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Seven to be inducted into Wildcat HOF

Seven individuals and one team will be inducted into the River Falls Wildcat Hall of Fame during the high school's homecoming weekend, Sept. 21-22.

Athletes John Page, Russ Brown, Doug Branigan and Jennifer Keenan will join the hall along with coach Tom Linehan. Gerald “Bud' Manion will be honored as the Legacy inductee while Ed Cina is the 2018 Distinguished Citizen. The Wildcat 1976 baseball team will also be honored.

Page was a three-sport standout at River Falls High School, earning a total of five all-conference honors -- twice each in basketball and baseball, and once in football as quarterback of the Wildcat's 1969 conference championship team. He went on to play four years of football and baseball at UW-River Falls before officiating over 40 years of high school football, basketball and baseball. He is the only individual in Wisconsin ever to officiate three different state championship games in the same school year.

Brown was a three-time all-conference basketball player and conference champion in the discus and shot put as a senior in 1967. He was a member of the 1966 conference champion basketball team that averaged over 90 points per game and averaged 14 points as a senior while also leading the Wildcats in assists. At the time of his graduation he held the school records in both the shot put and discus.

Branigan was a three-time conference wrestling champion and two-time all-conference golfer as a member of the Class of 1976. He went 32-0 on his way to winning a state wrestling title in 1975 when there was just one division, and finished 30-1 and state runner-up as a senior in 1976. He had a 62-match winning streak and posted a career winning percentage of 95.4 percent (83-4), second on River Falls' all-time list.

Keenan held every single girls' swimming record at River Falls at the time of her graduation in 1997. She qualified for state in five different events in her career, including all four years in the 100-yard butterfly. She was also a member of the Wildcat track and field team's record-setting 800-meter relay team in 1996 and was a Wisconsin Scholar Athlete of the Year finalist in 1997.

Linehan coached the Wildcat basketball team from 1960-67 and football from 1967-73. His basketball teams won two conference championships in 1965 and 1966, while his football teams won conference titles in 1969, 1971 and 1972. The 1969 football team ended then No.1-ranked Durand's 36-game winning streak while the 1972 team finished the season ranked No. 11 in the state for large schools.

As a student at RFHS, Linehan earned 12 varsity letters in five different sports-- football, basketball, baseball, track and boxing. He went on to earn three letters in football at Wisconsin State University-River Falls (now UW-River Falls) before signing a professional football contract with the Green Bay Packers in 1950. He is the only person in River Falls High School history to win conference championships as both a player and coach in two different sports.

Manion graduated in 1926 and was an athlete and coach for both River Falls High School and WSU-River Falls. He was a member of the RFHS 1925 state championship football team and 1926 state runner-up basketball team before coaching the 1938 basketball team to state and winning three consecutive conference championships as coach of the football team.

As an athlete at WSU-RF, Manion earned nine varsity letters-- three each in football, basketball and baseball, and coached WSU-RF football and basketball teams to conference titles. He was a member of the inaugural UWRF Hall of Fame class in 1977.

Cina came to River Falls in 1941 and was a teacher, coach and official for nearly 50 years, teaching chemistry while coaching boxing, golf, basketball and football in addition to officiating football and basketball games throughout Western Wisconsin. He was nicknamed “Fast Eddie” because of his uncanny knack for magic tricks.

The 1976 Wildcat baseball team was the first from River Falls to qualify for the WIAA State Tournament. The team, guided by head coach Bill Halverson and assistant Jack Orgeman, finished the season with a record of 17-3 and lost in the quarterfinals of the single class, single elimination state tournament, 1-0, to Oconomowoc. Team members included inaugural Wildcat Hall of Fame inductee Steve Farley, Brad Groom, John Kahut, Will Oostendorp, Bill Wright, Dave Jorgensen, Dick Kuss, Jeff Linehan, Tom Schwalen, Jim Stapleton, Mike Bjork, Jim Kassera, Bruce Lenzen, Rich O'Connell and Gary Nelson.

The River Falls Wildcat Hall of Fame Class of 2018 will be honored at halftime of the Wildcat football team's homecoming game Friday, Sept. 21, at David Smith Stadium against Eau Claire Memorial with the induction ceremony Saturday, Sept. 22, at the high school. A reception will be held from 6-7 p.m. in the school commons followed by the induction ceremony at 7 p.m. in the auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.

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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