Wrestlers win season opener
Experience may be lacking in the River Falls High School wrestling room, but hard work certainly isn't.
That hard work paid off in the Cats' 42-33 season-opening victory over Big Rivers Conference challenger Rice Lake Dec. 1. Saturday, Dec. 3, the Cats gained some valuable experience with an eighth place team finish at the Ellsworth Invitational.
Head coach Joe Cudd said there is no questioning this group's determination.
"I am impressed with how hard this inexperienced group of kids has worked and how they face the challenges presented to them in the practice room, weight room, classroom and during competition," he said. "We have very few returning varsity wrestlers and are picking up valuable experience with every match we are able to get. About half of our team has had little or no wrestling experience in general, but are willing to face the adversity head-on."
The Cats welcomed their first challenge against Rice Lake Dec. 1 and responded with a 42-33 BRC victory.
Trailing 18-12 after the first five matches, the Cats posted six straight wins, starting with a 6-3 decision by Tyson Bystrom at 220 pounds. After Ellis Johnson and Logan Johnson picked up forfeits at 285 pounds and 106 pounds, respectively, Brian Tepp earned a 3-2 decision at 113 to extend River Falls' lead to 32-18.
Zach Radkey-Pechacek needed just 34 seconds to pin his opponent at 120 pounds and Nathan Kinneman won by forfeit to make the score 44-18.
Brady Johnson, at 152, and Josh Hudson, at 170, also earned pins for the Wildcats.
At the Dec. 3 Ellsworth Invitational, Bystrom placed third and Tepp, Radkey-Pechacek and Kinneman all finished fourth as the Wildcats place eighth in the nine team field. Ellsworth took the team title, winning five of the 14 weight classes.
Bystrom went to double-overtime before losing 3-2 to Nick Berger of Medford in his semifinal match. He bounced back with an 8-2 decision over Mitchell Williams of Cadott in the third place match.
Tepp opened against defending state champion Jens Lantz of Ellsworth and lost by pin, but bounced back to win his next three matches before losing a decision to Sean Sonnentag of Cadott in the third place match.
Radkey-Pechacek drew eventual tourney champ Josh Farr of Prescott in his opening match, then won three straight before losing to Jon Prochnow of Medford to finish fourth.
Kinneman was cruising before an injury prevented him for wrestling in the third place match.
Cudd said he expects the Wildcat returning letterwinners, including captains Tepp, Riley Larson and Elliot Weishaar, with valuable guidance this season.
"Our captains this year are the epitome of hard working athletes that are dedicated to the great sport of wrestling and through hard work they have achieved their goal of having the opportunity to lead this team by example and positive, encouraging words of motivation," Cudd said.
The Wildcats will return to BRC dual action Thursday, Dec. 8 at Eau Claire North and compete at the Wisconsin Dells Duals on Saturday, Dec. 10. Cudd said the team is excited about getting back on the mat.
"We are excited to begin any match because the kids are going to fight with everything they have while striving to perform at the highest possible level for the duration of the match."