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January 17, 2020

Rhinelander’s Walker Hartman controls an opponent during the Bluejay Challenge wrestling meet at Merrill High School Saturday, Jan. 11. Hartman went 5-0 on the day and won the 170-pound weight class for the Hodags. (Photos by Jamie Taylor/River News)
Rhinelander’s Walker Hartman controls an opponent during the Bluejay Challenge wrestling meet at Merrill High School Saturday, Jan. 11. Hartman went 5-0 on the day and won the 170-pound weight class for the Hodags. (Photos by Jamie Taylor/River News)
Rhinelander’s Tim Fox looks to turn an opponent during the Bluejay Challenge wrestling meet at Merrill High School Saturday, Jan. 11. Fox won the title at 113 pounds in Saturday’s tournament.
Rhinelander’s Tim Fox looks to turn an opponent during the Bluejay Challenge wrestling meet at Merrill High School Saturday, Jan. 11. Fox won the title at 113 pounds in Saturday’s tournament.
1/14/2020 7:33:00 AM
Wrestling: Hodags' Fox, Hartman win titles at Bluejay Challenge

Jeremy Mayo
Sports Editor


After struggling Thursday night in a dual meet at Tomahawk, the Rhinelander High School wrestling team had a bounce-back day on Saturday.

Tim Fox and Walker Hartman won individual titles, the Hodags had four top three finishers overall and the team took seventh overall in the 19-team Bluejay Challenge at Merrill High School.

The Hodags were the top-placing GNC school in the field, ahead of 12th-place Lakeland and finished only seven points behind Wausau West for sixth.

"We're pretty excited overall," Rhinelander coach Paul Ellenbecker said. "It's always good to end a tournament in a good way. Looking at the matches in the finals and the placement matches, we won most of them matches. We won some close matches. Our more experienced kids, we had two champions, a runner-up and a third. That's pretty impressive. It was a good day for everyone in our program. I'm really proud of our effort and it's definitely something we can build off of."

Fox, ranked eighth in the Division 1 at 113 pounds by Wisconsin Wrestling Online, went 4-0 Saturday with two pins and an injury default win before edging sixth-ranked (D2) Pierson Potrykus of Wittenberg-Birnamwood 5-4 in the championship match. Hartman (No. 12, D1, 170) started his day with a couple of pins and eventually worked his way into the finals against Prairie du Chien's Bradyn Saint (No. 4, D2, 170), where he won by decision, 7-4.

"I think the most impressive thing for Tim and Walker is who they beat in the finals," Ellenbecker said. "Tim beat a very distinguished, ranked kid for first place. Tim needed to get over the hump and win a tournament this year. He's been always close all year long and some of these close matches didn't go his way. It was awesome how he ended up finish the match.

"Walker, he wrestled a very brash, very physical, borderline shady kid, a very talented kid. I think he's ranked fourth in D2. It was a very physical match. Walker got ahead with a big headlock and just kept wrestling and kept his cool and composure in a match where the kid was obviously frustrated and stuff like that."

Ben Sinclair was the runner-up at 220 pounds for Rhinelander while Trevor Knapp finished third at 195. Both ran into undefeated, top-ranked wrestlers in defeat. Sinclair recorded two pins to reach the finals, but fell to Edgar's Ethan Heil (No. 1, D3, 220) in the championship match. Knapp was pinned by 28-0 Tyler Hannah (No. 1, D2, 195) of Prairie du Chien in the semifinals, but bounced back with a win by pin in the championship match.

"Ben got a chance to be on the big stage and be in the finals of a tournament. You can't replace that experience," Ellenbecker said.

"It was a good tournament for Trevor," Ellenbecker added. "He's getting used to being 195. I don't hardly ever remember Trevor being 195 pounds all through high school. He looks the part, he's adjusted with his weight well and he's a senior leader on our team. He's only going to get better as the year goes on once he adjusts down to 195."

Connor Lund finished fifth for Rhinelander at 182, Hugh Wiese was seventh at 120, Kyle Wiese took eighth at 106, Cole Lehman was ninth at 126, Connor Jensen was ninth at 220 and David Schramke finished 10th at 285.

"The great thing about these scramble tournaments is that you wrestle into your pools and when you get into your pools, you get matchup with kids at your own level," Ellenbecker said. "The last round or two of the tournament I don't think we lost hardly any matches at all. That's a good thing for where we're at as a program. Seeing kids go out there and get their first varsity wins was huge for us."

The Hodags are back in action Thursday in the second annual Handrick Hammer dual against Lakeland. Rhinelander won the inaugural installment 45-36 last year in a trophy series that honors the late Tom Handrick, a former assistant coach at both Rhinelander and Lakeland, who passed away unexpectedly in March 2018.

"Knowing Tom like I did, and having Tom coach with me over here, selfishly, I want to win that thing as much as anybody," Ellenbecker said. "I don't ever want to lose it. Our guys need to be ready because Lakeland has the ability to put together a full lineup. There's going to be nothing free in that dual meet. We're going to have to be totally prepared and ready.

"We need to keep that Hammer in Rhinelander, bottom line. It's awesome having a rivalry wrestling match like that. The Hammer, it is a cool thing for our community and our kids. We're going to be talking about it all week long. It's a priority in the program. We're not losing that. We don't want to lose that. It would hurt to lose it and I really don't want to lose it. We're going to go up there, give it everything we've got and hopefully keep it where it belongs."

Jeremy Mayo may be reached at jeremy@rivernewsonline.com.





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