Rhinelander’s Alec Bess puts Wittenberg-Birnamwood’s Wyatt Schoepke to his back during a 170-pound match at the Bluejay Challenge wrestling meet Saturday, Jan. 7 at Merrill High School. Bess won the championship in the 170-pound class, going 5-0 on the day with three pins. (Jamie Taylor/River News0
1/10/2017 7:34:00 AM Hodag grapplers place 4th in Bluejay Challenge DeMeyer, Bess win individual titles
A long layoff seemed to have little effect on the Rhinelander High School wrestling team, which placed fourth overall out of 19 teams Saturday in the Bluejay Challenge at Merrill High School.
Jacob DeMeyer and Alec Bess won individual titles for the Hodags, who placed six wrestlers in the top three of their respective weight classes.
"Overall, I was pleased," Hodag coach Paul Ellenbecker said. "With the situation, coming back from it and the way the kids competed, there was some good wrestling today. We did a really good job as a whole and our top guys that really do well, did really well."
The 26-day break from competition did not slow down DeMeyer. The eighth-ranked 145-pounder in Division 1, according to WI Wrestling, blitzed the field Saturday, pinning all five of his opponents on his way to an individual title. DeMeyer (16-0) made short work of each of his opponents. Only one match made it to the third period. DeMeyer stopped Boyceville's Sam Retz 42 seconds into the third in the semis to reach the championship match, where he pinned Barron's Noah Massie at the 2:32 mark.
"He's definitely been wrestling great all year and maintaining his weight," Ellenbecker said. "It was a little bit of a cut for him (to stay at 145), but I think that cut makes him a little more ornery and he wrestles a little more aggressive. He's really picked it up overall this year. He's gotten better from last year, which is scary.
"He wasn't really challenged today, again. It's kind of unfortunate because last year he had just tons of tough kids and this year, it's like every one they put out in front of him he's just taking care of. He's on a roll right now and he'll keep it going."
Bess (14-1) joined DeMeyer in the winner's circle with a 5-0 day at 170. The senior, who is currently ranked seventh in D1 at 170, secured three pins and a technical fall in the preliminary rounds before knocking off Sun Prairie's Will Van Pietersom in the finals by a 9-4 decision.
"Alec, when he wrestles with confidence, he can wrestle with anybody and he's been really confident all year," Ellenbecker said. "He's really putting it together in his senior year. He's having a great year and his core strength is just unbelievable and how he can gets after people. He just muscles them and it's really fun to watch."
The Hodags nearly had a third champion but, Reuben Guzik - dropping to 113 for the first time this season - relinquished a late lead in the championship match to fall to Sun Prairie's Wyatt Thiel 11-9. It was the first loss of the season for Guzik (15-1).
"He was real sloppy in the last match," Ellenbecker said. "That's a kid that I think Reuben beats nine out of 10 times. He was up 5-0 and got thrown to his back and had to fight off his back. At the end of the first period he was down by one and he was up by two at the end of the match and lost it. To Reuben's defense, he hasn't been in a lot of close matches. He's pretty much pinned everybody he's wrestled. This is the first time he's really been challenged. It was good for him. Now that he's got that first loss, I think things will look up for him."
Alec Kurtz placed third at 182. His only loss came in the semifinals to Wittenberg-Birnamwood's Alex Peplinski, who's currently ranked first in Division 3 in the weight class. The 182-pound bracket featured five state-ranked wrestlers including Kurtz, who is currently 12th in D1.
"He beat some really good kids today on his way to third place," Ellenbecker said. "That's good moving forward to get him back to where he was at last year, confidence-wise."
Tyler Olson (120) and Alec Modrow (132) added third-place finishes for the Hodags.
"Alec Modrow, him and T.O. (Olson) are kind of in the same group," Ellenbecker noted. "They're guys who just went down a weight class for the first time today and both of them competed real well."
Sun Prairie won the meet with 498.5 points. The Hodags were the highest finisher of three GNC schools in the field. Tomahawk finished sixth and Lakeland placed 14th.
Next up for the Hodags is a Great Northern Conference dual Tuesday at Mosinee.
Note: The make-up dual between Rhinelander and Lakeland scheduled for Jan. 31 will have a new venue. The teams will wrestle at Lakeland Union High School in Minocqua instead of the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium in Rhinelander. The switch was made to accommodate a rescheduled boys' basketball game at the Miazga Gym for Jan. 31. Ellenbecker said Rhinelander will host the conference dual against Lakeland next year in trade. The teams were originally scheduled to wrestle Jan. 5, but the dual was pushed back as Rhinelander had not reached the WIAA-mandated minimum number of practices to resume competition after being unable to practice for 17 days due to a pertussis outbreak.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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