Wrestler known for persistence, kindness

Story by Frank F. Pellegrino

Typically, if a freshman athlete is forced to take off an entire year from injury, they give up the sport.

At least that’s what wrestling coach Russ Peloquin has experienced in his years at the helm of the program.

But senior Ricky Gonzales was not the typical freshman when he came to UW-Eau Claire.

“I think anyone who has ever met Ricky likes him or loves him,” Peloquin said. “I’d see Ricky and my spirits would be lifted, he was just one of those people who could do that for you.”
Gonazles’ body was found by tubers in the Chippewa River Friday afternoon behind the 200 block of Water Street, according to an Eau Claire Police press release. The cause of death was fresh water drowning, and his blood alcohol content was .19 percent, “which may have been a contributing factor,” the press release added.

Peloquin said that after breaking his hand his freshman year, Gonzales still attended practices throughout the season and was determined to work his way back to competing.

Once he finally made his way back on his sophomore year, he had to compete with a friend and teammate for a starting spot on the team. Gonzales lost that battle, but instead of having a bad attitude, he decided to go up a weight class, something that Peloquin describes as very difficult.

Peloquin said Gonzales struggled to have success throughout the year at a heavier weight, so he again had to rededicate himself last summer. This time it wasn’t about coming back from an injury but instead about becoming bigger, faster and stronger.

Peloquin said he was really impressed with the shape that Gonzales showed up in, and that by the middle of the year he started to defeat some very tough opponents.

“That’s pretty impressive where he ended up last year from where he started,” Peloquin said. “Coming from the broken hand, to needing to put on size — those are two things that are pretty tough to do — and Ricky did both of those.”

The effort did not go unnoticed by his teammates, Peloquin said.

“He really earned the respect of his teammates,” he said. “With that being said, last year the team voted on this year’s team captains, and they voted Ricky in to be one of their team captains for this year.”

Captains get slightly different team jackets, and Peloquin said that they would be giving Gonzales’ to his parents to commemorate his captainship. Likewise, the team set up a memorial on the bridge with their wrestling shoes, flowers and notes to honor him. Peloquin added that he expects the team to incorporate Gonzales into their team photo fundraiser this year.

In a release to students, Dean of Students Brian Carlisle said that Gonzales graduated from Bluffton High School in South Carolina in 2008, where he was a regional champion in wrestling.
He added that Gonazles is the son of UW-Eau Claire’s director of facilities planning, Ricardo Gonzales. In a second release Carlisle said that funeral services will be held at 5 p.m. today in the Ecumenical Religious Center, 110 Garfield Ave., on campus.