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New athletic director hopes to change culture at White LakeSubmitted: 07/16/2019

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WHITE LAKE - Bruce Rea lifts alone, hoping to get stronger.

Vinny Propson coaches him, hoping to change a culture.

"Let's get in the routine," Propson said. "Let's get them here and let's get them to love it here."

Propson became White Lake High School's new athletic director roughly two months ago.

He's dealing with a nearly empty weight room and a team that's at the bottom of the conference every year.

"They're in a place of complacency, you know?" Propson said. "And we're trying to build off that and say 'we're better than that, we're White Lake, we should be proud of where we're coming from.'"


Last season, White Lake won twice in volleyball, once in football and boys basketball, and zero times in both baseball and girls basketball.

"Even if you know you're going to lose, still play as hard as you can," Rea said. "You never know who's watching."

Rea is on a boys basketball team that lost by more than 80 points in its season finale.

He's in the weight room to prevent that from happening again.

"I want to play at the best of my ability and I want others to do that too," Rea said.

Propson was hoping that every athlete would show up as frequently as Bruce does.

"He, coming in here, has a different mindset than everyone else," Propson said. "That's the only thing that separates him."

"I'm getting better and I see the results," Rea said. "I just want other people to come in here."

Whether it's wins on the field or athletes in the weight room, sometimes it just takes one to start a trend.

Propson holds workouts every weekday at 4 p.m. in White Lake's gymnasium.

They are open to anyone, not just White Lake students.



Story By: Andrew Goldstein

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 LOCAL SPORTS

MINOCQUA - Local sports shops waited for what seemed like forever to see open water this year.

The ice did not melt off most area lakes until early to mid-May.

Since then, most of those shops have seen business return to normal.

Kurt's Island Sports Shop in Minocqua saw a surge of customers to make up for the late start.

Business has been strong ever since.

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WAUSAU - Newman Catholic High School hired Paul Haag as its new girls basketball coach, per a release from the school.

Haag was the assistant varsity girls basketball coach in 2017-'18 and has 10 years of coaching experience, including a stint as head girls coach at Northland Lutheran High School.

Haag replaces Jason Vanden Elzen, who stepped down as Newman's coach after the 2018-'19 season to spend more time with his family.

The Cardinals finished 24-4 last season and made the Division 5 state semifinals.

Basketball practices begin Nov. 18.

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THREE LAKES - Three Lakes High School hired a new boys basketball coach.

Brian Diorio is taking over the Bluejays' varsity coaching job from Ryan Bock.

Diorio says his top priority is to keep Three Lakes kids interested in playing basketball.

He thinks that can be done through a combination of training and fun.

"(I want to) just keep the kids interested over the summer and keep it fun, keep it light," Diorio said. "I think that's the best way to keep the kids in the gym so you can see improvement, see them coming together."

Three Lakes finished last season at 8-13.

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RHINELANDER - Rhinelander school district played host to summer league basketball Sunday, as it does every weekend.

Players from four area high schools hit the courts to get some summer work in.

This is the first year Rhinelander has hosted the league; it's usually at Northland Pines.

Rhinelander players say it's a great chance to break up the day-to-day grind of practice.

"It gets kind of monotonous just playing against our team all the time," sophomore Ty Welk said. "It helps, but it also helps us get ready for real game situations because there's only so much you can do in practices."

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CONOVER - Graceful Wakes hosted its fourth adaptive water ski clinic on Lake Pleasant in Conover.

Grace Petzold founded the non-profit after she got the chance to ski with her mom and her aunt who both have disabilities.

"It really inspired me and my family to want to prove that opportunity to other people here in Wisconsin so we created Graceful Wakes and have been putting on clinics ever since," Petzold said. "Just seeing the joy not only on the participants faces, they are all experiencing water skiing for the first time or if they been with us before is really memorable."

And the smallest moments mean the most.

"Did you have fun? Yes, I did. Awesome it sure looked like it," a skier said. "What's your favorite part about it? To have a new skill."

"It makes all of the work we've put into it totally worth it," Petzold said.

Grace also wants these clinics to bring everyone together regardless of their ability.

"I am so excited for hanging out with my girls here and I love being on TV," said skier Danielle Thoe.

Seeing those grins on the skier's faces will always mean something more for Grace."

"I am very proud. It has been such an amazing experience. Not only learning how the business side of thing works but also just being able to create all of these memories and witness all of these people's lives being transformed," Petzold said.

Graceful Wakes puts on clinic all around the state each summer. 

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RHINELANDER - Once a Hodag, always a Hodag.

"I am so appreciative of what the community gave me when I was in the program growing up that we want to give back to that," former Hodag football player Eric Tracy said. 

Former players Eric Tracy and Cole Oettinger brought a defensive skills camp to Rhinelander for the first time this summer.

"Just being able to get them to take their games to the next level and really try and succeed and put together a great season was a driving force for me here," Oettinger said.

Eric is a defensive back at Michigan Tech and Cole has helped the Hodag football team in the past.They wanted to pass on new skills on to the players who filled their shoes when they graduated.

"We were really working on their foot work, making sure their hips are pointing the right way and that they are knowing how to get out of breaks," Tracy said.

The WIAA blocks the football staff from work with the kids at the camp but Eric and Cole made sure to replicate the actual Hodag defensive systems.

"Every single call that they would have to make in a regular season game we talked to them so they what they were doing at 7 on 7 and during the season so they are head of everything else," Oettinger said.

Junior safety Jackson Labs says he's already seen a difference in summer drills

"That really went pretty smooth because of this camp, we had a couple beforehand and it's really helped," Labs said.

Labs wanted to work with the former Hodags to get a new perspective.

"My footwork is a lot more smooth so that was a big factor for me," Labs said. "We do a lot of one on ones just to compete and get after it and it's a lot of fun going against each other."

"That was the best part was just the completion. The part where we competed as a whole. Them getting after it and really getting into the little rewards we gave them each week and really wanting to do their best was awesome," Oettinger said.

The Hodag Football Team Camp starts next week.

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RHINELANDER - A donation to the Hodag Little League will be a big hit with those who want some snacks while at Hodag Park.

Culver's in Rhinelander donated $5,000 towards a new concession stand.

The restaurant sponsors a team's jerseys each summer but they wanted to do something bigger.

Culver's owner Jen Clark says they were inspired by how much her sons love baseball and wanted to support the future of the program.

"We hope that they see us as a community partner because we do like to give back," Clark said.They come in all the time to support us. We work hard for them so we want to make sure that we give back to them. We support all of things that are going to make Rhinelander grow and move in the right direction."

The Culver's donation is one of many from people around Rhinelander.

Each contribution has gone towards construction of the new stand.

Little League President Brad Kowieski says it's so exciting to see how much support the league has seen.

"I think this is just an invest of keeping the tradition going," Kowieski said. It just makes me proud as an alum from Rhinelander, a native born Rhinelandarian I just feel fantastic that my kids are going to benefit from it and the people around these kids, it's very heartwarming."

The concession stand sold brats and burgers for the first time during on the Fourth of July.

The Rhinelander Lions Club also donated another $1,500 this week.

Siding on the concession stand started going up this week.



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PRESQUE ISLE - Every summer people in Presque Isle urge fisherman to get their kids out on the lakes.

Those kids got the chance to cast a line and learn fishing tips from some of the community's best.

The kids who caught the most and the biggest fish won.

The chamber hopes the contest gets kids excited to be on the lake.

"We like to see kids getting active and being outside and participating in our wonderful environment. We like to encourage kids to be out and encourage the next generation of fisher-people," said Presque Isle Chamber of Commerce Director Scott McPherson.

The competition is also sponsored by the Presque Isle Lions Club.

The Lions members started the competition to try and get kids away from the video games. 

"When I first started coming up in this country, we didn't have the internet; all we had was fishing. We had lots of good fishing and it's still here if we just had people fish," said Presque Isle Lions Club member Wayne McDonald.

Each kid got a fishing certificate and a tackle box for competing.

There will be two more competitions this summer.

One is at the end of July and the other is the first week in August.


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WAUSAU - Jump ropes, boxes and tires don't figure prominently in any high school sport, but that equipment helps athletes of all sports to get better.

"I can just tell I've gotten faster," Newman Catholic senior Ben Bates said.

That happens a lot at Newman Catholic High School's speed camp.

"It builds your legs, it makes you stronger, it makes you faster," Bates said. "It just makes you an overall better athlete. It works on your speed, your agility, your quickness."

Not everybody is built like a runner, which is OK with instructor Paul Michlig.

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MERRILL - Most of Merrill hasn't eaten breakfast by the time dozens of Bluejay athletes are in the gym, burning calories instead of consuming them.

"It's not like they just kind of mosey on around and mope around in the morning with it being super early," trainer Grant Dahlke said. "They get after it."

Some Merrill athletes get up before six a.m. to go to the school's summer conditioning program.
"It wakes me up," junior Timmy Handlin said. "It usually motivates me to stay up, it gives me a little boost to the day, because usually I'd sleep until noon."

More than a hundred kids signed up to lift, not in spite of the early start time, but because of it.

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