Wrestlers place ninth at Blugold Invitational

Story by Taylor Kuether

For the UW-Eau Claire wrestling team, the 32nd Annual Blugold Invitational turned out to be a challenge, which one wrestler said was normal for the event.

“The Blugold Invitational has always been a tough tournament, and this year proved to be no different,” said sophomore Will Christ, a participant in Saturday’s home meet in McPhee.

Eau Claire placed ninth out of 13 teams that competed. Earning 66.5 points, they were just a half-point away from UW-Whitewater’s eighth-place finish. Augsburg College (Minn.) won the event with 221 total points.

Notable Blugold finishes for the day included seniors Andy Johnston and Jon Ames. In the 149-pound weight class, Johnston took second place and was the highest Eau Claire finisher. In the 157-pound class, Ames placed third.

Coach Derek Sikora said he has plans to keep the team moving towards success.

“What we’ve been working on and what we continue to work on is basic fundamental stuff: staying in good position and not being too fancy,” he said. “Scoring points is the main thing, and (using) high-percentage moves that consistently work, not taking a lot of chances. (We’ve) been conditioning a lot; I think that’s helped us.”

The team’s coach is not the only one hoping for improvement. Whether they’re setting a personal goal or looking out for the whole team, the wrestlers are driven to achieve, Christ said.

“The biggest thing that I need to improve on is my strength,” he said. “As a college wrestler, I have learned how important strength is in becoming a complete athlete.”

Another struggle facing the team is the ability to commit to the sport 100 percent. While it’s hard to commit to wrestling that deeply, both inside and outside the wrestling room, the payoff is worth it, Christ said.

“But I strongly believe that this commitment has made me a better person and more prepared for anything that life throws at me,” he said.

The next challenges for the Blugolds are events against UW-La Crosse, who just placed second at the Blugold Invitational, and UW-Stevens Point. Both events are at home and will take place Wednesday and Saturday, respectively.

And with the WIAC championship meet coming up on Feb. 21, the team hopes to continue improving, Sikora said.

“The tricky thing is just getting your guys to wrestle their best at the end of the season,” he said. “And I think that we’re starting to do that, and the guys have come really far since the beginning of the year. We’ll wrestle the best when we get to the conference tournament, and their conditioning is starting to get to the top level.”