The boys basketball season has been a very interesting season to say the least. There have been some tough losses: West Salem, 50-67 or Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau, 55-74. There’s been some close calls like the first game of the season in Wisconsin Dells, 55-59, or the game against La Crescent, 73-70. There have also been some substantial wins for the Tigers like the 61-35 win against Melrose-Mindoro.
From sophomore starting point guard Jack Roou, we have seen a lot coming out of each game. Standing 5’11”, Roou is averaging around 19 points per game (18.8). He scored the most points (26) against La Crescent, Viroqua and Fall Creek. Though Roou almost scored 50% of the 53 points in the game, the Tigers fell to Viroqua on January 3. So far this season, Roou has scored 339 points according to Wissports.
Junior starting shooting forward Matt LaFaunge has also seen show his impressive skills both defensively and offensively. LaFaunge is currently averaging 10.3 points per game. Though he isn’t a frequent shooter, you can count on LaFaunge to be on defense when needed. His three-pointers are rare; however, they do show up when the team needs it the most. It sometimes has you thinking ,“Where did that come from?” He scored the most points against Sparta, complementing Roou’s 22 points with his 20 to score 42 out of the 58 points that game. LaFaunge has scored 207 points this season so far; however, it would be interesting to see how many points he has prevented.
Senior starting small forward Brian “Junior” Gulbronson surprised everyone after he showed many that hard work and determination can sometimes overpower experience. Standing 6’ 3”, Gulbronson is averaging 12.1 points per game. He scored 29 points, being the most points scored in a single game, against La Crescent. So far this season Gulbronson has scored 229 points.
Senior starting center Ryan Hansen started the season as just another player, but as the season progressed we quickly saw him evolve into a player that uses Blake Griffin’s dunks and amazing defensive skills. It’s no surprise that he can dunk since he stands at a towering 6’ 9”. He frequently has the ball, but always makes clean and strong passes for Gulbronson, LaFaunge or Roou to put up for some points.
Senior starting power forward Joel Kinder, like Hansen, has evolved throughout the season, but one thing that hasn’t gone unnoticed is his defensive skills. Like Hansen, he rarely has the actual ball, but that doesn’t mean he isn’ta huge part of the team. Thanks to his defensive skills, Roou, Gulbronson and LaFaunge can do what they need to do to score points.
Though 6’3” junior Eli Parker isn’t a starter on basketball, he is always interesting to watch when he goes out on the court. You will frequently hear the crowd cheering his name when he gets off of the bench. You can hear them even more when he makes an impressive block and takes a rebound. This isn’t a rare occurrence and as the season has progressed, Parker is seeing more playing time. That means that other teams are seeing their dreams crushed when he steps out on the court.
So far this season has been a mix of ups and downs. After breaking the four-game losing streak, some games lost by only two points, the Tigers should see some more victories in the future. These wins will be mandatory for the season to progress any further. The Tigers are in action tonight as they take on Arcadia, an opponent who they have just recently beaten.
Rapidly losing weight to drop into a lower weight class, known as weight cutting, has been prevalent in both high school and college wrestling for decades.
“Well, whenever I cut weight, I hated it,” said one high school wrestler. “I would always feel slow and tired in my match.”
The outcome of rapid loss can be even more serious. In 1997, Joseph LaRosa of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse died after trying to ‘weight cut’ by wearing a rubber suit after working out on a stationary bike. Because of repercussions of rapid loss, the WIAA has a number of regulations in place to protect wrestlers.
“We do a test in [the] beginning of the year to see body fat percentage and that dictates the minimum weight class we can wrestle,” said Lipke.
Though the WIAA does require a body fat percentage test at least once during the season, they do not require WIAA referees to check wrestler’s body fat percentage before every meet. This could mean that wrestlers can fluctuate below the required amount during the season after the initial test.
“[Seven] percent is the least amount of body [fat that we] can wrestle with without parental permission,” said Lipke.
Though certain eating and drinking habits are recommended for the wrestlers at school, parents play a huge role in the lifestyle of their wrestler. However, some parents may be endorsing weight loss for wrestling.
“We can drop down to [six] percent [body fat] if parents ok it,” said Lipke.
Within wrestling, you will see some conflicts between the medical field and the WIAA weight loss rules. Body fat percentage is just another debate on this ever-growing battle between athletic programs and health professionals.
“You know, there’s a healthy range for body fat. Having your body fat in the healthy range is going to be optimally where it wants to operate,” said Gundersen Nutritionist Rachel Rebman. “If you’re on the lower end of normal that’s very damaging. I would say that eight to nine percent would be optimal for high school male athletes.”
The American College for Sports Medicine says that there is no problem with dropping weight, however they find that the wrestlers that do lose weight rapidly are finding that they have a decrease in performance which produces the opposite effect that they are hoping for.
Rebman states that this weakness is caused from a lack of nutrition and water.
“So if you’re dehydrated and you’re trying to do athletic things, you could run the risk of passing out, fainting,” said Rebman. “Dehydration is a serious problem, so it’s not something that should be taken lightly or mess around with it.”
Although dehydration has been an issue in the sport in the past, basic healthy eating habits are something that Black River Falls wrestling head coach Andy Osegard emphasizes.
“I wish I could go home and fix a nice healthy meal, but at the end of the day, when they go home I can’t control what they eat and do,” said Osegard.
These eating habits may be emphasized at practice, but some wrestlers have admitted that they aren’t following these nutritional guidelines.
“I eat about 500 calories a day when I want to drop a weight class or an extra pound or two,” said junior wrestler Nicholas Raifsnider.
The WIAA published The Wrestlers’ Diet which outlines nutritional guidelines for wrestlers. According to the diet, one’s caloric intake should not fall below 1,700-2,000 calories per day. Rebman says that eating too few calories can be dangerous.
“You’re not going to be performing at your maximum level and even if you’re just cutting calories to a very low level. You’re not nourishing your body, and you’re not going to perform at the level that you would if you were fully nourished and had been providing yourself with adequate energy and nutrition,” said Rebman.
Osegard says that the WIAA has a strict policy for the amount of weight the wrestlers are able to drop and that the athletes are participating in healthy weight loss.
“I’ve had to talk to one wrestler about his weight. He seemed to fluctuate in his weight and I had to say ‘hey, you know, what’s going on? Your weight is moving pretty rapidly,’” said Osegard. “I care for my athletes like they’re my family. We follow the rules.”
Losing some weight isn’t the issue, but losing too much weight is. The WIAA restricts wrestlers’ weight loss to 3.5 pounds a week.
“We can’t lose more [than] 3.5 pounds a week, but if we are trying to drop a weight class sometimes we [won’t] weigh in at all, so we can drop the necessary weight,” said senior wrestler Harry Lipke.
While Osegard makes sure the team follows all WIAA rules, wrestlers say that there are some ways to get around the system.
“You don’t weigh in so you have more time to drop the weight,” said Lipke.
While the WIAA sets a weight loss cap of 3.5 pounds, some nutritionists have said that this number is too high.
“The safest amount of weight, the topline of safe weight loss in a week, would be about two pounds. Anything more than that and you’re basically losing body water,” said Rebman. “You might be losing some muscle mass.”
Some wrestlers try to rehydrate after weigh in. However, the Wrestler’s Diet states that it take 48 hours for the water balance in your tissues to be restored. Much like water, when a wrestler eats after weigh in, the food comes back in the form of fat instead of muscle.
“Once you lose the weight for your weigh in, to get into your weight class, then you rebound gain some weight,” said Rebman. “So usually when you’re losing all that weight very rapidly it’s coming from body water and muscle mass. And when you regain weight, you’re going to regain fat mass. So you’re changing your body composition, and you’re also changing your metabolism.”
After defeating Tomah in the first home game of the season, the basketball team was at home again in a disappointing loss against West Salem. Some of the players have been hard on themselves, but were more determined than ever to come back and defeat La Crescent on Dec. 10. They pushed their way to a nail-biting finish at 73-70, Tigers for the win.
This conflict and drama is always present. The thing about sports is that there’s always pressure. Pressure is something that we deal with daily and we learn to live with. However, as many high school athletes would agree, pressure will either make you better or it will make you crack.
The La Crescent game had the spectators on the edge of the bleachers, and more towards the end, standing on their feet to cheer on the team. Every missed shot gained an ‘oooooh’ and every made shot earned an eruption of cheer from the supportive fans.
This high pressure game could not only be felt from Coach Gaier, who paced back and forth on the court as the clock ticked down, but also from the players who were quick to celebrate every shot and kick themselves whenever they missed.
As younger players start to move up, this pressure slowly boils as they see their chances to get on varsity just a little bit closer.
You would hope that all of the players on jv and c-team basketball aspire to be on varsity one day. However, the players know that the glory of being on varsity doesn’t come without struggles. Those that want to reach the level that they want must work hard throughout their entire high school basketball career.
“What do I think it would take? Probably just a lot of hard work. Just coming to practice each day and giving the coaches full attention and effort, and knowing in my head that if I do want to achieve that level of play, then it’s going to be hard, and just acknowledging that,” said freshman Nic Greenlaw.
Greenlaw, like many, has been in the basketball program for a substantial amount of time. He hopes that one day all of that hard work will pay off.
“I actually started when I was in, like fourth grade. That was when I started playing competitively, but, I don’t know, like since second grade I could say that I’ve been like dribbling and messing around,” said Greenlaw.
This pressure doesn’t stop if you have the skill to get on varsity, however. Senior small forward Brian Gulbronson believes that the pressures that come along with basketball depend on the level at which you play.
“We have to play at a higher level day in and day out. The five that start everyday have put in the work, and the coach believes in us. Not only does he believe in us, but he also believes in the players coming off the bench,” said Gulbronson.
You could see Gulbronson’s hard work and determination pay off after he made some impressive steals and some hugely impactful 2-pointers that had the crowd jumping. However, Gulbronson has a unique pressure all his own that he said he has to overcome every time he steps out on the court.
“I made the switch from hockey to basketball, and I’m in the starting line up. I know there is some people who don’t believe in me that I can play basketball, so I want to prove them wrong and if things don’t go the right way during a game, that could put additional pressure on me,” said Gulbronson. “I know that some people don’t want me to succeed, and I try not to let that bother me.”
Though you sometimes see parents or coaches yelling at their children during play, it seems that the players pressure themselves more than anyone else. It also seems that even lower-level team players feel the pressure mount in their games.
“Every game I try to set myself in a goal and I feel pressured by myself to meet those goals,” said Greenlaw.
You think of the worst possible outcome to a situation when you’re scared or nervous. Earlier in the season, the pressure showed in the first major game of the season against Wisconsin Dells when the Tigers fell just shy of a victory.
“I feel pressure that I have to play at the top of my game every time that I am on the court,” said Gulbronson. “So I continue to work on my game every day.”
Thinking of the worst possible outcome has even BRF’s talented players admittedly a little nervous when it comes game day. The players were put into a stressful situation against La Crescent at home, where they had just lost to West Salem a week prior.
“[It’s] the pressure of losing, and letting your teammates [down],” said sophomore starting point guard Jack Roou.
Though Roou is afraid of losing or letting his teammates down, he says he actually enjoys the pressure. This was evident in the two free throws he made against La Crescent to almost secure a win in the final ‘make-it-or-break-it’ seconds of the game.
“I like the pressure actually for whatever reason! When the big lights come on, my teammates are ready to roll,” said Roou.
Junior Matt LaFaunge, shooting guard, finds that the crowd pressure seems to get to him the most. Lately, he seems to be doing an astounding job at handling this pressure by limiting the number of mistakes at high-pressure moments in a game.
“I don’t know if you would really call them ‘pressures,’ but you definitely get those pre-game jitters. You get that feeling before a game because you want to perform well when there is a big crowd,” said LaFaunge. “I don’t worry about messing up. Everyone makes mistakes. I just try and go 100 percent all the time and show complete effort. That takes the pressure off the game, and your mind off the stress. I just try to stay relaxed. It is better to make a mistake going 100 percent than giving half effort.”
You can expect LaFaunge to become an impactful player as he grows more consistent and comfortable on the court. This is going to be important as the season kicks into full gear to see which team handles pressure more level-headedly.
Another type of pressure mainly comes from the bench. Not only whether or not the players get to play, but also how they will do when they get on the court. After junior Kenneth Greengrass was taken out of the game after an injury, junior Jeremy Ekern stayed in most of the game to assist in the Tiger’s victory. He had a lot of pressure stepping out on the court, but prevailed and did very well in the game. Ekern frequently passed the ball to Roou whenever he got the chance showing that he is a strong player on defense.
Junior Eli Parker, a fan favorite, also came up with some impressive 2-pointers and steals that shattered La Crescent’s chance at victory and maybe even shattered their pride.
So though even the most skilled players feel the heat, there are a variety of ways that the players reduce their stress before, or during, a big game. Even the less advanced players deal with stress in their own way. The most common is listening to some music and interacting with their teammates.
“I think you have to go into each game, and sport, and season, with a drive to win,” said Greenlaw.
Greenlaw uses a mental and very internal approach to dealing with stress. Gulbronson, on the other hand, has his own method for dealing with the constant battery of pressure.
“Some things that I do to deal with the pressure is to practice more. I am always at the gym working on my basketball game, whether it be from ball handling to shooting the ball. There is always room to improve on your skills and that’s what I try to do every single day,” said Gulbronson.
Gulbronson takes a physical approach to dealing with stress hours, or even days, before game day. It is Roou that takes a very selfless approach to dealing with ‘pre-game jitters’ as LaFaunge calls them. Though only a sophomore on varsity, he helps to lead the team and get them ready for the game before dealing with his own stress.
“To deal with [the pressure], I try to calm my teammates down and let them know it’s gonna be okay,” says Roou.
Maybe this is his own unique way of dealing with game day pressure, but whatever the case, there’s no way of avoiding the pressure. As a player, you have learn how you can eliminate your stress as game day approaches.
“It is all about having fun and building a winning program. There shouldn’t be any pressure that you can not handle because it takes away the fun of the game when that is all you worry about,” said LaFaunge.
Coming back after a disappointing 55-59 loss against the Wisconsin Dells Chiefs, the Tigers had an early Thanksgiving and feasted upon the Melrose-Mindoro Mustangs on Nov. 21. The Tigers trampled the Mustangs in a 61-35 win and proved that they have what it takes to go further this season than last season.
Though both Joel Kinder and Kenny Greengrass seemed a little off, sub Eli Parker, junior, came in to pick up the slack and scored once, getting a couple of offensive and defensive rebounds. He complimented that with a nice block that had to leave the Mustangs limping back to the ranch.
Senior Brian “Junior” Gulbronson is proving to be a gift to Gaier by showing off his impressive skills once again at Melrose-Mindoro. Gulbronson can’t be stopped. He sprinted past the Mustangs to make a majority of his shots under the basket in some easy layups. After getting warme d up in the first half, the real entertainment started. Gulbronson jumped up to tapped in a ball on a nice offensive rebound after Junior Jeremy Ekern shot a little short of the basket in the last minute of the game. Gulbronson also scored a quick three pointer to end the third quarter and the crowd erupted with cheers easily overpowering the Mustangs’ fans.
For some reason we didn’t see much activity in the first and second quarter from senior starter Ryan Hansen. But oh wait, here he comes. 6-foot-9-inch Ryan Hansen came up with two huge blocks back-to-back at the end of the third quarter. Hansen’s last block saved his team after a steal, away from shooting guard Matt LaFaunge, putting Hansen on defense and single handedly blocking an easy layup attempt from the Mustangs. With the arm span of Clippers forward Blake Griffin, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see even greater things come from Hansen this season.
Junior Mitchel Gjerseth finally got play time and showed up out of nowhere to shoot the last basket of the game and score two points for the Tigers. If Gaier were to give him a little more varsity experience big things will come from Gjerseth.
Sophomore Jack Roou seemed a lot more comfortable on the court after finally shaking whatever he had at Wisconsin Dells. Roou landed five 3-pointers, four 2-pointers and sunk one out of his two free throws in the game. Roou only went out of the game to catch a quick breath before he was back in action. Once again, another smart choice by Coach Gaier as Roou scored 24 out of the 61 points.
LaFaunge came behind Gulbronson with nine points in the game, but had some great defensive rebounds passing the ball all the way down court to Gulbronson. He also had some hugely impactful assists on the game proving that the other team can’t cover him well enough.
I think at this point it’s safe to say that point guard Roou, shooting guard LaFaunge, and the small forward Gulbronson can be called the Three Musketeers of Black River Falls. Working like a machine, these three players pushed out the best play of the game. Jack Roou is down court, he passes it to LaFaunge half court who then passes it to Gulbronson for a layup. The Mustangs didn’t stand a chance. I don’t know what Gaier has been feeding these three, but they can’t be stopped.
The Tiger basketball players are back in action after a 2-21 season last year. There has been particular pressure on the basketball team to push out some more wins ever since Jack Taylor, a 2009 graduate, made international news after scoring 138 points in a single game and, more recently, 109 points against Crossroads College last Sunday night. The team’s past record hasn’t proven that they’re a tough opponent to beat, but the team is more determined than ever to come back strong and prove people wrong.
Coach Mike Gaier is relying on five very important starting players to win as many games as possible: Sophomore Jack Roou as point guard, junior Matt LaFaunge as shooting guard, senior Brian “Junior” Gulbronson as small forward, senior Joel Kinder as power forward and senior Ryan Hansen as center. He is also relying on a group of very capable back ups. The real question is ‘Can they pull it together and get more wins this season than last season?’. The answer is yes. I not only believe that it is possible, but also highly likely with the new line up.
The team has some very interesting, new talent stepping out on the court. Gulbronson is playing his first varsity basketball game after dropping hockey, a game he’d been playing since he was 5. Some people have said that they’re not sure if Gulbronson is ready to take the court, but he proved he was up to the challenge at Wisconsin Dells.
Though falling to Wisconsin Dells 59-55, senior Gulbronson gained player of the game after a surprising display of skill throughout. Not only was Gulbronson strong on defense, he was even better on offense by scoring 16 points to lead the team in scoring. Though Roou has shined consistently on the court and has proven that he deserves his spot on varsity starting string, some people have said that now it’s Gulbronson time to be under the spotlight.
Roou did, however, come up with 10 points in the game following close behind Gulbronson. After facing adversity by being the only freshman on varsity last year, he can now focus on his game holding a comfortable spot in the varsity starting lineup.
LaFaunge stayed in the game to aid Roou and Gulbronson. He also displayed a burst of speed to come up with an impressive number of deflections and steals that led to some easy layups.
Everyone on varsity got some playing experience with juniors Eli Parker and Kenny Greengrass seeing the most of the court out of the five subs. Greengrass had some impressive blocks in the third and fourth quarters. Parker also showed that he was ready to play by putting some shots up on the rebounds. Junior Jeremy Ekern went in fourth quarter after Gulbronson went down with a minor injury after a layup attempt, but stayed in hopes of getting a steal. This was a smart choice by Tiger coach Gaier as Ekern hadn’t committed a foul up to that point in the game.
With the seniors graduating at the end of the year, the team will still have some strong players to fill the seniors’ spots with all of the developing players starting to move up. The season has already started out with a loss, however. As the saying goes, “It doesn’t matter if you win by an inch or a mile. Winning is winning.” We may have some very talented players, but the fact of the matter is, we don’t yet have any Jack Taylors, which was proven in the Nov. 19 game against Wisconsin Dells.
Seeing Roou, LaFaunge and some of the other juniors step up to the plate is refreshing and welcoming. It could also be seen as a sign that there are some substantial victories in the future.
The start of any season is usually rough and basketball is no exception. At this point, all we can do is sit back and wait for the season to unfold.