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1997 Wrestling Team
1997 Wrestling Team
Class_13

From 1990 to 2006, the Wildcat wrestling team collected 14 conference championships, seven sectional championships, five state team appearances, two state runner-up finishes, dozens of tournament championships, 13 individual state champions, and multiple state place-winners and state qualifiers. The core of the 1997 team was involved in many of these accomplishments.

After qualifying for the team's second straight state team appearance, the 1997 Wildcats landed six wrestlers in the WIAA Individual State Tournament and a Division 1 record five individuals in the finals. Tony Black (103 pounds), Kevin Black (112), Brady Cudd (125), Phil Meier (155), and Joe Cudd (275), all qualified for the finals with Landon Lueck (145) in the wrestlebacks. The tournament was also the last state individual tournament to be held in "The Fieldhouse: at the University of Wisconsin before it moved to the Kohl Center in 1998.

After sophomore Tony Black, who would later win two state titles, finished as runner-up, his brother Kevin, a junior, won his third straight state championship and improved his career record to 118-0. Junior Brady Cudd followed with his first state title after finishing fifth and third the previous two years before Meier, a state runner-up in 1996 as a junior, claimed his first state title. In the closing match of the evening junior Joe Cudd won the first of his two state championships, giving River Falls four individual state championships in the same year.

The following week the Wildcats competed in the WIAA State Team Championships in West Allis, advancing to the state finals before losing to Wisconsin Rapids.

Guided by head coach Dave Brandvold, the Wildcats juggled weight classes but the primary team was built around 13 individuals that propelled the team to success -- Tony Black (39-3 record), Kevin Black (42-0), Don Antiel (24-13), Jon Sokol (15-15), Travis Saumer (17-14), Brady Cudd (41-1), Landon Lueck (26-10), Mark Cernohous (12-19), Bennie Berg  (22-14), Philip Meier (40-1), Gary Mitchell (14-19), Luke Forehand (6-15), and Joe Cudd (41-1).

"The kids on this team were some of the hardest workers I have had," Brandvold said.
The year was highlighted by defeating Middle Border Rival Ellsworth, 39-26, to win the Kirby Symes Gold Shoe for the third consecutive year. The team took first place at the Northern Badger Classic, River Falls Invitational, the Dunn-St.Croix-Big Rivers Conference Tournament, and the WIAA Regional and Sectional Tournaments.

Of all the wins the Wildcats compiled that year, Brandvold said one solitary loss stands out in the history of Wildcat wrestling.

Sophomore Forehand was going up against a state place-winner from Hartford and needed to avoid a pin to keep Hartford from clinching the match.

"Luke battled his guts out and scored a key reversal in the third period to decline Hartford of a major decision and Joe Cudd closed them out with a pin," Brandvold recalled. "No loss was more important and thus the importance of team wrestling is brought to light in that one specific match."

Four individuals from the 1997 team went on to wrestle at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Two were NCAA Division 1 All-Americans and one was a NCAA Division III All-American. Two were all-state athletes in other sports, and one was a WIAA Scholar-Athlete and class valedictorian.

Three members of the team went on to be head coaches at the high school level.

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