Northwoods skaters prepare for season with Wausau RiverWolvesSubmitted: 09/23/2020

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The Wausau RiverWolves attract hockey players from all over North America.

This year, recruiting those players was more difficult than ever, but they managed to find a few good skaters right in their own backyard.

"It feels actually really good to be back out here from such a long time now from last season and with the setback from COVID," said RiverWolf player and Mosinee grad Max Beste.

The Wausau RiverWolves returned to the ice this week for their first practices of the year as several local skaters adjust to the next level.

"It's a lot faster, it's a lot more competitive," Beste said. "Guys are stronger and guys are faster."

"I think I'm going to be helpful on the team, working hard and getting dirty in the corners and stuff," added Antigo graduate Isaac Wickersheim.

Graduates of Antigo, Northland Pines and Mosinee now call this tier-three hockey team their own, just as other Northwoods natives have over the years.

"The level of play in this area, I mean, its a hockey hotbed," said head coach Colin Bailey. "There's some really good players in this area and for me to not take advantage of that area would not make sense."

That local talent was especially useful this year, with COVID-19 severely limiting Colin Bailey's ability to meet players.

"It was a lot of video, you know," Bailey said." A lot of watching players' games, a lot of reaching out, phone calls, texts, all that good stuff, Instagram messages. Any way to get a hold of a player."

Even though the Wolves are back to normal with their training, they know this season will be unlike any other in their history.

"It's going to be a new process this season," Bailey said. "It's going to be something we'll figure out through trial and error."

The RiverWolves play their first game on Friday, Oct. 2 in Janesville, Wisconsin.

Their home opener is on Friday, Oct. 9 in Marathon Park. Fans are allowed to attend, although the venue will be filled to just one-third capacity.

Masks are required in the building.

Story By: Andrew Goldstein

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RHINELANDER - It takes just a few seconds for Hugh Wiese to make his presence known on the soccer field.

"I'm always moving and trying to support my teammates and everything," Wiese said.

"His ability to cut and turn and shoot on a dime like he does is one of the reasons he scores a lot of goals," said head coach Nathan Bates.

The senior midfielder has scored four goals in Rhinelander's three shutout victories.

It's a streak that Wiese wants to keep going all the way through the season.

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Local Sports Reoprt: 9/19/20Submitted: 09/19/2020

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NORTHWOODS - The Rhinelander Hodags move to 3-0 on the season after a 3-0 victory over the Three Lakes/Phelps Bluejays.

Mosinee mounted a second half comeback against Columbus Catholic, but still fell 4-3.

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There will be a new face patrolling the sidelines at Wausau East boys basketball games this winter. Well, a somewhat new face. 

Dan Garrett took the head position at Wausau East, where he was an assistant coach from 2008 until 2016.

After spending the last four years with Newman Catholic, Garrett was drawn back to the Lumberjacks because of his relationships there and some players even did a little persuading to bring their former coach home. 

"When the job opened up my phone was ringing off the hook asking me if I was going to apply, 'Coach, you need to come back' 'Coach, you need to come home' 'You need to apply, we need you back here' 'You're the guy to do it'," said Garrett. "That helped too and obviously my family and my wife being supportive in the transition as well always helps too." 

Garrett also mentioned he's hoping to get the team together in the coming weeks, COVID permitting. The WIAA has slated the boys basketball season to begin on November, 23rd. 

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ANTIGO - Squads from all over the Northwoods met up for scrimmages Friday night.

It's the first time teams got to hit anybody that wasn't wearing their own uniform, and there was a little bit of rust to knock off.

"I don't think we're quite where we would be as practice times are a little bit shorter," said Merrill coach Rob Klug. "We're trying to get in what you can, so we're running a little bit less and we'll build as we go, but it's a work in progress every day."

Our first Game of the Week for Friday Night Blitz will be the Rhinelander Hodags and the Antigo Robins.

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Local Sports Report 9-17-20Submitted: 09/17/2020

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Last year, Northland Pines was a game away from the state championship. Naturally expectations are high for the team going into the season.

They struggled against Mosinee. Pines had 20 less shots on goal. Mosinee goes on to win the match 4 to 1.

Tomahawk traveled to Medford for a dual cross country meet. Medford's  Joey Sullivan won the race with a time of 16 minutes and 50 seconds. The Tomahawk boys team would win the meet though. 

On the girls side, Medford's Alicia Kawa edged out Meredith Richter by a hair. Medford girls defeat Tomahawk.

In volleyball, Tomahawk hosted Lakeland Union. The Thunderbirds take the first set and win the match in five. 

Men's basketball season might not start for some time, but Wausau East has found their new head coach Daniel Garrett. Garret was an assiasnt for the Lumberjacks from 2008 to 2016 until accepting the head coach position at Newman Catholic. 

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WAUSAU - The Wisconsin Valley Conference released a list of rules governing fan attendance for the 2020 fall sports season.

There will be no general admissions tickets at any Wisconsin Valley Conference event; instead, every player will receive a certain number of vouchers to distribute to family members. 

Girls tennis and volleyball athletes will receive two vouchers, while every other sport except swimming receives four. No fans are allowed at girls swim meets this season.

Face masks and social distancing are mandatory at all WVC events. Fans could be fined as much as $200 for removing their mask while at a game.

Concessions stands will not be open and fans are encouraged to minimize their use of public restrooms.

These rules cover Merrill, Wausau East, Wausau West, D.C. Everest, SPASH, Marshfield and Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln.

The WVC said they will work with member schools to stream as many games as possible.

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WAUSAU - Wausau East boys basketball tapped Daniel Garrett to be its new head coach after serving as an assistant from 2008 to 2016.

""I would like to thank the Wausau East administration and all of those involved in the interview process for believing in me," said Garrett in a press release. "Their commitment and support during this process has been overwhelming. Since the day I became a Wausau East assistant, I've dreamed of the day that I would have the opportunity to lead this program."

Garrett spent the last four years as a head coach at Newman Catholic. He stepped down from his position with the Cardinals earlier this week.

He will replace Troy Pieper, who left Wausau East to take the head job at Merrill.

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Local Sports Report 9-15-20Submitted: 09/15/2020

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RHINELANDER - High school volleyball and soccer teams returned to action tonight .

In boys soccer, the Rhinelander Hodags hosted the Antigo Red Robins.

A strong performance from the Hodags. Beau Howard had two goals for Rhinelander as they went on to beat Antigo, 4-0.

In volleyball, the Stratford Tigers hosted Newman Catholic Cardinals in their season opener.

Stratford with a strong start early and they never looked back. Stratford sweeps Newman Catholic, 25-16, 25-13, 25-22. 

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If there's one thing a cross country runner like Nora Gremban can appreciate, it's the importance of a good start.

"When (Nora) was five years old, she ran the moonlight run here in Eagle River and she ran the whole thing," Northland Pines head coach Amy Gremban said. "So that's when I knew like 'oh my goodness, she ran a 5K when she was five years old.'"

Gremban is still running 5K races on the Northland Pines cross country team, although she's finishing them a little faster these days.

"I was mostly super excited that I broke our school record," Gremban said. "When I told my mom that I crossed the finish line at 19 minutes and 49 seconds she was like 'oh my gosh!' and I was really excited too."

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EAGLE RIVER - In a few days, the volleyball regular season will begin, but some teams faced out of district competition for the first time this weekend.

Northland Pines hosted Lakeland Union in a scrimmage on Saturday morning.

Even though it was not a real game, the Eagles finally got to test their skills against another foe. 

Something players have been waiting for that all summer.

"They've been talking about it all morning and all day at practice yesterday," said Head Coach, Marcus Kral. "They wanted to play, they wanted to be able to get out and show off and be able to get the ball in their hands, not just practice, but be able to have that intensity."

Northland Pines will open the season next Thursday at Medford. They made it to the sectional round of last year's playoffs.

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