Rhinelander’s Cole Lehman looks to escape the grasp of Medford’s Kayden Dassow during a 132-pound match in a Great Northern Conference wrestling dual at Raider Hall in Medford Thursday, Dec. 12. (Photos by Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
Rhinelander’s Walker Hartman looks to put Medford’s Hayden Johnson to his back during a 170-pound match in a Great Northern Conference wrestling dual at Raider Hall in Medford Thursday, Dec. 12. Hartman recorded a pin for Rhinelander, but the Hodags lost the dual, 51-30.
12/14/2019 7:30:00 AM Medford too much for RHS in GNC wrestling opener
MEDFORD - The Rhinelander High School wrestling team knows what kind of success it had in the past and the type of success it wants to enjoy again. The Medford Raiders are experiencing that level of success right now.
Medford, the defending Great Northern Conference champion, won six of 10 contested bouts and defeated Rhinelander 51-30 in the conference opener for both teams Thursday night at Raider Hall.
Thanks to a slew of pins and a number of forfeits, the match flew by in a brisk 30 minutes. Despite coming out on the losing end, Rhinelander coach Paul Ellenbecker said he was encouraged by the results.
"We're happy just to hang with them," he said. "There were some good matches and we battled them in a lot of matches. There's so much growth tonight with our team. We didn't win some of these matches, but we got in good, tight positions and we, hopefully, got better from tonight. That's all you can do when you're a rebuilding team and you're seeing the positives. There were a lot of positives again tonight."
"You look at the final, 51-30, it wasn't pretty but it wasn't ugly. We're happy with how we're competing and we're going to move forward from this and hopefully get better," Ellenbecker added.
The Raiders came in as the favorites to repeat in the GNC and were ranked 11th overall in Division 2 in the first team poll of the season released Wednesday by Wisconsin Wrestling Online. With the match starting at 126 pounds, Medford ran off six quick wins that included three Rhinelander forfeits to build a 33-0 advantage.
Rhinelander finally stemmed the tide at 170 pounds as junior Walker Hartman, ranked 12th in D1 in the weight class by Wisconsin Wrestling Online, pinned Medford's Hayden Johnson with eight seconds remaining in the first period.
"It's not easy, with all the momentum Medford had, for Walker to go out there and get a pin over a physically very gifted kid, Walker kind of got us back on track," Ellenbecker said of Hartman, who improved to 7-0 on the season.
Rhinelander also got pins from Ben Sinclair at 195, seventh-ranked Tim Fox at 113 and Hugh Wiese at 120.
"The kids they pinned weren't no slouches," Ellenbecker said. "You kind of expect it out of the older guys now and that's how you get your program back to where it was, you have you're kids that are more experienced lead and continue to get better."
By far the longest and most competitive match of the night came at 132 as sophomore Cole Lehman, in his first year of wrestling, went the distance against Medford sophomore Kayden Dassow.
Lehman took a brief 3-2 lead in the third period after getting Dassow in a head lock and earning two back points, but Dassow escaped to tie the match moments later, got the go-ahead takedown with 45 seconds left and eventually won by decision, 8-3.
"We had a chance to win that one and it's Cole's fifth or sixth match," Ellenbecker said. "He's getting better every single match. It's fun to watch Cole compete right now. He's really liking the sport and you wish the kid would have wrestled a couple more years. He's going to be into this sport and a big part of our future. It was fun, watching him go out there against a kid that's wrestled for a couple years, it didn't look like Cole was a beginner. The progress and the growth of him gets better."
Down 9-0 after the Lehman loss, Rhinelander ran right into the teeth of Medford's order. Third-ranked Dane Higgins and fifth-ranked Zeke Sigmund earned first period pins over Josh Gardner and Cayden Neri at 138 and 145. The Hodags forfeited to seventh-ranked Emett Grunwald at 152 and forfeited again to Jake Brunner at 160 as the Raiders took a 33-0 lead.
The only match of the night pitting two ranked wrestlers ended up a one-sided affair. Medford's Jake Rau, the top-ranked wrestler in D2 at 220 and reigning state champ, stopped Rhinelander's Trevor Knapp, who received honorable mention in D1, in 1 minute, 43 seconds.
"We went against some highly-ranked kids tonight," Ellenbecker said. "We stuck our noses in there and battled the best we could. We didn't win them but we did the best we could and I'm proud."
Conner Jensen received a forfeit victory for Rhinelander at heavyweight. Clay Bowe pinned Rhinelander's Connor Lund at 182 and Thaddeus Sigmund stopped Rhinelander's Tanner Schmidt 1:29 into the 106-pound match.
The match was part of grueling early-season schedule for the Hodags who are in Suamico this morning for one of the top early-season meets in the state, The Battle on the Bay hosted by Bay Port High School.
"It's crazy the competition so far and it's not going any easier this weekend," Ellenbecker said. "We're excited to go to Green Bay and test ourselves even more. We know it's going to be a struggle but we're there to get better and compete and we'll see what happens."
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at email@example.com.
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