Wildcat wrestling coach Kevin Black believes the Cats are closing the gap with three-time defending Big Rivers Conference champion and state team qualifier Hudson, but they're not quite there yet.
The Wildcats trailed the Raiders by just one point, 34-33, in their season opener Thursday, Nov. 30, in Hudson, but Hudson scored the maximum 12 points in the final two matches of the night to post a 46-33 victory.
"They have some very good individuals who are going to score big points for them, but we really believed we were in a position this season to split matches with them," Black said. "A few pieces didn't fall into place and they won 8 of 14 matches. We're not good enough yet to have a setback or two or to underperform and still win dual meets."
The Wildcats and Raiders split the first two matches of the night at 145 and 152 pounds with River Falls getting a pin from Nathan Fuller in 5 minutes, 36 seconds to tie the score, 6-6.
Hudson earned pins at 160 and 170 before Glen Pendleton pulled out a 6-4 sudden victory at 182 pounds for the Wildcats. Chance Kamrowski at 195 and Garnett Ripley at 220 followed with pins to give the Wildcats a 21-18 lead but Hudson scored 16 points in the next three matches to go back up, 34-21.
River Falls pulled to within one with back-to-back pins from Spencer Cernohous at 120 pounds and Michael Rebozo at 132, but Hudson closed the night with pins at 132 and 138 to seal the win.
Friday night the Wildcats went 0-3-1 at the Island City Duals in Cumberland, losing to Baldwin-Woodville, 43-30, Boyceville, 43-33, and St. Croix Falls, 51-27, while tying Cumberland, 36-36.
Bennett Cernohous' technical fall in the final match at 113 pounds salvaged the tie with host Cumberland while Fuller went 4-0 on the night.
Black said the Wildcats didn't perform up to their standards in Cumberland.
"Thursday we had some setbacks and Friday we underperformed," he said. "We have to continue pushing being disciplined with little things in our lives and in practices so our performances line up with the work we've been putting in."
The Wildcats will host their first dual of the season this Thursday, Dec. 7, against Menomonie at 7 p.m. It will be Alumni Night in River Falls and the Cats will honor longtime supporter Justin Bystrom, who passed away while attending the 2017 WIAA State Tournament in Madison in February.
"We're very excited for our dual meet against Menomonie on Thursday," Black said. "We're expecting a large crowd for alumni night and will be honoring Justin Bystrom along with other fun activities. It's imperative that we get a few things in order on the mat, too, so we can put on a great performance."