The cards did not line up well for a depleted Rhinelander High School wrestling team Thursday night as it jumped back into Great Northern Conference competition.
Rhinelander won the first bout and only other contest for the remainder of the night in a 63-9 loss to Tomahawk at Hatchet Fieldhouse.
The Hatchets, No. 7 as a team in the latest Wisconsin Wrestling Online Division 2 rankings, won 10 of the 12 contested bouts and recorded seven pins.
"Tomahawk, this is the best team they've had in a long time. I don't think their 57 points better than us, or whatever they beat us by, but they're definitely a solid team. They're ranked in D2 for a reason," Rhinelander coach Paul Ellenbecker said. "They wrestled well. They did good. We weren't very good tonight. We had a bunch of new kids in the lineup. We had a lot of transition this week with some kids being sick, kids walking out of practice, quitting because of eligibility issues and stuff. It was a tough week all together. We didn't wrestle really too well tonight, but we got a lot of kids that had under five matches in their life on the mat tonight."
The dual featured two bouts with ranked wrestlers on both sides. Rhinelander took the first of those matches, as Walker Hartman (No. 12, D1, 170 lbs.) defeated Logan Bishop (honorable mention, D2, 160) 10-3 at 170. Tomahawk got the second featured bout as Eric Decker (No. 9, D2, 195) held off Trevor Knapp (honorable mention, D1, 220) 7-5 at 195.
Tim Fox (No. 8, D1, 113) recorded Rhinelander's only other victory as he pinned Tomahawk's Chris Bushong in the first period.
"Tim took care of business like we expected him to. It's a kid he can handle and he did. He did a great job of getting over it and getting a little bit of momentum back," Ellenbecker said. "Walker had a tough kid, he battled him and beat him 10-3. It's was one of them deals where both guys were expected to win and they did a good job. It's not easy to win when your back's against the wall and the momentum is not there at all. It's a tribute to those guys."
Cayden Neri came the closest to scoring another win for the Hodags. He was leading 6-4 in the third period against Tomahawk's Isaiah Scheffler when the Hatchet wrestler hit a five-point move, taking Neri down, putting the Hodag sophomore to his back and eventually finishing off the pin with 57 seconds remaining in the match.
"Cayden's getting better every time. He's a good wrestler, he just needs mat time," Ellenbecker said. "Our whole team needs more experience. We have too many kids on our team right now that had under 25 matches in their life yet. There's a magic number when you get to that 100 mark, you start to figure it out a little bit. We're not going to get there with a lot of these guys this year, but wrestling is not just a sport you go out there and win. You've got to work at it. You've got to commit to it and you've got to get kids matches."
Only two other matches went the distance Thursday night. Rhinelander's Connor Lund fell to Tomahawk's Kade Wenninger (No. 10, D2, 182), 8-3 in the 182-pound match. Joe Fugle went the distance against Tomahawk's Thomas Rigney at 160, losing 7-1.
The Hodags figure to get plenty of mat time today at the Bluejay Invitational in Merrill.
Ellenbecker said, for his young team, scramble tournaments like today's are beneficial because they will provide a chance for his younger wrestlers to get plenty of matches against wrestlers of similar abilities.
"That's what we need. We need scramble tournaments with the squad we have now," he said. "There's going to be good competition for our experienced kids, and our new kids are going to be able to get some matches at their level and get better."
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at email@example.com.
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