High school wrestling: Low roster numbers won’t slow down local teams

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Mix of returning talent, new faces has coaches eager to get started
By: 

Greg Bates, Times Herald Correspondent


Oconto Falls’ Tyler Budz, right, wrestles in a triple dual match against Denmark last season. Budz is hoping to make it back to state after qualifying two seasons ago. (Times Herald file photo)

Numbers are a little down for wrestling programs in northeastern Wisconsin.

However, that’s not going to stop the Oconto Falls, Gillett/Suring and Lena/St. Thomas Aquinas teams from mixing it up on the mat this season.

Oconto Falls

Annually, Oconto Falls generally qualifies three to four individuals for the state meet. Last season was an anomaly with just senior Dan Ausloos making it to Madison.

Panthers tri-head coach Marc Kinziger hopes to get a few more of his wrestlers to state in 2018-19.

With the loss of four valuable seniors, Oconto Falls is young and small. He has a number of guys who project in weight classes 106 through 120 but not many guys 195 pounds or heavier. Kinziger might have three 106-pounders vying for time.

“When you’re stacked at the lower end, there’s a lot of good wrestlers that don’t get varsity time,” Kinziger said. “Then there are guys on the upper end that are going to be put on the mat for default just because they’re the only body at the weight class.”

Expectations are still high, though, for the Panthers.

“We have a young team, but we’re still a good team,” said senior Trevor Pankratz, who will wrestle at 160 pounds. “I think people might underestimate us a little bit because we’re a young team, but we know our potential.”

Collin Schindel (120/126) and Bodee Woods (138/145) are two other seniors who will be relied on to have strong seasons. Junior Tyler Budz (113/120) qualified for state two years ago.

Jager Eisch is coming off a solid freshman campaign in which he got to the sectional semifinals at 106 pounds.

“He did a lot of wrestling in the offseason,” Kinziger said. “He should be a good guy to look at.”

Aidan Stary (152/160/170) is also looking to have a good sophomore season.

Oconto Falls has another exceptional freshman class led by Jaden Ganter and Clayton Whiting. Whiting (145/152) comes in as a decorated youth wrestler. Kinziger has high regard for the youngster, putting him in the same breath as two former Oconto Falls state champions.

“He’s coming in at a tougher weight class,” Kinziger said. “Do I want to say he’s going to come in and do what Jake Morrissey did at those tough weight classes? I don’t know about that. But he’s got the same kind of credentials as a Dewey Krueger and Jake Morrissey. He’s in that category.”

Gillett/Suring

Jeremy Krueger is bringing in a new attitude to the Gillett/Suring wrestling program.

“The interest was lost in the past, and now we’re going to try rebuilding it from the youth up,” Krueger said.

The first-year head coach, who wrestled in the program himself and graduated in 1994, has just 10 guys on his roster — the majority of whom are inexperienced. Only two of those athletes were in the varsity program a season ago.

“It’s a pretty new and fresh team,” Krueger said. “But they have a lot of promise in them, so I’m pretty stoked about that.”

Senior Sam Lemens will be the team leader and the athlete who teaches his young teammates along the way.

“I think my role on the team is to just set a good example for everyone,” Lemens said. “Just try and lead for them, try and lead by example and try to show them that by putting in hard work, you’re going to get the results out of it.”

Krueger was impressed with how hard Lemens worked in the summer to get better. Last year, Lemens advanced to sectionals for the first time but lost in the second round at 138 pounds. His goal is to make the podium at state.

Gillett/Suring has some good-looking freshmen led by Brody Zahn.

From what Lemens has witnessed in the first couple days of practice, he’s excited for the season.

“What I’ve seen from this group is they’re all super aggressive, and that’s the biggest part of wrestling in my opinion — just being aggressive and working hard through everything,” Lemens said.

Lena/St. Thomas Aquinas

Despite having just nine guys out for the Lena/St. Thomas Aquinas wrestling team, Chad Misco is happy that number is larger than last season.

“This year, we’re more experienced than we have been in probably the last four or five years,” Misco said. “We’ve been struggling the last three years, and we’re finally getting over the hump to where we have some experience and we’re not starting over. Every kid in the room now has wrestled for a few years.”

The 19th-year head coach believes his team should be solid from 120 to 145 pounds.

Junior Alex Decoursin (132) and sophomore Richard Feick (285) might be the best bets for Lena/STAA to have a wrestler advance to sectionals for the first time.