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Cubans’ LaRue finishes 2nd at first-ever Girls’ State Meet
Cuba City/Benton/Southwestern freshman Chloe LaRue went 3–1 and placed second at 145 pounds at last Saturday's first WIAA Girls Wrestling State Tournament in La Crosse.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Athlete of the Week is a web-only feature that will publish each Thursday throughout the calendar year.

by Tom Gunnell, Republican Journal/Tri-County Press

Chloe LaRue, Fr., 145 pounds, Cuba City/Benton/Southwestern wrestling

LA CROSSE — Cuba City/Benton/Southwestern freshman Chloe LaRue relished her chance to make a little history on Saturday, Jan. 29, when she participated in the inaugural WIAA Girls State Individual Wrestling Tournament at the La Crosse Center.

LaRue earned a spot in the 145-pound championship match by posting back-to-back wins to open the tournament. However, her quest to be crowned one of the first 12 champions in state history came up a bit shy as she was edged 5-3 in double-overtime in a hard-fought title match to finish second overall in the class with a 3-1 record on the day.

“It was really good to get some good competition. It felt really amazing being able to be there and seeing all the girls participating. It was crazy to see that there were that many girls wrestling already, and it’s just going to keep growing,” said LaRue about competing at the first-ever girls’ state tournament.

Following an opening round bye, LaRue (16-1) got started by posting a 19-second pin over Merrill’s Bridget Steinagel and a 43-secnd fall over Milwaukee Ronald Reagan’s Joselyn Vega to advance to the semifinals.

LaRue took a 2-1 lead into the third period in her semifinal match against Marinette’s Kaylee McFadden, and rode McFadden out for the final two minutes to earn her spot in the 145-pound title match.

LaRue met New London’s Hailie Krueger (12-1) in the finals. The wrestlers deadlocked at the end of regulation and were still there at the end of the first period until Krueger rallied to defeat LaRue by a score of 5-3.

“There was a lot of pressure on me. I knew there were a lot of people watching both at the arena and at home. I thought it was a good match,” LaRue said. “This will give me more motivation to keep getting better and keep getting stronger.”

A group of 243 participants competed at the first-ever Girls State Individual Tournament on Saturday, and the experience was a meaningful one for them all.

“I think Mel Dow and the WIAA did a fantastic job putting the tournament together. The atmosphere for a girls’ event is definitely different than I am used to seeing (at state). The girls are intense and focused but they are thankful and appreciative to get to compete, they have a ton of respect for each other and the work it takes to be successful,” said Cubans’ head coach Craig Donar.

“And, for an interesting note, I see more crying at a regular boys tournament than I saw all day on Saturday.”

Mineral Point junior Kylie Rule became the first 132-pound girls’ champion when she defeated Bonduel’s Madalyn Sokolski by a 9-0 major decision.

Fennimore sophomore Rachel Schauer placed fourth at 165 with a 2-2 record. Belmont/Platteville junior Nevaeh Koch went 2-2 at 100 and did not place, while Fennimore sophomore Dakota Northouse and Richland Center sophomore Emma Hady each went 1-2 and did not place at 107.

HONORABLE MENTION (in alphabetical order):
Braden Crubel, Jr., G, River Ridge boys basketball
Crubel scored a game-high 27 points, including four 3-pointers and 5 of 6 at the free throw line, to lead first-place and #7-ranked River Ridge (17–1, 8–0 SRW) to a 60–51 comeback win over Potosi (7–10, 5–3) last Tuesday night. Crubel also scored a game-high 18 points on 8 of 13 shooting in a 76–36 blowout win over Pecatonica last Thursday night, and poured in a game-high 25 points in Tuesday's 67–54 non-conference win at Richland Center.

Alex Johnson, Sr., G, Richland Center boys basketball
Johnson erupted for a career-high 28 points on 9 of 13 from the field, including 6 of 9 from beyond the 3-point arc, and had the Hornets in position to upset host Platteville until senior Jesse Martin hit the game-winner with 4.1 seconds left. Johnson's last-second heave from just inside half court nearly won it at the buzzer bounced bounced off the front rim. Johnson, one of the most improved players in the SWC this year, also scored 23 points on 7 of 15 shooting, which also included six 3-pointers, in a 62–59 loss to SWC-leading Dodgeville Friday, Jan. 21. 

Lily Krahn, Sr., PG, Prairie du Chien girls basketball
Krahn averaged 17 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.3 steals in three games over the past week to lead the Division 3 #3-ranked Blackhawks (18–1, 5–0 SWC) to their 15th, 16th and 17th straight wins. Krahn had 17 points on 6 of 10 shooting with five rebounds and five assists in a 64–53 non-conference victory over D4 #2-ranked La Crosse Aquinas (14–3) last Tuesday night. Krahn then became Prairie du Chien's all-time leading scorer when she posted 17 points, six rebounds, four assists and five steals in a 61–30 SWC blowout of visiting Dodgeville Friday, Jan. 22. Krahn broke Michele (Kozelka) Pattison's 36-year-old record of 1,528 points. The D1 Wisconsin recruit then had 17 points, eight assists and four steals in a 60–39 win over La Crosse Tuesday night. Krahn currently has 1,558 points.

Sarah Knowles, Sr., C, Boscobel girls basketball
Knowles went over the 1,000-point mark for her career with a game-high 23 points in Monday's 67–30 non-conference blowout win at Seneca. Knowles scored on a post up feed from sophomore sister Erin with 6:30 left in the first half as the Bulldogs (15–4, 6–3 SWAL) built a commanding 38–10 halftime lead. Knowles also added 12 rebounds, four steals and three blocks in the win. Knowles also had 18 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks in a 71–61 loss at Cuba City last Friday night. The Bulldogs got back within three points with 3:30 minutes left in the half, but the Cubans made 10 of 16 from the free throw line to close out the win. Knowles is averaging 18.8 points (second in the SWAL) to go along with 15.1 rebounds and 3.0 blocks — both league highs — for the Bulldogs.

Brianna Leahy, Sr., UW–Platteville women's track and field
Leahy broke the Pioneers' indoor shot putt school record marking a throw of 14.84m (48-8.25) at the University of Dubuque Spartan Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 29. Leahy, who also owns the school's outdoor shot putt record, won the event and made her way into the record books in Pioneer Athletics and beyond. Her throw of 14.84m ranks 20th on the all-time list for indoor shot put in NCAA DIII history. Currently, Leahy leads the national rankings in the shot put, with next furthest shot put coming from fellow conference competitor and Platteville High School alumnus Skye Digman from UW–La Crosse.

Jesse Martin, Sr., G, Platteville boys basketball
Martin banked home a floater from the right baseline with 4.1 seconds left to lift Platteville to a 62–61 comeback victory over visiting Richland Center last Thursday night. Martin finished with a co-team-high 17 points, five rebounds and four assists as the second-place Hillmen (9–7) improved to 4–2 in the SWC.

Carter Olson, Sr., PG, Cuba City boys basketball
Olson finished with a team-high 28 points along with five assists and three blocked shots for the Cubans in their 91–69 victory over Carmen Northwest that gave head coach Jerry Petitgoue his 1,000th career coaching victory. Olson also scored a game-high 21 points to lead the Division 4 #3-ranked Cubans (7–1 SWAL) to a 79–34 over Boscobel on Thursday.