The 2017-2018 Rhinelander High School wrestling team season, was one to add to the books. Not only did the Hodags regain the Great Northern Conference title this season, but they finished the season with five individual regional titles and three sectional titles and sent five grapplers to the 2018 WIAA State Meet. Rhinelander battled through a rigorous Division 1 regional against Wisconsin Valley Conference opponents and were led by a core group of seniors. Here is a look back at the teams' successful season. GNC Title
The Hodags went in the GNC meet in first place after they won a 48-22 conference dual against defending GNC champs, Medford at the end of January. RHS raced out to a convincing 33-3 and never looked back in the victory.
Rhinelander would regain the GNC title and marked their fourth crown in the past five years. RHS also had five individual champions and six other wrestlers earned top-three finishes in the GNC Meet held at Lakeland Union High School.
Last season, RHS was upset by Medford in the GNC race and they would make sure that wouldn’t happen again this season. The Raiders and Hodags were tied for first place about halfway through the first round of the GNC Meet. But Rhinelander finished strong and would rally for a 42-point victory with a total of 393 points. Antigo edged Medford by 10 points for runner-up.
Seniors Reuben Guzik (113), Tyler Olson (120), Jacob DeMeyer (145), Alec Kurtz (195), and Colton Krueger (285) all won individual GNC titles to lead the Hodags to their fourth GNC title in the last five seasons.
Early Non-Conference Success
The RHS wrestling team had a rigorous non-conference schedule especially early in the season. The Hodags' not only competed but had great success through the month of December when they battled in four non-conference invitationals; Pulaski Duals, Bay Port Battle on the Bay, the Marty Low Classic (Fond du Lac), and the Northern Badger Classic (River Falls).
First in the beginning of December, RHS finished 3rd/7 at the Pulaski Invite and continued to improve even against tough competition. They then finished sixth at the Bay Port Invite with a field of 25 teams and also took sixth in Fond du Lac out of 24 teams. And at the end of December Rhinelander finished 4th at the River Falls Invite out of 44 total teams.
Not only did the team have success in their non-conference schedule but they had a pair of standout seniors earn individual titles. DeMeyer and Kurtz each won titles in their weight class at the Battle of the Bay. While Kurtz also finished first at the Marty Loy and DeMeyer charted another win at the Northern Badger.
The Hodags' were led by a core group of seven seniors throughout the season; DeMeyer, Scott Fox, Guzik, Krueger, Kurtz, Alex Monk, and Olson. Rhinelander earned a 44-25 win over Antigo on senior night and also marked a milestone win for one senior. Krueger joined teammates; DeMeyer, Kurtz, Olson, and Guzeik in earning 100-career wins.
All seven of the Hodag seniors earned all-conference honors, while Guzik, Olson, DeMeyer, Kurtz, and Krueger all took home individual GNC titles. And all five the individual GNC champion seniors also qualified for state. DeMeyer, Kurtz, and Olson all won sectional titles while Guizk and Krueger earned runner-up at sectional to earn a trip to state. Three of the five qualifying seniors also placed in the top-five at state to close their high school wrestling careers.
Two of those seniors also made Rhinelander wrestling history this season. DeMeyer now holds the Hodags' career wins record at 162. While Kurtz also set the single-season pin record with 48 pins this season.
All five seniors who advanced to the 2018 WIAA Division 1 State tournament held at the Kohl Center in Madison, qualified to compete in the second day. And three of the five would go on to earn top-five finishes to close out their stellar high school season.
DeMeyer reached the state semifinals for the second consecutive year and would fall to Drew Scharenbrock of Sun Prairie who went on to become the state champion. DeMeyer would go on to finish third at state at 145 pounds. DeMeyer would finish the season with a 47-2 record and an impressive 162-20 record throughout his high school career.
In very similar fashion, Kurtz also had to work his way through the wrestleback bracket and made it the placement rounds where he also finished third at 195. Kurtz finished his senior season with a 48-2 record.
Guzik at 113 also ran into eventual state champ Eric Barnett of Hortonville who went undefeated this season. Guzik fell to Ashwaubenon's Noah Leisgang before rallying to back to earn a 7-4 decision over Milton’s Mason Dutcher to finish fifth place at state. Guzik finished his senior season with a 38-12 record.
Olson and Krueger both advanced to the consolation bracket but would fall Friday morning in the second day of competition. Both seniors did not place but made a great run. Krueger finished his senior year with a 37-9 record while Olson went 41-8.
The RHS wrestling team will lose five state qualifiers for next season and two additional seniors to graduation. Despite losing a core group of seniors, the Hodags will bring back sectional qualifiers; Tim Fox, Eric Grulke, and Walker Hartman as well as all-conference wrestlers Trevor Knapp and Hunter Greyhair. The Hodags' know they have large shoes to fill with the voids, but are optimistic about the future and will strive for another GNC title.