- Each year Rhinelander wrestling proves to be a contender in the Great Northern Conference. That should be no different this year as the Hodags are led by two standout seniors.
"They respect everyone, but they don't fear anyone," said Rhinelander Head Coach Paul Ellenbecker.
That fearless approach has brought Rhinelander's Jacob DeMeyer and Alec Kurtz plenty of success on the mat.
"You know when people around the state talk about them, I'm like 'yeah my guys are just as good as yours,'" said Ellenbecker.
The two seniors are both defending conference and sectional champions. Now they're both off to undefeated starts this season.
"We've been facing top opponents from historically good teams," said Kurtz.
That didn't slow them down as each earned victories at a difficult tournament last week. Ellenbecker says the Hodags tough schedule is the perfect challenge for them.
"They're going to wrestle the toughest kids around and they're not going to be the least bit intimidated," said Ellenbecker.
Ellenbecker praises the duo's work in practice, and says it doesn't just benefit them.
"Our whole team picks up having those guys in the room," said Ellenbecker. "It brings the talent level that much higher because if [their teammates] don't compete they're going to get their butts kicked on a nightly basis."
DeMeyer says he uses last year's fourth place finish at state as his driving force each day.
"Knowing that you're so close and that end goal is right there but you still haven't quite accomplished it gives me a lot of fuel," said DeMeyer.
It's the kind of fuel that the two seniors hope takes them to new heights.
"I definitely want to make a championship appearance and try to get into the finals," said DeMeyer.
"I'm definitely going to shoot for podium, and upper level podium, and then to go undefeated as long as I can," said Kurtz.
Ellenbecker thinks their fearless approach on the mat can be enough to capture the ultimate prize.
"That should be their goals is to be state champions, because they work hard, they put the time in, they've been wrestling since they were little and you can just see their development," said Ellenbecker.
DeMeyer is currently ranked fourth in the state in the 160-pound division while Kurtz is ranked fourth in the 195-pound division.
The Hodags will start conference play on Thursday against Tomahawk.