RF’s Vito Massa earns BRC Wrestler of the Year

Posted 3/29/22

By Reagan Hoverman For the River Falls High School wrestling team and their star senior wrestler, Vito Massa, the awards and accolades continue to pour in for the 2021-22 season. The full list of Big …

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RF’s Vito Massa earns BRC Wrestler of the Year


By Reagan Hoverman

For the River Falls High School wrestling team and their star senior wrestler, Vito Massa, the awards and accolades continue to pour in for the 2021-22 season.

The full list of Big Rivers Conference awards, including the Wrestler of the Year award, which went to the aforementioned Massa, as well as First, Second and Third-Team All-Conference selections have been released. In total, 12 Wildcat athletes earned individual recognition for the season.

The highest honor given out each year is the Conference Wrestler of the Year. Massa’s victory in that category is the first of his career and his second selection to the First-Team All-Conference roster.

While Massa is a fantastic wrestler, he is also a dominant football player. This season, he not only won Wrestler of the Year but also was the Conference Player of the Year for the Mississippi Valley Conference football season as the quarterback of the Wildcats. River Falls head wrestling coach Kevin Black spoke about Massa’s accomplishments in multiple sports.

“He was the conference player of the year in football too,” Black said of Massa. “That’s pretty cool. I think that shows a couple of things. It shows he’s a senior stud and that whatever sport he plays he’s going to be successful. It also shows that we’re trying to champion the multi-sport athlete.”

Black stated that he and his staff have worked hard to get student- athletes to compete in multiple sports. Massa is a textbook example of how competing in multiple sports can improve the

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athlete in ways that focusing on one sport typically can’t replicate.

“For a guy like Vito (Massa), being involved in multiple activities really helped him be successful,” Black said. “It made him more dynamic and broader and he was able to do some things on the wrestling mat that he benefitted from being in other sports.”

Being a three-sport athlete certainly helped Massa improve in all aspects of his wrestling game. His senior season was one for the record books. He finished the year with a 42-2 record and as the WIAA Division 1 Individual State Champion in the 285-pound bracket. In that match, he defeated Griffin Empey of Stoughton 4-2.

Massa is one of the 14 wrestlers chosen to the First-Team All-Conference roster. Other Wildcats joining Massa on the first team are juniors Travis Moelter and Gavin Kohel, as well as seniors Miles Longsdorf and Tyler Haydon.

According to Black, there is a gentlemen’s agreement between coaches in the Big Rivers Conference that wrestlers who qualify for state are typically given First-Team All-Conference status.

“It’s not so much about what weight class they’re at. There are a couple where there are multiple guys at one weight class,” Black said of the selection process. “For our crew, they did a good job this year and I think we had a nice Big Rivers season. It’s nice to see guys get their attention. When coaches have good opinions (of our wrestlers), it’s OK to celebrate that.”

River Falls senior Owen Larson was the lone Second-Team All-Conference selection for the Wildcats. Third-Team All-Conference players include junior Ricardo Ceja, freshman Jonas Longsdorf, sophomore Jacob Range, and seniors James Hampton and Aidan Peterson. Black spoke about having a group of 12 athletes receive recognition.

“We had 12 that were on those teams and at the end of the year, we had 12 full-timers,” Black said. “I hope that there’s a day where we can just flood the whole list. Usually, the team that wins (conference) has 10-12 kids on the list all the way to honorable mention.”

While boys typically occupy the wrestling slots, that is starting to change. This year, the WIAA hosted the first girls’ state wrestling championship on Saturday, Jan. 29, in La Crosse. More girls than ever have begun wrestling and for River Falls, the standout female wrestler was sophomore Jenna Lawrence, who made the All-Girls team in the Big Rivers Conference. Black spoke about her season.

“It was cool and was a neat thing to be a part of, we’re really proud of her,” Black said of Lawrence. “She came out in middle school and wrestled boys, and a girl here and there, but really didn’t enjoy having to compete against boys.”

According to Black, other outlets train some high-level girls wrestling in River Falls. Lawrence spent some time training with some other girls and once the girls’ state tournament was announced, Black spoke to Lawrence.

“Once the state tournament was announced, I told her, ‘You’re going to be our first-ever state qualifier. This is going to be pretty neat,” Black recalled. “I told her she had to keep wrestling. It was a really cool event.”

At the state meet, Lawrence competed in the 114-pound bracket. She won her first match against Cora Tesch of Oregon via a 45-second pinfall. In the second round, Lawrence got pinned in four minutes by Mya Delleree.

Lawrence is the first girl from River Falls High School to qualify for the girls’ state wrestling tournament. Her selection to the All-Girls All-Conference team makes her the 12th athlete from River Falls to earn individual accolades for the wrestling season.

Next year, Black and the Wildcats hope to improve on that number and once again win the Big Rivers Conference championship.