The season will continue for four Rhinelander High School wrestlers following Saturday's WIAA Division 1 regional tournament at D.C. Everest High School in Schofield.
Tim Fox, Walker Hartman, Trevor Knapp and Ben Sinclair all finished second in their respective weight classes to advance to this coming Saturday's sectional round in Wisconsin Rapids.
Rhinelander, which had 10 wrestlers compete in regionals, placed seventh in the eight-team field that included the entire Wisconsin Valley Conference.
"Four kids through and we would have liked to have gotten a few more kids, but the one thing I'm happy about is getting four seconds, which makes a big difference in a tournament like this for matchups for the next weekend," Rhinelander coach Paul Ellenbecker said. "All four of the guys, really looking the brackets, have a legit chance (of making it to state) ... That's all you can really ask."
Fox won his first two matches of the day in the 113-pound weight class, pinning Wausau East's Ze Yang in the first period before knocking off Marshfield's Shane Westerhausen 3-0 in the semifinals. Fox lost to Stevens Point's Justin Groshek, the No. 3 wrestler in the class according to Wisconsin Wrestling Online in the championship match.
"Timmy had a big win in the semis against a higher-ranked kid," Ellenbecker said. "That really sets the tone for next week's rematch more than likely. Tim's focused in. He knows what his goals are. He thinks about his goals. It a matter of going in next week and doing what he's been doing all year - being consistent out working the guy. He's been wrestling very well for a long stretch and I like his odds."
Hartman needed a sudden victory win over Merrill's Casey Hoffman in the semifinals at 170 points to reach the championship match, where he fell to fifth-ranked Gabe Carter of D.C. Everest by a 5-1 decision.
"Walker kind of ran into a little bit of a buzzsaw there with Gabe Carter who's 39-1 now and just a very solid wrestler," Ellenbecker said. "He never gets himself in a bad position. He's a very smooth, very strong kid. I think he surprised Walker on some of his leg attacks, how physical he was getting in on the leg and finishing it. Walker had just got to get more offensive. He's in a little bit of a lull right now, but he's got time to turn it around."
Knapp earned the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye in the 195-pound bracket and made short work of Wausau West's Joseph Nienow, pinning him in 48 seconds, to reach the finals. That set up a showdown against ninth-ranked Andrew Schutz of Wisconsin Rapids, who took the bout, 3-0. Knapp then pinned Merrill's Walker Bathke in a wrestleback for second place.
"Trevor didn't have a very good finals match. I don't think he wrestled his best. He came back and got a quick pin of the kid who pinned him a couple weeks earlier, a guy that he lost to," Ellenbecker said. "You never know what's going to happen in wrestling, but I do think if Trevor wrestles the kid from Rapids I like his odds. He's a better wrestler than what he showed today, but the great thing is he put himself in position to get another chance at the state tournament."
Sinclair, who dropped down to 220 for the regional tournament, received a medical forfeit over Marshfield's Adrian Kruger and then pinned Stevens Point's Ben Raczek in the first period to reach the finals. There Sinclair ran into fourth-ranked Orion Boe of D.C. Everest and was stopped in 31 seconds.
"I think that was big for Ben to take second place because I think he's got a very winnable first-round match (at sectionals) and then he's in the top four," Ellenbecker said. "The top kid on the bracket, I believe is a freshman who had nine losses on the year. Ben's Ben. You never know what you're going to get sometimes, but you know you're going to get good effort and he pins a lot of kids. He's got a legit case. He's just got to go out and wrestle."
Rhinelander had two wrestlers narrowly miss out on the sectional round as Tanner Schmidt took fifth at 106 and Connor Lund was fifth at 182. Schmidt won his opening match of the day, but was pinned in his next three matches to drop to fifth. Conversely, Lund lost to Wausau West's Nathan LaRue 16-10 in the first round. He came back with a 15-6 win over Merrill's Wyatt Bathke in the consolation bracket, but lost a chance to wrestle for fourth when LaRue was pinned while leading late in the third-place match. Because LaRue had defeated Lund earlier in the day, LaRue was automatically awarded fourth place by rule.
"It's a bittersweet day for him, at least he got to go out with a win, which is kind of cool and he did it in Connor Lund style, just a street fight, basically," Ellenbecker said. "He's not exactly the smoothest wrestler, but he'll go to battle with anybody."
Hugh Wiese (120), Cayden Neri (145) and David Schramke (285) finished sixth in their brackets for Rhinelander. Cole Lehman (126) and Joe Fugle (160) lost both of their matches in the double-elimination tournament.
The sectional round takes place this coming Saturday in Wisconsin Rapids. Wrestlers must finish first or second in their eight-person brackets to qualify for the WIAA state meet Feb. 27-29 at the Kohl Center in Madison.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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