills to compete, but his passion for the sport and commitment to improve made him a champion. When Bogojevic began wrestling for the Spartans as a freshman he had strength and great upper body moves, but his folkstyle technique needed work.
“I grew a lot since being a freshman until now,” Bogojevic said. “I used to just go in there, get the bear hug and it would be over. There’s only so much you can do with that.”
During his four years wrestling for Superior, the SHS coaches worked with Bogojevic to refine his style — creating angles in his approach and, most important, developing leg attacks.
“Once he developed the leg attacks he was a threat to everyone,” Gedde said. “He just became unstoppable on this feet.”
During practice, Nathan Bipes and Kendall Torpen were the two lucky assistant coaches who worked with Bogojevic on a daily basis.
“I don’t understand how those assistants can survive day in and day out with Niko,” Gedde said. “They’ve got to be glad the season’s over. They’ve got to be bruised and busted up.”
Gedde said it has been an honor to coach Bogojevic, but to Spartan senior the people around him — his coaches, teammates, and especially his parents Zoran and Kim — are the ones who really deserve praise.
“My parents, if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have gotten far. My dad put a lot of time and money into me and my mom did the cooking for me obviously,” Bogojevic said. “I believe if you don’t have support around you, you’re not going to go far. They support me 100 percent.”
Next year, Bogojevic will redshirt in his first year with the Wisconsin wrestling team. He intends to major in law enforcement and will continue to wrestle in preparation for the 2011-12 season.
“There’s always a lot to work on. Yeah, you’re state champion, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t stuff to work on,” Bogojevic said. “I’ll go to Madison next year, learn the ropes and train harder and smarter.”
By the time he finishes college, Bogojevic said he’d like to add two more titles to his collection: Big 10 and NCAA championships. After that, his target is the Olympics.
“It’s a very realistic goal,” Gedde said. “Very realistic. As colleges were pursuing Niko the Olympic Training Center was also pursuing Niko, trying to lure him away from college.”