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Top 10 sports stories from 2016: Nos. 5-1

Ellsworth wrestling team after winning the seventh title in program history in March of 2016. (File photo)

Whether or not 2016 was more memorable than other years for Pierce County athletics remains to be seen.

Programs in the county have taken major steps forward to improve their quality of play. Other teams have continued their dominant traditions.

Enjoy this compilation of the Top 10 storylines in the county for the year 2016.

No. 5 — Todd and Peña wrap up their seasons at state

Kassye Todd will return to state next weekend in Wisconsin Rapids for the second straight year to represent Elmwood/Plum City in the girls state cross country race.
The junior was the second individual to cross the finish line with a time of 20 minutes, seven and a half seconds in the WIAA Division 3 girls cross country sectional at Rolling Greens Golf Course in Durand Saturday, Oct. 22.

Prescott senior Phillip Peña was the fourth individual to cross the finish line in the WIAA Division 2 boys cross country Rice Lake sectional Friday night. Peña completed the race in 16 minutes and 50 seconds.

Todd took 12th at state and Peña finished in 35th place.

No. 4 — Prescott boys basketball falls in the sectional final

The Prescott boys basketball team was able to stay within striking distance of Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau throughout most of Saturday’s sectional finals game at Menomonie High School.
However, when crunch time rolled around, G-E-T displayed why it is the top-ranked team in Division 3 by pulling away from the Cardinals for a 73-60 victory.

The Cardinals did not help themselves with uncharacteristic turnovers and cold shooting at times in the sectional championship game. Head coach Nick Johnson said the pressure was on for many of the team’s top players as they tried to claw back from an early deficit.
“That’s a credit to how (good) they are,” Johnson said about G-E-T. “They are the number one team in the state for a reason.”

No. 3 — Hofacker, Stuhl each earn individual championships

Ellsworth wrestler Sam Stuhl won his second consecutive state individual championship Saturday, Feb. 27.
And he picked up some redemption along the way. Stuhl wrapped up his state championship by defeating Dustin Hatfield of River Valley by a 5-0 decision in the 126 pound title match at the Kohl Center in Madison.

After finishing as a state medalist in his previous two seasons, Spring Valley/Elmwood’s Ethan Hofacker was determined to wrap up his senior year with a state championship.
Hofacker did just that on Saturday, winning by fall in the second period of his Division 3, 220-pound championship match over Clear Lake’s Ian Ruble. After taking third place at 195 pounds as a sophomore in 2014 and second in 2015, the first place finish Saturday, Feb. 27 almost made sense.
“Three, two, one,” Hofacker said. “It’s been a work in progress, but it feels great. It’s relieving.”

No. 2 — Prescott dance wins state title

The Prescott dance team once again completed its season with a state dance title, however, the category that they won was different than in other recent years.

Prescott finished first among five teams in Division 2 jazz competition during the WACPC state meet on Saturday in La Crosse. What made this result unique is that Prescott had shown more success in other dance categories recently, including last year when they won a state title in poms.

“They haven’t gotten first in jazz for five years, so that was definitely something to be proud of,” first-year head coach Samantha Schoen said.

No. 1 — Panthers defeat Wisconsin Lutheran for state championship

The Ellsworth wrestling team achieved what it had set out to do since the start of the season when it defeated Wisconsin Lutheran 29-27 in the Division 2 state championship match on Saturday afternoon in Madison.
The win gave the Panthers their first state championship since 2014 and the seventh in program history.

It was the first Ellsworth title for Mark Matzek as a head coach.