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Wrestling: Cats short to Hudson again

Wildcat senior Mitchell Williamson waits for the referee to signal his pin of New Richmond's Anders LeMire in 58 seconds in his first round match at 285 pounds at the WIAA Division 1 wrestling regional in New Richmond Saturday, Feb. 10. Williamson went on to defeat top seed Cole Godbout of Hudson to win the 285-pound title. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia 1 / 3
Wildcat junior Nathan Fuller flips Eau Claire Memorial's Kaden Gruber before pinning him in 1 minute, 31 seconds in a first round match at 152 pounds at the WIAA Division 1 wrestling regional in New Richmond Saturday, Feb. 10. Fuller went on to win his weight class to help the Wildcats finish as regional runners-up. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia 2 / 3
Wildcat senior Luke Killian controls Chippewa Falls' Matthew Pomietlo on his way to earning an 8-5 decision in his first round match at 160 pounds at the WIAA Division 1 wrestling regional in New Richmond Saturday, Feb. 10. Killian placed fourth in his weight class to advance to this weekend's sectional tournament in Wausau. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia 3 / 3

Despite finishing second to three-time defending regional champion Hudson, earning four individual titles, and advancing 10 wrestlers through to this weekend's sectional tournament, Wildcat head coach Kevin Black was blunt is his assessment of the WIAA Division 1 regional Saturday, Feb. 10, in New Richmond.

"It ended up being a very disappointing day, despite wrestling really well as a team," Black noted. "When all was said and done, we all realized that we were right there and missed a great opportunity to win the regional."

The Wildcats have had their eyes on Hudson all year. After finishing second to the Raiders in the Big Rivers Conference the Cats had visions of ending Hudson's three-year reign as regional champs, only to come up 15.5 points short. Hudson won its fourth straight regional title with 228.5 points and River Falls was second with 213 while Superior was a distant third with 158.

"Throughout the week we went with the quote, 'the opportunity of a lifetime must be seized in the lifetime of the opportunity,'" Black said. "Winning regionals was a real opportunity that I hope everyone understands now. Sometimes it takes a difficult loss right near the top to comprehend that we're actually good enough to believe in those possibilities and realize those outcomes."

The four individual champions for the Wildcats were the most of any of the eight teams, but Hudson picked up just enough second through fourth place finishes to send 12 wrestlers through to the sectional round compared to River Falls' 10.

Michael Rebozo, Nathan Fuller, Chance Kamrowski and Mitchell Williamson won individual titles to highlight the Wildcats' day. Rebozo, at 120 pounds, and Kamrowski at 195, pinned their way through the tournament while Fuller earned a 2-1 decision over Sam Skillings of Menomonie in the 152-pound title bout and Williamson knocked off top-seed Cole Godbout of Hudson in overtime, 8-6, to claim the 285-pound title.

Glen Pendleton reached the title match at 170 pounds before finishing second and Garrett Borth won his wrestleback at 145 pounds to take second while Bennett Cernohous, at 113, and Garnett Ripley, at 220, placed third and Leonard Robinson at 132, and Luke Killian at 160, finished fourth.

Black said the Wildcats have improved immensely throughout the season, which makes coming so close to winning a regional title harder to swallow.

"They're competing hard and people are noticing," he said. "It would have been really nice for them to get over that hump as a team, though, because it would have catapulted them into a lot of other exciting opportunities in the future. We're just going to have to change our perspective now and remain patient as we continue to grow as a team and improve our overall culture. Our group is good enough and our program is good enough to expect to win a tournament like this one."

Now the focus turns to the 10 Wildcats who will compete at the sectional tournament at Wausau West High School Saturday, Feb. 17.

"Practices are short and to the point, and our wrestlers know this week has to be their best week of the season to this point," Black said. "We've been stressing controlling our own attitude and effort. We need to be our best this week and Saturday should take care of itself."

The top two finishers in each weight class at Saturday's sectional will qualify for the WIAA State Championships Feb. 22-24, in Madison.

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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