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Wildcat senior Sebastian Larson acknowledges the River Falls fans after defeating Brian Gibb of St. Croix Central in the championship bout at 182 pounds at the Northern badger Wrestling Classic Saturday evening at the high school. Larson was one of four place winners for the Cats, who finished fourth in the 40-team tournament. (River Falls Journal photos by Bob Burrows)

Larson Northern Badger champ

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Larson Northern Badger champ
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

When you host an elite tournament like the Northern Badger Wrestling Classic, there is always a little added pressure on the home team to do well. The Wildcat wrestling team responded to that challenge over the weekend Dec. 27-28 with a fourth place finish at the 40-team tournament.

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Senior Sebastian Larson took the individual title at 182 pounds and four Cats reached the semifinals as River Falls finished with a team score of 207.

Spring Valley won the team championship with 301.5 and Boyceville took second with 262.5 while Cumberland was third with 220.

Wildcat head coach Kevin Black said it was important for the Cats to do well in their tenth year of hosting the tournament.

“This was an important tournament for us as a team,” he said. “Our community does an excellent job running this event and we have a responsibility to be competitive and present a good product to our supporters. It feels like each time we compete as a team, the excitement about what we're doing grows.”

There was plenty of excitement around the 182 pound championship bout between Larson and St. Croix Central’s Brian Gibb. Larson remained undefeated on the season by defeating Gibb handily, 11-4, for his first Northern Badger crown.

“Sebastian has looked incredible this year,” Black said about the senior. “He's always been a joy to work with and deserves every good thing that happens to him. The Northern Badger was an important process goal for him. The scary thing about Sebastian is that he's just figuring out how to wrestle and doesn't even know how good of a wrestler he actually is. A lot of people talk about his athleticism and speed, but he can make important wrestling adjustments on the fly without missing a step. That's uncommon for someone who has only been wrestling a short time. He gets better every day and in each match.  When that's happening, and he's having fun while doing it, great things are inevitable.”

Classmate Darius Wright also reached the finals at 152 pounds before losing by injury default. Wright trailed Jonny Chamberlin of Chetek/Prairie Farm 9-4 with 23 seconds remaining in the match before receiving a blow to the head.

Two other seniors -- Zach Radkey-Pechacek and Winston Bystrom -- reached the semifinals of their respective weight classes before losing close decisions to finish fourth. Radkey-Pechacek lost 3-2 to Jed Schlegel of Spring Valley/Elmwood while Bystrom was edged 9-8 by Bryor Hellmann of Boyceville.

See the Jan. 2 print edition of the River Falls Journal for more on this story.

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Bob Burrows
Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.
(715) 426-1047
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