The Rhinelander High School wrestling team will be looking to push for another Great Northern Conference title for the 2017-2018 season and return several experienced grapplers that could give them an edge in the Great Northern Conference. Last season, the Hodags finished second in the conference, 26 points behind the Raiders but despite not securing their fourth straight title they still send four wrestlers to the WIAA State Meet.
Although this season, Rhinelander will not have much depth to their lineup, as they only have 18 wrestlers out this season. Despite lower numbers, Coach Paul Ellenbecker and the Hodags remain optimistic about their chances to get back on top of the GNC and will return a several elite seniors which can help lead the way.
There is no doubt, Rhinelander has several quality wrestlers returning which include three sectional and three state qualifiers. Senior Jacob DeMeyer was the lone Hodag to earn a podium finish at state last season, finishing fourth and would mark his third straight trip to state at 145-pounds.
Reuben Guzik (113) and Alec Kurtz (182) along with DeMeyer will be the returning seniors who qualified for state. Alec Bess (160) graduated last year and was Rhinelander's fourth state qualifier last season. Guzik and Kurtz each made into the wrestleback, but were eliminated in the consolation rounds.
Also returning are regional qualifiers; senior Tyler Olson (120), junior Eric Grulke (138), and senior Colton Krueger (195). Krueger was just shy of qualifying for state last year, but fell to Sam Stroik for the second time at the Merrill regional. Olson finished fourth at sectionals last season. Overall Rhinelander finished second behind Hudson in sectionals.
The Hodags will also return Isabella Anderson, Jeremiah Bellow, Scott Fox, Hunter Greyhair, Trevor Knapp, Connor Lund, Alex Monk, and Chase Redmond. Rhinelander also brings in five freshman including Tim Fox, Walker Hartman, Autumn Pond, Ben Sinclair, and Will Swanson.
Rhinelander faces a tough non-conference schedule for the upcoming season which includes invitationals held in Pulaski (Dec. 2nd), Bay Port (Dec. 9th), Fond du Lac (Dec. 16th), and River Falls (Dec. 28th).
The Hodags will kick off their Great Northern Conference schedule on the road at Tomahawk on Thursday, December 14th. RHS will finish their dual portion of the conference at Medford on January, 25th. And the GNC Meet will be held at Lakeland Union High School on February, 3rd.
Looking ahead, Rhinelander has a chance to once again after several sectional and state qualifiers for 2017-2018, but will need to first face all seven of the Wisconsin Valley Conference teams in the Division 1 regionals. Despite the lack of the depth, RHS returns several core wrestlers and has the opportunity to take back the GNC title and advance a number of grapplers to Madison.
Rhinelander will open their season on Thursday, November 30th when they host Crandon the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium for a non-conference dual.