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Prep wrestling: Northwestern's Brown, Kaufman eclipse 100 wins, eye state meet

Teammate Ian Smith is closing in on the same plateau, part of a collection of talent with few parallels in school history.

Northwestern wrestlers Tommy Brown, left, and Tanner Kaufman pose during practice
Northwestern wrestlers Tommy Brown, left, and Tanner Kaufman pose during practice at NHS on Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 18. Both Brown and Kaufman reached 100 career wins at the Spartan Classic earlier this month.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
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MAPLE — The value of 100 has always been important in many different aspects of life, whether an anniversary of a century or a 100-dollar bill. For Northwestern wrestling, the feat of 100 individual match wins has only been achieved eight times before this year.

This year, however, two Northwestern seniors, Tommy Brown, ranked third in the state at 113 pounds, and Tanner Kaufman, ranked fourth at 182, were able to accomplish win number 100 at the Spartan Classic in Superior on Jan. 7. Brown said he didn’t even know he was going to get his 100th win in the semifinal match so it caught him by surprise.

“For me it was awesome, I got it at the same meet as him (Brown) and that was awesome,” said Kaufman.

Tanner’s dad, Tim Kaufman, is the head coach of the Tigers wrestling squad this season and has never seen two wrestlers achieve it in the same meet. “I have never seen it happen especially for those two, they have been together since second or third grade, so it was pretty neat,” Tim said.

“Everyone was pretty excited for them, there’s only like eight in the history that have done it, so for both of them to do it and for Ian being able to do it with them, that’s three in a year which is pretty rare,” Tim Kaufman said, mentioning the junior Ian Smith who currently sat at 99 wins before the Tigers' home match on Thursday, Jan. 19 was postponed due to inclement weather.

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Northwestern wrestlers Tommy Brown, left, and Tanner Kaufman pose back to back during practice at NHS
Northwestern wrestlers Tommy Brown, left, and Tanner Kaufman pose back to back during practice at NHS on Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 18. Both Brown and Kaufman each reached 100 career wins at the Spartan Classic earlier this month.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Back in 2009 was the last time multiple wrestlers broke 100 wins in the same season. Wes Snow and Ryan Miesbauer finished with 106 and 104 wins, respectively, but having three to do it has never been done by Northwestern.

“I can imagine it will feel good to get that accomplishment behind me,” Smith said and added, “It’s early, so I can get a lot more wins under my belt,” as Smith is ranked second in the 195 weight class and has an opportunity to break Calen Kirkpatrick and Nathan Nelson’s shared 144 career wins title at Northwestern even with the COVID year all three wrestlers dealt with.

The three have all been wrestling together for about 15 years so they felt it was very special to be able to do it together this season.

According to their coach, the three are together so much it’s hard to find differences, and the boys agree. Whenever they are not wrestling they are together and more than likely ice fishing.

“We’ve ice fished about 30 times since the wrestling season started and that’s what we like to do outside of practice,” said Smith.

Northwestern wrestler Tommy Brown, center, jumps rope with his teammates during practice
Northwestern wrestler Tommy Brown, center, jumps rope with his teammates during practice at NHS on Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 18.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

When they can’t relax on the ice they’ve found even their practices are fun. Coaches Kaufman, Jason Vee and Pat Trautt are all close to the wrestlers.

“They have great relationships with everyone, everyone likes the coaches, I can’t think of a single person on the team that doesn’t like them,” said Brown, and his wrestling mate Tanner Kaufman added, “We have the best coaches around, they do a great job of balancing having fun and working hard.”

For the team, this creates a great environment where they can be with their friends.

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“We’re just a bunch of friends that are having a really great time even at practice,” said Tanner Kaufman.

It’s a lot of fun especially when they are winning, and so far they have done a lot of that, winning all of their conference duals, as well as winning the Ashland tournament but placing second in the Superior Classic where Brown and Kaufman broke 100.

The reason they are able to do this while having so much fun is because the three leaders know how to put extra time in for their sport.

Northwestern wrestler Tanner Kaufman spars during practice at NHS
Northwestern wrestler Tanner Kaufman spars during practice at NHS on Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 18.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

“The time and dedication they’ve put in, they go down to Eau Claire on weekends to wrestle and train, that extra time is something you don’t really see anymore,” said Tim Kaufman.

This extra time has helped all three rank in the top five for their respective weight classes, so they have very similar goals that seem attainable. All three want the chance to wrestle at the Kohl Center in the end of February.

The team made it to sectionals last season but with the new super regional, it will be a tougher competition. They have already exceeded Tim Kaufman’s expectations early this season.

“We’re doing a little above what I expected because of the younger kids we have, but with those three solid kids, the younger kids are feeding off of them,” Tim Kaufman said.

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Northwestern’s Ian Smith controls Spooner’s Brandon Meister during their 195-pound match in Maple on Dec. 15, 2020.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram / File

Jeffrey McClure is a student at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. He contributes to the Superior Telegram as a freelance reporter.
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