Rhinelander’s Walker Hartman puts Crandon’s Breed Shepard to his back in a 170-pound match during a non-conference wrestling dual at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium Thursday, Dec. 5. Hartman pinned Shepard, and the Hodags won six of eight contested bouts, in a 59-9 victory over the Cardinals. (Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
12/7/2019 7:30:00 AM Welcome back RHS wrestlers rout Crandon 59-9 in Ellenbecker's return
It almost feels like Paul Ellenbecker never left the Rhinelander High School wrestling program.
Back at the helm following a year off, Ellenbecker's Hodags picked up right where he left off after the 2017-18 season. Rhinelander won six of eight contested bouts Thursday night and cruised to a 59-9 victory over Crandon in a non-conference dual meet at the Jim Miazga Community Gymnasium.
"Tonight, the energy in the gym was pretty impressive," Ellenbecker said. "The kids seemed excited about wrestling again. That was kind of sweet, too. It felt like old times almost."
Ellenbecker returned to the program after Nathan Piasecki was let go by the district roughly a month before the start of the season. Ellenbecker inherited a young roster with a number of holes to fill, but liked the way his team started the season.
"It was a nice way to start the year," he said. "We're a very, very young team with a lot of new kids to the sport. To get a home meet and wrestle well like we did, there were a lot of good things that happened tonight. It's good for some of our young kids to see the excitement of a dual meet and basically how to compete in a dual meet."
Rhinelander was never threatened in the match, winning the first five weight classes to take a 29-0 lead. Rhinelander also won the final five weight classes, with Crandon taking two of three classes in between. Both teams forfeited at the 132-pound class.
The dual ended with the featured bout of the night. Crandon senior Breed Shepard against Rhinelander junior Walker Hartman in a 170-pound match. Shepard was ranked as high as fourth in Division 3 in the class by Wisconsin Wrestling Online while Hartman finished one match away from the WIAA state meet in Division 1 at 152.
Shepard got the initial takedown, but Hartman turned the tables eventually putting Shepard to his back and pinning him at the 1:24 mark.
"Breed took Walker down with a big double right away and Walker ended up coming back, reversing him, putting him to his back and getting the pin," Ellenbecker said. "That's not an easy thing to do. Breed's one of the best wrestlers around."
A number of Rhinelander's returning wrestlers were victorious Thursday night with Connor Lund, Trevor Knapp and Tim Fox adding wins in contested bouts early in the dual to give Rhinelander a 32-3 lead.
Lund opened the night with a technical fall over Silas Denee at 182. Knapp stopped Nick Adamski just 52 seconds into the heavyweight match and Fox got a late takedown to edge Cole Shepherd in a 5-4 decision at 126.
"Trevor Knapp took care of business. You look at some of our upperclassmen, Connor Lund started with a tech fall right away. Our seniors did a great job," Ellenbecker said. "Tim wrestled one of their talented freshmen and going up a weight class is not easy to do. Timmy ended up getting the win. It was a close match and he battled through some tough spots. Tim didn't wrestle his best match, but he still found a way to get a win at the end, which is encouraging."
A couple of Rhinelander's younger wrestlers picked up wins later in the dual. Josh Gardner earned a pin at the 1:47 mark of the 138-pound match over Crandon's Trevor Schunk. Cayden Neri, wrestling at 152, defeated Carter Bissonette, 9-4.
Ben Sinclair (195), Conner Jensen (220), Kyle Wiese (106), Trevyn Rappley (145) and Abby Swanson (160) won by default as Crandon forfeited in six weight classes. The Cardinals lone wins came at 113 and 126 as Huston Kane pinned Tanner Schmidt in the first period and Brett Palubicki defeated Hugh Wiese, 10-3.
Rhinelander returns to action today as it travels to Wausau West for a dual meet tournament. Ellenbecker said the team will have its work cut out for itself in one of the tougher meets it will have all season.
"It's going to be a big, big challenge. We're not going to be favored in any of the matches Saturday. It's going to be rough, we're going to get some good matches and we'll see what happens," he said.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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