Passion for boxing remains strong in Lac du FlambeauSubmitted: 03/29/2017

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LAC DU FLAMBEAU - Names of boxers no longer pop into the minds of Americans when thinking of famous athletes.

Muhammed Ali, Joe Frazier, and George Foreman are names of the past.

But in Lac du Flambeau, the boxing culture remains strong.

The coaches of the Flambeau Indians Boxing Team have spent years in the ring, but these days, they're
"Instead of a kid getting into a fight out on the school yard, he can come here and work out and realize you're not supposed to fight in public. There's a place you can come put the gloves on, and all the gear, safety equipment that you need," said Head Coach Jerome "Booj" Labarge.

Labarge says boxing helped him stay out of trouble when he was growing up in Lac du Flambeau.

Now he and his coaching partner, Ira Frank, have been boxing for 20 years.

They're using the sport that helped them, to help others.

"Just to show the kids around here, it is possible to become a professional boxer, and I've done it. You guys can do it, and go further than I ever imagined," said Labarge.

Further in distance too.

The Flambeau Indians give young boxers a chance to see and explore new places.

"A lot of kids don't have a lot of things to do in the summer. I'll take them to Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Green Bay at certain points, "said Labarge.

The two coaches and long-time friends now mentor a dozen boxers, including some kids that are just starting out.

But if you want to box with these two, you need to take it seriously.

"You've got to be healthy, you've got to eat right," said Labarge. "You've got to train right, you've got to be right spiritually to box."

Labarge and Frank not only train their team, they also use their connections from years in the ring to secure bouts for their young fighters.

Labarge says there's nothing better than seeing them in that moment.

"I can relate so much to their feelings of their adrenaline flowing, the excitement of the crowd, everything. I love seeing that, I love seeing kids be happy," said Labarge.

Labarge and Frank pay for most of the team's expenses out of their own pockets.

The coaches say the tribal council has supported them every step of the way.

They've given them a space to practice in the LDF multipurpose building.

The team meets there three times per week.

Story By: Mark Spillane

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RHINELANDER - Major League baseball finally begins this weekend. But here in the Northwoods, baseball is already underway. The WIAA has created a new rule this year to help keep pitchers healthy.

Pitchers can pitch a maximum of 100 pitches a day. Depending on the amount of pitches thrown, there is always a rest period. If they reach 100, they have to take three days off.

Rhinelander head coach Joe Waksmonksi knows the changes will create a different feel during the game.

"There's probably going to be more pitching changes in the middle of a game and even in the middle of an inning that hasn't been done in the past. Teams are going to have to develop more of a bullpen mentality at a high school level," said Waksmonski.

It won't just be the pitchers that will adapt to the new rule. It will also cause changes for the offense.

"We've already talked a lot to our hitters about being more selective and taking more pitches, especially earlier in the count. We're trying to drive up the oppositions pitch count as well," said Waksmonski.

Rhinelander baseball has its first game in Green Bay on Monday.

For more information on the new rule, follow the link below.

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MERRILL - Families in Wisconsin usually pass down the family tradition of hunting. When kids start at such a young age, they need mentors to show them the ropes. A group of children met with old pros at Rib Mountain Bowmen to learn how to get better at bow hunting.

"We really want archery to be a popular sport for kids instead of waiting until you're an adult," said youth archery shoot coordinator Sonja Gasper.

Rib Mountain Bowmen in Merrill invites children to their facility almost every weekend.

"I get input from a lot of different people. Some have been shooting for years, some have been shooting for most of their lives. I'm using it as practice to get back in the swing of things in time for summer," said Sydney Goethel.
At 14 years old, Goethel was one of the older ones shooting on Saturday. Even though she was there to learn, she was also able to help those younger than her.

"I'm mainly just shooting but if some kids need help with sighting or just figuring out how to hold the bow, I'm usually there," said Goethel.

But most of the mentors have been shooting their whole life.

"It's a nice cross-generational thing as well, we like to see the older instructors with the younger kids," said Gasper.

Those instructors are watching and tweaking all the fundamentals.

"We really look to teach them how to stand well, how to relax when they're shooting, what to do when they're holding the bow and good safety practices when they're out when they're out in the field as well as on the range," said Gasper.

And once they perfect their craft, they can be a part of the family tradition.

"It's nice to see a lot of young kids doing it because it's an old tradition in my family, it's an old tradition in a lot of these people's families and it's good to see some of the new, young, fresh kids coming out and enjoying the sport," said Goethel.

Not only are they just enjoying the sport, the kids are potentially learning a life-long hobby.

"We want to put the bug in their ear and the taste in there so they continue to do it the rest of their lives, it's a life-long sport. You're not going to play football your entire life but you might do this," said Gasper.

This summer Rib Mountain Bowmen will have an outdoor league every Monday night. For more information on those classes and other activities they have to offer, follow the link below to their website.

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MINOCQUA - Perhaps the most impressive run of high school athletic success in the Northwoods comes from Lakeland Union in Minocqua.

One look at the trophy case inside LUHS tells you everything you need to know.

Lakeland track and field wins… a lot.

"Kids come into the program knowing they can be a conference champion as a team, a conference champion as an individual. They can be a state champion. We've had five state champions in the last five years," said Lakeland Head Coach Kevin FitzPatrick.

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EAGLE RIVER - The Decker family goes hand in hand with snowmobile racing in Eagle River.

"I was around it all the time and even though it wasn't car racing, it's still the same thing," said 19-year-old Natalie Decker.

Stock car racing is what Natalie Decker is mastering now and Venturini Motorsports has noticed. The North Carolina-based company recently signed her to a three race deal.

"I was in shock. I was like 'oh my god, this is actually happening!' It didn't hit me for a while until things started rolling along," said Decker. 

The first step was making sure Decker had a sponsor. An investment company called N-29 in Madison stepped up.

"N-29 is based out of Wisconsin and I'm from Wisconsin so it's a good fit. They invest in start-up companies and I'm pretty much a start-up company," said Decker.

The three races that Decker signed on board for will start in Toledo, Ohio. Then it's on to Elko Speedway just south of Minneapolis.

"We've been with there with the super late so that's probably the track that I'll be most confident in and I'm really excited for that one," said Decker.

Then the last race will be the biggest. It will be at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania.

"Pocono will definitely be the biggest race track I've ever gone on," said Decker.

The goal of Venturini Motorsports is to prep their drivers for the next level. For 19-year-old Natalie Decker, that's her goal as well.

"They've prepped a lot of drivers and put them into Kyle Bush Motorsports and then it just keeps getting bigger after that. My next step, I definitely want to be in trucks, Kyle Bush would be awesome to race for, and they're both backed by Toyota," said Decker.

No matter where this new deal takes her, Decker always wants to be a role model for younger girls.

"We got 30 races this summer with our super late program and three with Venturini and someday I hope to pave the way for other girls too," said Decker.

Decker will travel to Charlotte, North Carolina to get fitted for her new gear and have a few practice rounds before her first race on May 21, 2017 in Toledo.

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NORTHWOODS - You can bet there were smiles all across Wisconsin when the Badgers finished their upset win over Villanova on Saturday night.

But excited Bucky fans aren't the only ones enjoying the ride to the Sweet 16.

Some Northwoods businesses are loving it too.

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STEVENS POINT - Sports superstitions don't always have a well-known origin. That's true of the hockey playoff beards you see every season.

"I don't really know why it's a thing," said UW-Stevens Point senior forward Kyle Sharkey.

But that hasn't stopped hockey players from rolling with it.

"Back when I was playing juniors, it was a lot longer playoff season and things got pretty hairy," said Sharkey.

The UW-Stevens Point hockey team won the Division III national title last year, and they're out to defend their title over the next few weeks.

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MINOCQUA - December 4 was a night that junior Tyler Carroll will never forget. It was the night nearly half of his body was badly burned in a bonfire accident. Most of the burns were on his legs.

"For me to barely even walk, that was really hard for me," said Carroll.

Tyler was a star football, hockey, and track athlete for Lakeland Union High School. The accident ended his hockey season.

"I got two games in, scored two goals, having fun, and then that came to a halt, which was frustrating," said Carroll.

But Tyler's favorite sport is football. He's the quarterback and running back for Lakeland Union and plans to play in college as well.

"My first question was 'Can I play football again?' because that's my main focus. And when they said that I could play again, that's what kept me going," said Carroll.

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MADISON - Many young hockey fans in the Northwoods grow up watching Wisconsin play each week. Rarely do those fans get to actually sit on the Badgers bench and hang out in the locker room.

But Connor Cox has a cool job that allows him to do just that.

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WAUSAU - Hockey in northcentral Wisconsin typically means just high school and college teams. But there could be a new North American Hockey League team moving to Wausau.

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MARSHFIELD HIGH SCHOOL - Stevens Point boys basketball upset No. 1 Oshkosh North 76-61.

SPASH will play Madison Memorial next Friday night at 6:35 p.m. The winner of that game will compete on Saturday for the state title at the Kohl Center in Madison.

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