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Panther grapplers want redemptive title in 2013

Members of the 2012-13 EHS wrestling team are first row (left to right): Katie Deiss, Andrew Swanson, Brandon Girdeen, Josh Hines, Hunter Piepenburg, Riley Melstrom, Brandon Hanson, Chris Peterson, Cody Raebel, Molly Schneider-Adams; second row: Ben Achenbach, Devin Drier, Brad Cain, Jens Lantz, Adam Walter, Josh Fuchs, Brock Steldt, Myles Peterson, Kenny Stowe, Tristen Mueller, Tyler Beder, Lucas Sterny; third row: Jacob Murphy, Brody Kemmerer, Gabe Frandsen, Logan Kemmerer, Daniel Langer, Hank Holdorf,...1 / 2
Captains for the 2012-13 EHS wrestling team are (from left) Logan Kemmerer and Jens Lantz. -- Photo by Jon Claesson.2 / 2

One dual meet does not make a whole season for but for the Ellsworth High School wrestling team, there's one match they want to make sure keeps them motivated for the upcoming 2012-13 season.

And that match was the WIAA Division 2 State Team Tournament Championship last March where Luxemburg-Casco beat the Panthers like no D-2 team had beaten them in a long time, 41-13.

The loss marred what measurably was a very successful season for the Panthers and Chad Steldt in his first year as head coach. EHS won their own meet again, the Middle Border Conference title, the regional and sectional titles and finished second in the Bi-State. Their overall dual meet record was 19-4, 7-0 in the MBC.

"The kids approach to this season and training is no different than a year ago when they were coming off a state title," Steldt said. "But clearly they have the silent grim and steady determination that what happened in last year's final will not happen again."

Clearly the last peak to summit for the Purple is repeat state championships but the first thing needed is to get the gold trophy again. Two changes from last season may make this possible. The first is more off-season work by Panther wrestlers in various competitions and workouts in the wrestling room to increase their mat time and experience along with a more solidified starting line-up into this winter's competition.

The Panthers will return 15 lettermen of two types. The first is the returning starters which start with two-time defending state champion junior Jens Lantz. He will be aiming to become the first EHS winner to win three state crowns in a row. Then there's returning state qualifiers like juniors Gabe Frandsen and Logan Kemmerer and returning MBC champions like senior Hank Holdorf to go with fellow returning starts like Cody Raebel, Brad Cain, Dan Langer and Brody Kemmerer. The Panthers are balanced from lighter weight wrestlers like Raebel and Lantz up the scale to Cain, Langer, Logan Kemmerer, Frandsen, Holdorf and Brody Kemmerer.

"Last year we had several really good wrestlers (like departed seniors Parker Hines, Roarke Langer, Ryan Dickhausen, Brent Stockwell, Derek Donnelly and Mason Strom) but also holes we had trouble filling all season," Steldt said. "This time around we're solid up and down the line-up and the kids coming back are stronger, more mature and more experienced. I really like their leadership of the team as well."

Then there are those letter winners who have been chomping at the bit for the past couple of seasons to break into the line-up regularly and will start to get their chance this season. These include juniors Ken Stowe, Brandon Vandermarliere, Max Peterson, Brady Zimmer and sophomores Josh Hines and Alex Yarwood.

"It's hard, mentally hard to work out in the wrestling room day after day and find yourself blocked by an experienced and very good wrestler," Steldt said. "We have lost kids because of it. But the ones who stay and keep things in perspective know their time will come, just as did for someone like a Levi Kuesel for example, who won most of his matches his junior and senior seasons," Steldt said.

It also helps that many of these wrestlers are second and third generation Ellsworth wrestlers which help reinforce the ties that bind the program together.

EHS certainly won't lack for good competition on their way back to state as they will wrestle this year in the nationally renowned Cheesehad Invitational in Kaukauna on Jan. 4-5.

Ellsworth opened its season last week with a dual meet at Somerset and the annual Ellsworth Invitational which they won for the 10th straight year.