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December 11, 2019

10/17/2019 7:32:00 AM
Piasecki out; Ellenbecker to return to RHS wrestling on interim basis

In a sudden development Wednesday, the Rhinelander High School wrestling program is returning to the head coach that led it to four Great Northern Conference titles in five years.

Paul Ellenbecker has been named interim head coach, the School District of Rhinelander announced in a press release issued Wednesday afternoon. He replaces Nathan Piasecki who has been let go by the district, according to activities director Brian Paulson.

"With the season approaching quickly, it was in the best interest of our student athletes to have a familiar face with in this leadership role," the district's press release states. "Coach Ellenbecker previously led the Hodag Wrestling Team to four (4) Great Northern Conference titles and was recognized as Coach of the Year in the GNC."

"We are thankful to Coach Ellenbecker for filling this need for our student athletes and look forward to the season ahead," the release continued.

When contacted by the River News, Paulson said Piasecki, who was also a teacher's assistant at James Williams Middle School, is no longer with the district.

"This was a district move. It was not based on his performance as coach at all. It's a personal matter that he will take care of," Paulson said, declining to elaborate further.

A phone call to Piasecki seeking comment on the matter was not returned as of deadline.

Piasecki, a Lakeland Union High School alum and former state wrestling qualifier, led the RHS wrestling program last year, taking over after Ellenbecker elected to step down following the 2017-18 season.

Rhinelander finished fourth in the Great Northern Conference last season, going 2-3 in conference dual meets. The team had one individual conference champion - Tim Fox at 106 pounds. Rhinelander sent eight wrestlers to WIAA sectional competition last year but none advanced to the WIAA state tournament.

"It's sad to see coach Piasecki not be our head coach any more. I think during his time he was able to build a lot of relationships with the kids here - not only athletically, but during the school year," Paulson told the River News. "He has been working with a lot of kids as a teacher assistant. There was a lot of kids that his demeanor worked well with. He'll be a loss as a head coach, but also to the district."

Ellenbecker led the Hodags for seven seasons from 2011-2018. The Hodags won conference titles in four of those seasons - the first four conference team wrestling titles in program history. The Hodags' best season under Ellenbecker may have been the 2017-18 campaign. The team sent five wrestlers to the WIAA state tournament that season and three placed in the top five in their respective weight classes.

A press conference to formally reintroduce Ellenbecker as head coach is planned for Thursday afternoon.

The River News will have more on this story in Saturday's edition.

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