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Wrestlers score 5th at Northern Badger, prepare for BRC

Wildcat junior Nathan Kinneman grapples with Blair-Taylor's Matt Massman in the 126-pound weight class at the Northern Badger Classic Thursday, Dec. 29, in the high school gym. Kinneman finished 12th at 126-pounds to help the Cats to a 5th place finish in the Division 1 competition. <i>Bob Burrows photos</i>1 / 2
Spectators packed in the bleachers and standing in the balcony watched two days of wrestling on five mats during the Northern Badger Wrestling Classic last Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 28-29, in the high school gym. The Wildcats finished fifth in Division 1. <i>Bob Burrows photos</i>2 / 2

Many of the top wrestlers in Wisconsin were on hand at the 27th annual Northern Badger Classic last Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 28-29 at River Falls High School, and the Wildcat wrestling team held its own by finishing 5th in the 12-team Division 1 competition. Neillsville-Greenwood-Loyal won the Division 1 and overall titles with 289.5 points while the Wildcats finished with 114.5. St. Croix Central took the Division 2 title with 255 while Spring Valley-Elmwood won the Division 3 championship with 279.

Five Wildcat wrestlers reached the awards podium, led by 220-pound runner-up Tyson Bystrom.

Wildcat head coach Joe Cudd said the tournament provided a good measuring stick for his team.

"The Badger was a good point in our season to see how far we have come and find out what each individual's focus should be to continue to improve," he said. "It is a tough tournament with a lot of solid competition of which we were right in the mix of things, but came up just short, in some cases just one move or technique behind."

Bystrom earned a bye in the opening round at 220 pounds before defeating Iijber Kadriu of Rice Lake, 7-3 in the second round. He pinned Dylan Kimber of Chetek/Prairie Farm in 3 minutes, 40 seconds in the quarterfinals before earning an 11-9 overtime decision over Victor Lowney of Osceola in the semifinals, despite suffering a shoulder injury that kept him from wrestling in the championship bout.

Briar Tepp won his first two matches at 113 pounds before losing in the quarterfinals. He came back to earn a 16-1 technical fall over Tucker Olson of Unity on his way to an eighth place finish.

Zach Radkey-Pechacek had to wrestle seven matches on his way to finishing tenth at 120 pounds. After losing his opening round match, he came back to pin Dean Freeman of Flambeau and won an 8-2 decision against Sean Bradshaw of St. Croix Falls before pinning Ryan Gulich of St. Croix Central. He lost to Alex Stuhl of Prescott in a fourth-round consolation match before posting a 12-3 major decision over Bucky Nelson of Chetek/Prairie Farm.

Nathan Kinneman at 126 pounds, and Dakota Anderson at 145, boosted the Wildcats' team score with 12th place finishes.

Kinneman won his first two matches by pins while Anderson earned a bye and an injury default.

The Wildcats return to Big Rivers Conference dual action this Thursday, Jan. 5, at defending BRC champion Hudson. Next Thursday, Jan. 12, they return home to host Eau Claire Memorial.

Cudd said the team is looking forward to the challenges.

"We are starting the new year with things to focus on to continue to get better and look forward to some of the tough competition we will face in the coming weeks," he said.