Going into Saturday's Great Northern Conference tournament, the Rhinelander High School boys' tennis team had a convincing 28-point advantage. The Hodags batled through several close matches on the day and would set a new GNC single scoring record in the process of earning their sixth straight conference title at Lakeland Union High Shcool.
RHS would win GNC titles in six of the seven flights and recorded a runner-up finish in the remaining flight. Rhinelander scored 40 points on the day, which was two points ahead of their scoring record they set last season and finished with 162 total points which was also a conference record.
Antigo finished runner-up in the GNC charted 26 conference tournament points, 14 behind Rhinelander. The Robins scored 120 total GNC points and were followed by Medford, Pacelli, Lakeland, and Newman Catholic.
All three doubles flights for the Hodags earned GNC titles. Starting at the top flight, seniors Logan Oestreich and Conner Young had a pair of tough matches they won to secure first place. In the semifinals Young and Oestreich jumped out to 6-4 first set win against Antigo's Brett Farmer and Jared McFarlane before dropping the second set 3-6. The Hodag duo rallied back to win the tiebreaker 6-0.
And in the finals Oestreich and Young earned a straight set win over Lakeland's Anthony Holmes and Zach Kane. Once again Rhinelander started strong. Rhinelander started strong again and raced out to a 6-2 win in the first set. But quickly fell behind 5-2 in the second set before winning five straight games to win the match 7-5.
At No. 2 doubles, Rhinelander freshmen Luke Ring and Elijah Evers had to to win a pair of three-set matches to win the GNC title. Against Sam Bretl and Simon McPhail of Antigo, Rhinelander won the three-setter 6-3, 3-6, 6-2.
In similar fashion in the finals, Evers and Ring battled back against Luis Silva and Tahtankka of Medford after falling in the second set 6-0. Rhinelander edged the Raiders 7-6 in the first set and would grind out the 7-5 third-set win to earn the title at the second doubles flight.
And at No. 3 doubles senior Bridger Flory and sophomore William Berwig won a pair of straight-set matches to win the conference title. First Berwig and Flory beat Kevin Damm and Cooper Wild of Medford 6-4 7-5. And closed the day with a 6-2, 6-3 win in the championship match against Frank McKenna and Ben Morris of Antigo.
In singles action, sophomore Jacob Weddle had an impressive accomplishment by earning GNC player of the year after finishing first in the top flight. Weddle cruised to a 6-0, 6-1 win over Charlie Kulick of Pacelli. And in the finals Weddle defeated Antigo's Brody Bunnell 6-2, 6-2 to win the title.
Senior Russell Benoy earned the GNC title at No. 2 singles after earning a pair of upset match wins on the day. Benoy was seeded third to start the tournament after going 4-5 in the GNC dual schedule, but had an strong finish and knocked off the top two seeds in the bracket.
In the quarterfinals round, Benoy downed Zac Muenzner of Lakeland 6-1, 6-1. Following suite in the semifinals, Benoy downed Antigo's Joe Bartletti and second-seed, 6-2, 6-2. And in the championship match Benoy closed with a 7-6, 6-3 upset win over top-seed Sterling Reilly of Medford to win the title at the second singles flight.
Senior Ian Conkey at No. 4 singles won both his matches on the day including a tough three-setter in the finals to win the title. Conkey started in the semifinals by defeating Nathan Boedecker of Lakeland 6-1, 6-0. But the finals proved to be more of challenge. Conkey won the first set 7-4 against Logan Searles of Medford before falling 5-7 in the second set. And would close the match with 10-1 win the tiebreaker.
At No. 3 singles, senior Freddy Wisner split a pair of matches to finish runner-up in the GNC. First in the semifinals, Wisner defeated Carson Kleist of Medford 6-1, 7-6. But Wisner would fall in straight sets in the championship match to Antigo's Garrett Husnick.
Rhinelander will close out their regular season on Tuesday when they host a triangular against Ashland and D.C. Everest at the RHS tennis courts. The Hodags will then return to Lakeland next Monday for the nine-team WIAA Division 2 subsectionals, where they face several of the GNC rivals including Antigo, Lakeland and Pacelli. Fox Valley Lutheran, Notre Dame, Shawano, St. Mary Catholic, and Xavier will also compete in the subsectional.