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Panthers hold on to the shoe

When it comes to battling for the Kirby Symes Bronze Shoe, the River Falls and Ellsworth wrestling teams always lay it on the line.

It was no different Friday night when the Cats and Panthers each won seven matches, but Ellsworth picked up more pins on its way to a 38-29 win and retained ownership of the prize that goes to the winner of the annual dual between the Pierce County schools.

"We had a great dual with Ellsworth," Wildcat coach Dave Brandvold said. "The wrestling was outstanding and the crowd really got into the match. We each won seven matches but we gave up too many bonus points and did not score enough ourselves. We knew we either had to win eight matches or it would be difficult for us to get the job done."

The Wildcats won three of the first four bouts, two by decision, before Ellsworth's Brandon Boe pinned River Falls' Zach Thompson at heavyweight to tie the score 12-12. The Panthers went on to win the next four matches, two by fall and two by major decision, to take a commanding lead.

Eric Schultz started things off on a high note for the Cats with a 7-4 decision over Josh Kornmann in the opening bout of the night at 160 pounds. Ellsworth's R.J. Langer then posted the first of Ellsworth's four pins on the night by defeating Pat Wros at 171 pounds before Trevor Brandvold pinned Brandon Olson at 189 pounds to give the momentum back to the Cats.

Justin Parsons kept things going for River Falls with a 3-2 decision over Jordan Eggenberger at 215 before Boe turned things in the Panthers' favor by pinning Thompson.

"The pivotal match was at 275," Brandvold said. "Zach was in good position for a throw but Boe was just a little too powerful for him."

Mike Brunner pinned Robert Knutson at 103 pounds and Jordan Zimmer won by major decision over John Meyer at 112 before Alex Saunders posted a major decision over Brandon Harrison at 119 and Jordan Foy pinned Richard Enloe at 125 to account for the Panthers' scoring run.

Wildcat junior Luke Skidmore snapped the Panthers' streak by pinning Ruben Huppert at 130 pounds and Jake Radkey-Pechacek closed the gap with a 15-6 major decision over Derrick Foley at 135 pounds before Ellsworth's Trevor Hines put the match out of reach by pinning Treston Koehler at 140.

Ryan Gwidt took an 8-0 major decision over Dustin Frandrup at 145 pounds and Jake Figi wrestled to a 5-2 decision over Mike Ault at 152 for the Wildcats' final points of the night.

"Luke Skidmore, Jake Radkey-Pechacek and Ryan Gwidt all looked the best I've seen them this year," Brandvold said. "Trevor, Jake Figi, Justin and Eric all wrestled strongly, and John Meyer had a great third period, riding Zimmer out and not allowing him to score more points."

Brandvold said wrestling for the Kirby Symes Bronze Shoe is always special, and he believes the experience will help the Cats at the upcoming Dunn-St. Croix/Big Rivers Conference Challenge this Saturday.

"Reflecting back on the match, it's of course fun to win but a loss like this still gives you a good feeling because the kids really laid it on the line and, I felt, wrestled to the best of their abilities," he said. "I was proud of them Friday night, and I believe we are ready to head into the tournaments on a good note."

Saturday's D-SC/BRC Challenge at the high school gets underway with preliminary matches at 10 a.m., followed by quarterfinals at approximately 11 a.m. Semifinals and consolation matches are scheduled for around 1:30 with the finals to follow around 3:30.

Trevor Brandvold takes a record of 31-0 into Saturday's tournament and will be wrestling for his third straight conference title.

"And we will have several others trying to get that first conference championship," coach Brandvold noted.