The Rhinelander High School wrestling team opened their 2019-2020 season with a convincing 59-9 win over Crandon on Thursday night. The Hodags would win six of the eight contest bouts to cruise to a 50-point non-conference dual victory at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium.
Paul Ellenbecker is back as head coach for Rhinelander, after taking a year off. Despite a younger roster with several voids, the Hodags started their season off strong. The Hodags had a solid start in the dual winning the first five bouts to race out to a 29-0 lead. The Cardinals won two weight classes in between before RHS took the final five classes.
One of the highlight matches of the night came in the final bout and was a showdown between junior Walker Hartman and Crandon senior Breed Shepard at 170-pounds. Shepard was a 2018 WIAA Division 3 state qualifier and was ranked fourth by Wisconsin Wrestling online. Shepard took down Walker to start, but then Hartman battled back and reversed Sherpard, got him on his back and recorded the pin at 1:24.
Rhinelander also had a number of returning wrestlers get wins early in the match to help the Hodags race out to a 32-3 lead. Connor Lund, Trevor Knapp, and Tim Fox all recorded wins to set the tone against Crandon. Lund opened with a technical all over Silas Denee at 182. Knapp made short work of Nick Adamski and earned a pin just 53 seconds into the heavyweight bout. And Fox used a late takedown over freshman Cole Shepherd at 126 pounds to earn a 5-4 decision.
Later in the match, the Hodags also scored wins at 138 and 152 bouts. Josh Gardner pinned Crandon’s Trevor Schunk with only 13 seconds left in the first period at 138. And Cayden Neri earned a 9-4 decision over Carter Bissonette.
Kyle Wiese (106), Trevyn Rappley (145), Abby Swanson (160), Ben Sinclair (195), and Connor Jensen (220) all recorded forfeit wins. The Cardinals forfeited at six weight classes overall and their only two wins came at the 113 and 126 weight classes. Huston Kane pinned Tanner Schmidt and Brett Palubicki won a 10-3 decision over Hugh Wiese. Both teams forfeited at 132 pounds.
The Hodags will be back on the mat today when travel to Wausau West for one of their toughest invites this season. Rhinelander will then open their Great Northern Conference schedule on Thursday when they travel to Medford to take on the defending conference champions.
The Rhinelander High School wrestling team is looking to get back on top of the Great Northern Conference after dropping from first to fourth in the standings last season. The Hodags return Paul Ellenbecker as head coach, after taking a season off. Despite the challenges RHS will encounter, they return five all-conference wrestlers this season and will look to their younger talented wrestlers with little varsity experience to fill some voids for the 2019-2020 season.
Rhinelander's top two returning grapplers from last season will be juniors Tim Fox and Walker Hartman. Both Hodag juniors were only one win shy of advancing to the WIAA state tournament and placed third at sectionals. Fox finished 32-11 overall and won the GNC title at 106 pounds but would fall in a 7-6 decision in sectionals last year. While Hartman was 32-12 a year ago and was second in the GNC at 152-pounds.
The Hodags also return a number of additional sectional qualifiers including juniors Hugh Wiese (113 pounds), junior Ben Sinclair (185 pounds), senior Connor Lund (195 pounds), and senior Trevor Knapp (220 pounds). Rhinelander will likely have a strong upper weight class again this year led by Hartman, Lund, Knapp, and Sinclair. But the biggest question marks for Hodags will be who will fill the lower and middle class weights.
Rhinelander lost Eric Grulke to graduation and also lost two other wrestlers this season; sophomore Gavin Ostermann and junior Alex Olson. Ostermann went out for boys' swimming this year and Olson suffered an elbow injury in football and also will not be out for the team.
Looking ahead the GNC competition, Medford is the favorite to win the conference and returns a majority of their varsity lineup from last season. Tomahawk will also be a tough GNC rival and returns seven of their eight all-GNC wrestlers and Antigo also can not be overlooked to battle at the top of the conference.
The Hodags will be put the test early and will have a tough pair of tournaments. Rhinelander will open their season and will host non-conference dual against Crandon tonight and will begin at 7:0PM at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium. RHS will then head to Wausau West for an invite on Saturday. The Hodags will have their GNC opener on December, 12th when they face reigning GNC champs Medford. And will particapte in the Battle of the Bay Invite at Bay Port on Saturday, December 14th.
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