WISCONSIN RAPIDS - Rhinelander wrestling head coach Paul Ellenbecker leads the Hodags team with a quiet confidence.
"We respect everyone but we don't fear anyone either," said Ellenbecker.
That confidence helped the Hodags capture not one, not two, but five individual regional titles in Wisconsin Rapids on Saturday.
"To get five champs at a tournament like this with the [Wisconsin] Valley [teams] and how we won it too. We dominated the matches, it wasn't really close. We had pins," said Ellenbecker.
The championships came from Rhinelander's five ranked seniors, including three-time state qualifier Jacob DeMeyer.
"This is Jacob's time of the year, you get to tournament time and another gear comes on," said Ellenbecker.
While DeMeyer hopes to advance to another state tournament, he says sharing success with his senior teammates is actually the best part.
"We've all been wrestling together for ten-plus years and watching each other succeed is the best thing," said DeMeyer.
And for some of the Hodags it was the first championship-level success at regionals.
"People like Jacob DeMeyer have been here and done this before, and last year I got a good taste of it too and this year I finally got the chance to make my mark and make podium and be a first place winner," said senior Reuben Guzik.
Ellenbecker says sometimes young wrestlers need that taste of the big stage so they can make it count in the future.
"To get the opportunity to weigh in at the sectional, wrestle a kid, you might only get one match but you're there. It's not going to be a big stage the next year," said Ellenbecker.
And what better way to approach such a big stage than with your teammates.
"Another huge accomplishment is to see my teammates' success as well as mine. It's just amazing to see everyone do so well," said Guzik.
The Hodags are now preparing to wrestling in the sectional tournament on Saturday at Wausau West.
Story By: Mark Spillane