The New London Middle School wrestling program sent seven students to the state tournament, Saturday, March 23.
To qualify for the tournament each wrestler had to finish in the top two at one of eight regionals held across the state. Coach Earl Ruckdashel said the New London wrestlers usually travel to the regional at Bayport, near Green Bay.
The New London Middle School wrestlers who qualified for state included: co-captains Scott Cook (8th grade) and Gabe Oswald (8th grade), Maddie Ruckdashel (8th grade), Garrett Ruckdashel (7th grade), Bennett Bartel (7th grade), Tyler Hess (6th grade) and Travis Kuhnke (6th grade).
This was Cook’s third time qualifying for state, which is held at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison. He said he didn’t place the first year at state, but finished third last year and fifth this year.
He said he will remember how fun, but yet how difficult it is wrestling at state.
“You get to wrestle people from different places,” Cook said.
This was also Oswald’s third time wrestling at state. He said he didn’t place his first year, but finished sixth last year. He didn’t place this year.
Oswald said his dad wrestled, so he decided to try it eight years ago. He has wrestled every year since then.
The tough competition is the memory he will take away from state, he said.
Maddie Ruckdashel said this was the fourth time she has qualified for state. She said she took first place each time.
She said her lasting memory of state is how big the arena was, as well as the size of the crowd.
There are 16 mats on the arena floor, and around 1,500 wrestlers participating.
“There was a lot of support there,” she said.
She is the only girl on the New London team, but she said her teammates give her a lot of respect.
She realizes this might be her last year wrestling.
“I grew up with it because my dad was the coach for a lot of years and he wrestled in high school and college,” she said.
Garrett Ruckdashel said his dad got him into wrestling.
“Since I’m his only son he probably really wanted me to do it,” he said. “I tried it and I really enjoyed it.”
He finished in fourth place this year at state, his fourth year qualifying. In previous trips to state he finished sixth, fourth and second.
The grand march with all the other qualified wrestlers was his favorite part about the state tournament, he said.
“It’s really exciting and it’s a huge place and everybody is cheering” he said.
He also said he enjoyed wrestling for his dad, who is the coach.
This was Bartel’s first trip to the state tournament. He didn’t place, but reaching the tournament was his goal.
He said he originally started wrestling for “something to do after school.”
“There was a trial week when I was in fourth grade, I tried it and I liked it,” Bartel said.
This was Hess’ first trip to state. He didn’t place, but he has made it his goal to get back to state next year.
He started wrestling when he was five or six.
“When I was little my parents signed me up and I just continued from there,” he said.
He said the hard work he put in during the season that helped get him to the state tournament was worth it.
Kuhnke is in only his second year of wrestling, and it was his first trip to state. He didn’t place this year.
“I always wanted to go wrestling since elementary school but really didn’t know how to sign up until I went to last year’s,” he said. “I seen it at lunch and went and signed up. It was really hard work the first day of practice. I decided to go to it ever since.”
Kuhnke said he enjoyed the support his teammates gave him. He said they always encouraged him to accomplish more.
Coach Ruckdashel said this group of kids worked hard all season.
“They have been around wrestling a long time, they come from wrestling families. A couple of my kids, they have grown up with wrestling. Some of the other ones have been wrestling since they were in kindergarten, they they’ve been around it a long time,” he said. “They put the hard work in.”