Wrestlers reach state’s final four, fall to Wisconsin RapidsThe Raider wrestling team’s first ever trip to the WIAA State Team Tournament proved to be a huge success with a quarterfinal win over Holmen last Friday night. That win made Hudson one of the top four teams in the state.
The Raider wrestling team’s first ever trip to the WIAA State Team Tournament proved to be a huge success with a quarterfinal win over Holmen last Friday night.
That win made Hudson one of the top four teams in the state. However, it also sent the Raiders to the state semifinals to face nationally ranked and 20-time Team State champion Wisconsin Rapids on Saturday morning.
“Everyone knows Team State is all about when you face Rapids,” Hudson head coach Chris Hansen said. “We felt very fortunate to have the opportunity to prove ourselves Friday night and then enjoy the Rapids dual Saturday morning.”
Hansen said the Raider coaching staff focused the team’s attention on Friday night’s quarterfinal match with Holmen.
“We knew that would be a tough dual but we could win,” he said. “That was very important to our kids because it would really validate our sectional upset over Wausau West. It is hard as a coach to ensure your kids are not satisfied. We talked about the difference 20 years from now to be able to say we made the top four, rather than to just say we were state qualifiers. I think that meant a lot to the kids.”
The Holmen dual proved to be everything a wrestling fan can ask for. Great wrestlers, great strategy and a dual tied 29-29 with one match remaining. Holmen had a 30-match winner in Ryan Stalsberg for the final bout but he was no match for Hudson’s two-time state qualifier and senior captain Gordon Johnson. Johnson’s 4-0 decision sent Hudson to the final four and yet another day of competing in March.
“There were so many events in that match that led to the win,” Hansen said. “We had two non-state qualifiers, Kolya Hawksford and Derek Schindler, who not only beat Holmen state qualifiers, they each won by major decision, giving us bonus points. Nick Larson scored a huge pin for us and that set the stage for possibly the biggest match of the season.”
Hudson sophomore Nick Nelson entered as an underdog against Holmen’s Avery Hackett. Without this win, Hudson would not win the dual. To make matters worse, Nelson immediately went down 4-0.
“I have no idea how Nelson won that match,” Hansen said. I need to see the film. All I know is Nelson scored an amazing 11 points in the third period. I can only imagine he was doing it for the seniors. It is what we talked about; help each other out.”
Earlier in the match Austin Koski posted a decision and Tanner Owens and Ryan Smith earned major decisions. In the end, the final score was Hudson 32, Holmen 29. At the same time, on the adjoining mat in the University of Wisconsin Fieldhouse in Madison, Wisconsin Rapids beat Hartford 56-8 to set the stage for Hudson’s final dual the next day.
“Although we only scored 10 points against Rapids, I think we were competitive in quite a few weights,” Hansen said. “It was fun. Gordon Johnson won his final match of his career and Nick Nelson scored a pin with just 9 seconds remaining.”
Rapids defeated the Raiders 62-10, then went on to defeat Arrowhead, 44-26, later in the day for its 16th straight state title.
The weekend marked the end of illustrious high school careers for the Raiders’ three captains — Larson, Johnson and Smith.
“These three have had a huge impact on Hudson wrestling,” Hansen said. “I am very lucky to have coached them.”