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Wrestlers Wright, Larson head to state

The six River Falls sectional qualifiers get together for a picture at the start of last Saturday’s sectional wrestling tournament at Wausau West. From left are David Hennessey, Winston Bystrom, Zack Radkey-Pechacek, Darius Wright, Sebastian Larson, and Matthew Williamson. Wright and Larson both qualified for this week’s WIAA State Championship Tournament in Madison. (Submitted photo)

Wildcat seniors Darius Wright and Sebastian Larson both had to dig deep to earn their trips to the WIAA State Wrestling Tournament Saturday.

Wright had to beat last year’s third-place state winner in his semifinal on his way to a sectional runner-up finish at 152 pounds while Larson had to win two matches to come back and earn second place after losing in the semifinals at 182 pounds.

Both will compete at the state meet that begins Thursday at the Kohl Center in Madison.

Wildcat head coach Kevin Black said both worked hard to earn their trips to state.

“Nothing came easy, and both fought through adversity to punch their own ticket,” he said.

After advancing to the semifinals with a 9-2 decision over Wausau East’s Alex Stine, Larson lost a tough 7-5 decision to Ben Hintze of Merrill in the semifinals.

“I had to reassure him that his season wasn't over,” Black said. “He could still get to Madison if he put the loss behind him and took care of the two matches in front of him.”

Larson did just that, winning on a tiebreaker, 2-1, against previously undefeated Mitch Mallek of Stevens Point in the third place match to earn a wrestleback for second place, where he scored a last-second takedown against Mark Bryant of Menomonie to win 3-1 and qualify for state.

“Obviously, he didn't want to lose, no one wants that,” Black said about Larson’s semifinal loss. “But it doesn't matter how you get there. Once you're in the Kohl Center, anything can happen and no one gets extra points for winning their sectional. What happens the weekend before is irrelevant come Saturday night.”

Wright posted a 12-2 major decision over Sean Luedtke of D.C. Everest before beating last year’s third place finisher, Mitch Hertel of Marshfield, 7-3, in the semifinals.

“He took a risk and created a scramble, and he came out on top,” Black said about the match. “His weight class had the second, third and fourth ranked wrestlers in the state, and they only take two athletes from each sectional.”

Wright lost to Mason Stokke of Menomonie in the 152 pound finals but was awarded second place by virtue of his semifinal win over Hertel.

“All season long, we knew that Sebastian and Darius had what it takes to wrestle at the state tournament,” Black said. “It was just a matter of things falling into place.”

Senior Winston Bystrom won his opening match at 160 pounds with a pin of Nate Engle of Stevens Point before losing his next two matches to finish fourth, while senior Zach Radkey-Pechacek, at 138 pounds, and sophomore David Hennessey, at 285, both lost their first round matches.

Black said it was tough to see the senior Radkey-Pechacek fall short in his bid for state.

“We were hopeful for Zack Radkey-Pechacek, but he just got out-wrestled in the opening round,” Black said. “It was a tough loss because he's put in so much time over the last two years and did everything right in his training and preparation. Unfortunately, it just wasn't meant to be.”

The WIAA State Championship Tournament gets underway with preliminary matches beginning at 3 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27. Wright, 35-5 on the season, will face undefeated Jared Scharenbrock (47-0) of Sun Prairie in his opening match at 152 pounds while Larson, 42-2, faces Josh Wilkowski (40-5) of South Milwaukee.

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.
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