OFHS wrestlers have big shoes to fill

Error message

  • Notice: Undefined index: taxonomy_term in similarterms_taxonomy_node_get_terms() (line 518 of /home/octimesherald/www/www/sites/all/modules/similarterms/similarterms.module).
  • Notice: Undefined offset: 0 in similarterms_list() (line 221 of /home/octimesherald/www/www/sites/all/modules/similarterms/similarterms.module).
  • Notice: Undefined offset: 1 in similarterms_list() (line 222 of /home/octimesherald/www/www/sites/all/modules/similarterms/similarterms.module).
Panthers try to replace Morrissey, Friedman

Times Herald Photo by Gerrard Diaz

Gunnar Leisner, top, spars with Nate Trepanier during wrestling practice Monday at Oconto Falls High School.

The Oconto Falls High School wrestling team is in unfamiliar territory.

After years of high expectations, the Panthers have lost multiple state qualifiers in the last two years — including the school’s only three-time state champion, Jacob Morrissey, and an undefeated state champion, Mitch Friedman, last year.

“What a difference the room is without a Mitch Friedman and a Jake Morrissey and a whole host of other seniors that have been around our program forever,” Oconto Falls tri-head coach Marc Kinziger said. “It’s virtually impossible to fill that kind of void, but it has happened every year in the past, where you miss that leadership. We’re in the process now of finding who fills in, who is going to step up.”

Leading the list to step up are junior Dewey Krueger and sophomore Gunnar Leisner, who both competed at state last season.

“Dewey has to fill in the Mitch and the Jake roll,” Kinziger said. “That’s who we turn to, who we look at. Same thing with Gunnar, with that experience, wrestling down in Madison.”

Krueger, who had a 42-1 record last season, won a state title at 132 pounds last year and is looking to make his third trip to Madison this season.

“I feel like I’ve got a little bit of pressure on me, like I’ve got a target on my back,” Krueger said. “It’s going to be tough. I’m still going to have to work for it, but it should pay off.”

Leisner burst onto the scene as a freshman, finishing in fifth place at state at 113 pounds.

This year, all Leisner wants is a title.

“My big goal is to be a state champ this year,” he said. “It would be great to make it to state as a team.”

Making it to state as a team may be a tough task for the Panthers, who have grown significantly younger while Luxemburg-Casco — the Panthers’ primary foe both in the Bay Conference and in the tournament — returns most of its team from a year ago.

“We do continue to mention that next year could be a very special year,” Kinziger said. “Our ultimate goal is still state this year. The reality of it is it is a two-step process.”

To get past Luxemburg-Casco, the Panthers will need major contributions from guys like junior Sam Konitzer, who lost a tough overtime match in last season’s regional to a wrestler who advanced to the state final.

“I know two or three other kids that feel they should have been down at Madison,” Kinziger said.

Oconto Falls is also counting on underclassmen to fill out the weight classes, something other teams underestimate at their own peril.

“Teams know what is coming. You have to do stuff that they’re not expecting,” Leisner said. “If we have a young team and they’re not expecting a lot of guys to be good just because they are freshmen … we have a good team. A lot of freshmen that are coming up will compete.”