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Wildcat wrestlers proving their medal

Wildcat junior Nathan Fuller takes down Sauk Prairie's Bryant Schaaf on his way to a fifth place finish at 152 pounds at the WIAA Individual State Wrestling Championships Saturday, Feb. 24, at the Kohl Center in Madison. Photo courtesy of Lisa Flanary 1 / 4
River Falls senior Mitchell Williamson keeps a firm grasp on Racine Park's Tre Williams on his way to earning a 3-2 decision in the Division 1, 285-pound third place match at the WIAA Individual State Wrestling Championships Saturday, Feb. 24, at the Kohl Center in Madison. Photo courtesy of Lisa Flanary 2 / 4
Senior Mitchell Williamson is embraced by his father, Wildcat assistant coach Jim Williamson, after beating Racine Park's Tre Williams to take third place at the WIAA Individual State Wrestling Championships Saturday, Feb. 24, at the Kohl Center in Madison. Photo courtesy of Lisa Flanary 3 / 4
Wildcat junior Chance Kamrowski wrestles to a 17-3 major decision over Azarian Waits of Milwaukee Marshall in the consolation round of the WIAA Individual State Wrestling Championships Saturday, Feb. 24, at the Kohl Center in Madison. Photo courtesy of Lisa Flanary 4 / 4

Wildcat wrestling coach Kevin Black hopes Mitchell Williamson, Nathan Fuller and Chance Kamrowski sent a message to the rest of the team at the WIAA State Wrestling Tournament last weekend.

"Most of the team was there watching the tournament and I saw a lot of wheels spinning in everyone's head," Black said. "It's the first time that a majority of our wrestlers have belief in themselves to accomplish great things. Before this weekend, their mindset was, it was other kids and other teams get to experience those successes, but now our kids understand that they should be experiencing these things, too.

"Mitchell, Nathan and Chance gave our team hope. Hope is quite the driver when it comes to sports."

Williamson capped his senior season with a third place finish at 285 pounds while Fuller placed fifth at 152. Kamrowski ended up losing to eventual fifth place finisher Stephen Maule of Watertown in a third round match at 195 pounds.

Williamson bounced back from a semifinal loss to eventual state runner-up Keeanu Benton of Janesville Craig to beat Tre Williams of Racine Park, 3-2, in the third place match.

Fuller also reached the semifinals before dropping a 7-4 decision to eventual champion Joshua Otto of Arrowhead. He lost to Dajun Johnson of Whitefish Bay in the third place match before beating Bryan Schaaf of Sauk Prairie for the second time in two days, 3-2 in a wrestleback, to claim fifth place.

"Mitchell and Nathan finishing their tournament and season with a win shows a lot of guts and is a testament to their hard work and training to be able to persevere and finish well," Black said. "Finishing well is a phrase that I say often that is specific to wrestling, but carries into so many other areas of life and we want to have our identity associated with finishing well."

Williamson opened the tournament by pinning Jesse Fiers of Holmen in 39 seconds and beating Charlie Covert of Slinger, 5-3, before his semifinal loss to Benton, who measures in at 6-feet, 5-inches tall and has to cut weight to make 285 pounds. Williamson's third place finish is the highest by a Wildcat since Sebastian Larson placed fourth in 2014.

Fuller earned a 22-7 technical fall over Bryce Henschel of West Bend East in the first round and defeated Schaaf, 4-3 in the quarterfinals before dropping his semifinal match.

Black, a four-time undefeated state champion as a Wildcat from 1995-98, said all-in-all it was a good weekend.

"As you know, I have pretty high expectations, though, and think we could have left with more hardware and a few steps higher on the podium," he said. "It's been hard for me to appreciate our success this season because we are so very close to being at a much higher level. We pushed these guys really hard this year and there was a tremendous amount of growth across the board for our program."

Looking ahead, Black said he hopes the team embraces the attitude of former wrestler and Wildcat Hall of Famer Pauly Cudd, Jr.

"He is the biggest Wildcat wrestling fan alive," Black said. "Everyone hears him yell, 'you gotta believe.' It's never been more true for River Falls Wrestling than it is right now. I think it sets up well for the next steps in this journey."

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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