New Richmond wrestlers already setting goals for next season
The message was loud and clear at the New Richmond wrestling banquet last Thursday.
Because Ellsworth is graduating more than half of its state championship lineup, Tiger coach Mark Neumann said there is an opportunity for the New Richmond wrestlers to be competitive at a new level in the Middle Border Conference.
Neumann said the one thing that separated the Tigers from the two teams above them in the MBC standings this year, Ellsworth and Amery, was physical strength.“Technically, we're as good as anybody,” Neumann said. “But a lot of times, strength makes your moves work.”That's why Neumann is strongly encouraging his returning wrestlers to make a bigger commitment to working hard in the weight room.“The biggest thing is the strength factor,” Neumann said of the disparity between Ellsworth and the Tigers. “There's an obvious physical difference. We had 10 or 12 kids really dedicated (to lifting) last year. We need 20 to 25 next year.”Neumann said he plans to get the seventh and eighth grade wrestlers involved in lifting so they'll be strong once they reach the high school level.The challenges get even tougher for the Tigers in the post-season. Neumann said a study showed that the Tigers competed in the strongest sectional tournament in the state, regardless of division.Neumann made sure to remind the Tigers that Ellsworth hasn't lost an MBC dual match since 1996 and the Panthers haven't been topped in the MBC tournament since 2003.He said that Ellsworth might not even be the favorite entering next season. Neumann said Amery will be among the top-ranked teams in the state at the start of next season.The Tigers will have some holes to fill in their lineup. Senior Shane Blackman was one of the rare four-time state qualifiers in Tiger team history. He ranks third in career wins (126), third in career team points (765) and fourth in career pins (68).“No one can doubt he's had a great career,” Neumann said. “Anyone who makes it to state four times, and he made it in Division 1, that's something special.”Other seniors who will be key losses include Dominic Ficociello and Jake Rose.This means the Tigers have the majority of the roster returning, led by two-time state qualifier Derek Dowd. Dowd already has 97 career wins, leading the team this year with 36.The Tiger team awards were presented at the team's annual banquet last Thursday. Receiving awards were:Most Valuable: Shane BlackmanMost Outstanding: Derek DowdMost Improved: Seth LeavensMost Outstanding Freshman: Bryce YoungerTiger Award: John KeiferNewcomer of the Year: Alex Schmidt and Bret JensenOutstanding JV: Kasper Messer and Jackson MoellerMost Improved JV: Roman FicocielloSenior Award: Dominic Ficociello and Jake Rose