RIVER FALLS, Wis. -- While the final scores may not have been what the River Falls wrestling team was hoping for Saturday, Jan. 23, at its home quad, head coach Kevin Black said he liked what he saw from the Wildcats.

River Falls went 1-2 on only its second day of competition this season, defeating Ellsworth 44-31 while losing to Menomonie 39-33 and Amery 51-14. But Black said the outcomes weren’t what he took away from the day.

“I'm very pleased with Saturday,” he said. “We went through a lot of scenarios as individuals and a team that give us a lot of things to focus on and fix going into regionals. Throughout the season we've always been keen to making adjustments and seeing opportunities for growth by competing week after week. We didn't have that luxury this year and needed to really take advantage of the different situations on Saturday.”

While Black admitted the Cats didn’t wrestle well in their first match of the day against Menomonie, they bounced back in a big way to defeat Ellsworth.

“There were several things that we picked up on and addressed and the team rebounded and wrestled great against Ellsworth,” he said. “That was a huge win for this program. It's been almost 20 years since River Falls has beaten Ellsworth and it's only happened a handful of times since wrestling started here in the 1960s.”

Newsletter signup for email alerts

River Falls’ Owen Larson pins Menomonie’s Ben Radle in 31 seconds in the 145 pound match in the Wildcats’ 39-33 loss to the Mustangs at the River Falls Quad Saturday, Jan. 23. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia
River Falls’ Owen Larson pins Menomonie’s Ben Radle in 31 seconds in the 145 pound match in the Wildcats’ 39-33 loss to the Mustangs at the River Falls Quad Saturday, Jan. 23. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia

Black pointed to the history between the Wildcats and Panthers, dating back to the days of the annual battle for the Kirby Symes Golden Shoe. He said the Cats were well aware of that history going into the match.

“There was definitely an energy in the gym that fueled our kids,” he said. “It was a great team effort and we had some huge wins from Aidan Peterson, Ricardo Ceja, and Elliot Hampton.”

Peterson earned an 11-6 major decision at 113 pounds and Ceja pinned his opponent in 3:21 in the 126 pound match while Hampton won by fall in 1:07 at 160.

Jacob Range at 132, Miles Longsdorf at 152, and Vito Massa at 182 also won by fall to help tilt the final score in the Wildcats’ favor.

“We had three state-ranked wrestlers get beat in that dual meet and the team found a way to pick each other up and come up with big wins at weight classes we weren't favored,” Black noted. “That's what good teams do, and we have a good team this year so it's exciting that they had the opportunity to experience a great team effort. The chances are certainly few and far between this season, but they created a memory that will keep their bond strong for a long time.”

Owen Larson (145), Longsdorf (160), Tyler Haydon (170), and Massa (182) all earned pins against Menomonie while Hampton took a 7-2 decision at 152.

Range took a 9-3 decision at 132, Longsdorf earned a technical fall at 160, Haydon won 3-1 at 170 and Travis Moelter won 8-4 at 106 to account for the Cats’ scoring against Amery.

The Wildcats will compete at the Division 1 regional at Eau Claire North this Saturday with only the top two wrestlers in each weight class advancing to the sectional round. Black said the Cats are excited for the opportunity to compete.

“Our season was short and it's hard to believe we're already to tournament time,” he said. “We have a handful of kids who have competed all over the state and country, so they'll be ready.”