Beaufort News

Bluffton High School wrestlers mourn former teammate

The Bluffton High School wrestling team is mourning the loss of a former teammate and standout who drowned Friday in Wisconsin.

The Eau Claire (Wis.) Leader-Telegram reported that people tubing down the Chippewa River found the body of 22-year-old Ricardo Gonzales floating in the river Friday afternoon. Officials say he'd spent the previous night drinking with his teammates.

Gonzales, a 2008 graduate of Bluffton High School, was a wrestler and a history major at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and had just been named co-captain of the school's wrestling team, the newspaper reported.

Gonzales' father, Ricardo M. Gonzales, is University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire's director of facilities planning, according to the university's website.

When his body was found, Gonzales' blood alcohol level was 0.19 percent - more than twice the legal level -- and police say that might have contributed to his death, according to the newspaper's report.

No foul play is suspected in his death.

A funeral service for Gonzales is scheduled for next week in Eau Claire, according to a spokesman for the family.

Gonzales transferred to Bluffton High School his senior year from New Mexico and quickly became one of the Bobcats' most reliable wrestlers, said John Hollman, the school's wrestling coach.

"He never missed a practice, never questioned anything you said," Hollman said. "Ricky was such a likable, all-American kid."

In February 2008, Gonzales finished third in the state in his weigh class, and narrowly missed wrestling for a state final after losing an 8-7 decision in the semifinal to the eventual champion.

Gonzales also was selected that year to wrestle in the North-South All-Star Classic in North Myrtle Beach.

Hollman said he and Gonzales' former teammates are reeling from the loss.

"Everyone is devastated," Hollman said. "I've been coaching 20 years and I've been lucky enough to never ever have to deal with this kind of pain. Now I have to mourn the loss of a kid who was very much like a son to me."

Hollman said his team will dedicate its upcoming season to Gonzales and his family.

Follow reporter Patrick Donohue at twitter.com/ProtectServeBft.

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