- The Merrill Bluejays wrestling team will be very busy the next two weeks.
Seven members of the team have qualified for this week's state individual wrestling tournament.
The Bluejays have also qualified for next week's team wrestling championships.
Both are in Madison.
Wednesday afternoon, the Bluejays held their final practice before heading down to state. Competition begins Thursday.
Three sectional champions lead the Bluejays efforts. 170-pounder David Pophal, 220-pound defending state champ Tyler Schmidt, and Ben Hintze at 182.
Head coach Scott Arneson is a Rhinelander native. In fact he won a state championship for the Hodags in 1984.
Arneson and the Bluejays are ready to get started.
"The best thing is we do get wrestle next weekend," Arneson explains. "It's made our practices this week and hopefully our accomplishments this weekend a lot easier. There's less pressure because we know we get another opportunity to wrestle."
"Mr. Arneson is a very intense coach," Pophal adds. "That's how we like to wrestle. We like to be intense and totally in control."
"It's phenomenal," defending Division One 220 pound state champion Tyler Schmidt says. "Last year I was happy with four teammates heading down. This year, seven wrestlers are headed down. We're all such a tight knit group - like a family. It's awesome having seven going (to state)."
"It's nice to be representing the school and Merrill," Hintze - making his first trip to state - points out. "We have a great fan base. We've had that all year. Going down there is going to be awesome."
To check out the state brackets for all three divisions, click on the link below.
Written By: Joe Dufek