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Wrestling is heartfelt in Sugar River community
Marie Perry

Sugar River Raiders Wrestling Coach Pete Swenson is proud to send four of his team to the WIAA Individual Wrestling State Tournament — a steady increase as this program grows under his tutelage. The 2023-24 winter season is culminating with Carson Loshaw (190 lbs); Blake Endres (120 lbs); Ryker Swenson (165 lbs); and Mason Mau (138 lbs) representing the consistent growth wrestlers are experiencing under Swenson’s coaching. This will be the first time Carson (senior) and Ryker (junior) compete at state — the second time for Blake (junior), and the fourth and final run for senior Mason!

The Sugar River Wrestling program instills a strong mental and physical toughness in its athletes, creating resilience and a growth mindset. Reaching state-level competition is simply a testament to the belief Swenson has in his athletes, and they carry it to the mat with every face-off. That energy is backed up by the community support the team draws locally, and that is part of what propels these wrestlers to excellence. Wrestling is heartfelt in the Sugar River community, and these athletes know it when it’s their time to compete!

Last season, Swenson sent three wrestlers to see state competition, and it is incredible to build upon that accomplishment with the addition of a fourth athlete representing the Raiders on a state level this year. It is always an incredible honor to hit the mats at the Kohl Center, but these athletes have gotten there knowing they have strong investment from their home community. As these four prepare to finish their seasons strong in Madison, a new wrestling community room is underway for the team and others to practice and grow stronger in anticipation of being even better for the 2024-25 athletic competition season.  

As the academic year began, Swenson had already set the wheels in motion to refit storage space in the Belleville Elementary school to further support his wrestlers and provide additional training space for the community at large.  Growth is the game plan for this teacher and coach and the bottom line for Swenson as he helps dreams come true for the Raiders team. In so doing, he also has helped provide additional needed spaces for local community members to learn and grow. In this way, Swenson is truly a leader inside and outside the classroom, making opportunities for small rural schools to provide the best they can with what resources they have available. Sometimes it just requires a little imagination and some sweat equity as team members worked with their coach and the School District of Belleville to help clean out the space and make a work-out area.  Dedicated practice space will now exist where it has not before for a group of young athletes who keep setting the bar higher for themselves.

“I am thankful for the support from the administration and community. This space will provide the opportunity for both boys and girls to learn and grow in wrestling. Also, this place provides additional space for the community to use for multiple purposes. Currently we are fundraising to have permanent mats down on the floor and wall for the safety of the kids. We are truly appreciative of all the donations we have received up to this point and would love anyone to reach out if they are interested in donating,” says Pete Swenson.

As Swenson has coached his team of athletes to excellence, he has also had the privilege of coaching his oldest son Ryker on his journey to success as a wrestler — it is something every parent hopes to see — the students they have helped grow as athletes achieve their dreams!

Coach Swenson emphasizes, “Coach Dan Endres and I have been working with all these kids since they were in elementary school. It’s amazing to see the growth and maturity of these individuals. As a father and coach, I am extremely proud of the young adults these kids have turned into. We understand that wrestling is a chapter in their lives, but we hope they can take something from it to help them be better people, and possibly become leaders.”

Swenson’s heart is just in it as he works to find the way to create the optimal wrestling program for students who want to take their dreams to the mat. No matter what they accomplish in a match or a season, they know that they have a coach who is ready and willing to go the extra mile for them and will continue to build a pathway to excellence in the sport he is passionate about. And… standing tall behind that coach and team is a local community ready and willing to give “face” to a team they believe in!

— Marie Perry is the Communications Director for the School District of Belleville. She can be reached at