Wrestlers make Pierce County proud at the Kohl Center

By Joe Peine
Posted 2/21/24

Jenna Lawrence (23-7) of River Falls wrestles Mya Delleree (15-1) of Ozaukee Girls on Thursday at State. Lawrence wrestled four matches and scored seven team points for River Falls.

The Prescott …

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Wrestlers make Pierce County proud at the Kohl Center


The Prescott Cardinals Nolan Thomley competed in the state wrestling tournament in Madison as an individual on Saturday where he took sixth in the state in the 150-pound weight class.

Thomley was the sole Cardinals wrestler to make the cut at sectionals and move on to the state round of competition.

Head Coach Ian Ruble said that it was a good experience overall for Thomley.

“Making it down there was one of his goals in the early part of the season, so it felt good to accomplish that. However, as the season progressed, the idea of getting on the podium became the focus,” Ruble said. “Nolan wrestled really well, and put his best on the mat; it just unfortunately didn't equate to a podium placement. It was tough to see him walk off the mat after his last match, and I feel for him. It is always hard to see one of your senior athletes end their season, especially one like Nolan who has worked so hard.” 

Ruble says the atmosphere itself was electric as always.

“It's hard to replicate during the season, but we did our best leading up to the tournament by playing crowd noise and doing whatever we needed to,” Ruble said. “There's nothing like competing in the Kohl Center; being on the floor within itself is different than being in the stands.”

Looking forward to the next phase of the team, Ruble says that offseason training for wrestling typically looks like summer camps and then participating in the Olympic styles of Greco-Roman and Freestyle wrestling.

“Obviously lifting weights is crucial and playing a spring sport I also consider offseason training. Being that this is my first year as a head coach, I'm working with my athletics director to find avenues that afford our wrestlers chances to get on the mat but do not place the program in any WIAA troubles,” Ruble said. “I haven't yet talked to Nolan about club level competitions. With his season ending, it was important to give him time to process his thoughts and emotions. Sometimes a little space can give some clarity. Personally, I'm a big proponent of club level competitions, so I will recommend it to all of my wrestlers as the more you wrestle the better you are at it.”  

As Ruble thinks back on the season and where the Cardinals team started from, he’s optimistic about the future of the program.

“Our kids put in a lot of work, and while the wins may not have been there for some, I would say all of our kids saw success in some way or another,” Ruble said. “There are areas that I wish would have spent more time on, or even demonstrated better as a coaching staff. However, it is important to keep a positive mindset, as really with the exception of a couple of our wrestlers, there were a lot of first years on the mat, including myself as a head coach.”

Ruble says he’s also very grateful for all the support their fans, family and friends gave to the program.

“Growing a program isn't always easy and having good community support is truly wonderful,” Ruble said. “While I'm looking forward to the off season, I will say that next year couldn't get here soon enough.”


The Ellsworth Panthers’ top wrestler William Penn took fourth place in the state tournament in Madison on Saturday. It was another good performance from the Panthers number one grappler as he took fourth place for the second year in a row.

Head Coach Mark Matzek says it was a solid performance overall.

“We came out a little tight in our first match, and then in the semifinals, we wrestled the eventual state champion to a 2-1 loss,” Matzek said. “That one was a pretty good match. If those two guys wrestled 100 times, they might, they might have a 50-50 record. So, it was just a good, solid semifinals match at the state tournament that we just came up short on.”

From there, Penn dropped into the consolation bracket and got the opportunity for a wrestle back. He won another one, but then lost the third-place match and took fourth place in the state for the second time in as many years.

Matzek says a lot of the team will continue to train in the offseason and wrestle in some club competitions.

“Our version of basketball’s AAU is Wisconsin USA Wrestling, so that’s what the guys will be doing,” Matzek said. “It basically takes place in the month of April, and then we have the freestyle-Greco state tournament in Wisconsin Dells the first weekend in May. So, some guys can continue to do that and travel on that club scene, but a lot of our guys are two or three sport athletes who continue to train in the weight room and get in the wrestling room when they can.”

As for Penn, wrestling is his main sport, so he will remain focused on that in the spring and summer. He finishes his Ellsworth wrestling career with an overall record of 133-27, good for 10th all-time even with the Covid year.

“I mean, it wasn’t the culminating result that Will wanted after a very strong career at Ellsworth being a four-year starter, but he is looking at possibly wrestling in college,” Matzek said. “He already has the physical and technical skills to wrestle at the next level, he just has to figure out what's the best fit is for him.”

River Falls

The River Falls Wildcats had four wrestlers advance to the state tournament which took place in Madison on Saturday, and they are Oliver Larson, Jonas Longsdorf, Lincoln McCarty and Jenna Lawrence.

Of the four, McCarty was the only one to get on the podium, taking sixth in the state in the 215-pound weight class.

Head Coach Cameron Loomis says McCarty started very strong, and that carried him to a spot on the podium.

“Lincoln got to the semifinals after he won his first two matches, and then he sadly lost three in a row,” Loomis said. “He found a way to win those first two matches even though they weren’t probably his best performances even, so we kind of said like ‘you won, but we have to turn it up a notch.’”

Loomis says McCarty had probably the best kid in the building right after that in his semifinal match.

“He's apparently one of the top recruits in the country, is ranked number one in the nation, and that's who Lincoln got beat by in the semis,” Loomis said. “Then we had two tough ones on the consolation side. He lost those two, and I know he wasn't very happy with his performance after the semifinal loss, and he was kind of left with a sour taste in his mouth. He's motivated to get back to work and get going for next year, though, because he knows he's close; he just didn't make it happen this time.”

Jenna Lawrence and Oliver Larson each won two and lost two. If they had won their final match, they would’ve been on the podium. Even though Larson didn’t place, he might be the biggest story of the year for the Wildcats program.

“Oliver’s first loss came against one of the state finalists. Then he won a match on the backside before losing a really close one to last year's returning state finalist. He was right there to win it, and it was a pretty impressive match by a freshman that was close all the way down to the end. He just didn't quite pull it off,” Loomis said.

The future is bright for Larson who vastly exceeded expectations as a freshman. Loomis says the confidence that he got from that experience, including probably one of the biggest upsets of the whole tournament where he pinned the four-seed in the first round, gives him a lot to build off of.

“I don't think he expected to have success down there,” Loomis said. “Our coaching staff believed in him, and I think he believed in himself, but I don't think he really knew he could do it until he got down there and got a victory under his belt. I think it took that to feel like he actually does belong there, so that's a really big steppingstone in his career.”

The Wildcats final wrestler was Jonas Longsdorf, who entered the tournament as the 13-seed out of 16. He pinned the four-seed, who was a returning state place winner, right away in round one. Unfortunately, he lost in the quarterfinals and then lost a tight one his next match.

“I know he was in a similar boat to Oliver where he knows he's right there,” Loomis said. “On the guys side, all three of them are coming back next year. They kind of had a little bit of a sour taste in their mouths when they left, but a good sour taste where they know they didn't quite do what they wanted to, and they actually believe they can get it done now.”

Moving forward into the offseason, Loomis says the team is very fortunate to have Victory School Wrestling in River Falls, and he thinks a big chunk of their team will take advantage of that.

“Whether it's their spring lead into the summer, or even from the spring tail all the way through till the next wrestling season starts, we'll probably have a couple waves of kids doing different things,” Loomis said. “Some of them are football players, so they will probably train wrestling until about the time that season begins in August, and then they'll be mostly football oriented until wrestling season starts again next year. But, I bet we will have 10 to 20 kids off and on at Victory throughout the spring and summer, at least that's the message we're going to try to send.”

Loomis says they will also have some regular club practices and some open mat time where they will try to get the team together and work out once or twice a week. There's WIAA rules that dictate what teams can do as far as having offseason contact with the athletes, but they can open up the room and get everyone in there together occasionally.

Now that it’s behind them, Loomis says he views this as a season of growth for their program.

“It was my first year as head coach, and we had a lot of other coach young coaches on the team in different positions. Plus, we had a young lineup where our only two seniors were Jenna on the girls side and Jacob Range who didn’t even get to wrestle because of an injury,” Loomis said. “It was a lot of a lot of learning together as the season went, and I think we kept building the whole time. I was expecting to do well, but I think it went a little better than what I expected at the beginning of the year. I think everyone's just excited to get back to work and see what the future holds.”

On a final note, Coach Loomis reflects on his first year as skipper of the Wildcats program.

“I think I personally, as a coach, I just need to trust. I always tell my athletes to trust the process and be a little patient. You're not going to have success right away, but I also had to keep reminding myself of that this year,” Loomis said. “If you just believe in that yourselves and stick to the plan you have in place, good things will happen. We stuck to the plan and knew what we wanted to do, and it seemed to show itself at the end of the year. So, hopefully next year we can jump right back into that.”

state wrestling, River Falls Wildcats, Prescott Cardinals, Ellsworth Panthers, Kohl Center