The Lakeland wrestling team has aspirations to be one of the top teams in the Great Northern Conference. But it won’t happen overnight. Here is how they get there.
The Thunderbirds return four top wrestlers from a season ago: Tim Burnett, Harry Nemcek, Jason Hilgart and Sawyer Duir.
Burnett is one of two sectional qualifiers from a season ago. He went 2-2 in the 126 class, one of those by a pin.
“Tim’s been a leader, he’s been an amazing leader organizing that group, getting those guys fired up, talking in the offseason, wanting to get things going and really truly being a leader for a lot of those freshman coming in,” coach Adam Bremer said.
Another one of those guys is Nemcek in the 113-pound weight class. He finished as a first team all-conference wrestler a season ago. He went 2-1 at 113 with one pin. He also finished 1-1 at 120 with a pin.
“Harry Nemcek came out in a buzzsaw regional,” Bremer said. “The kid that he lost to was the second place guy to the state qualifier, but he was that close. It was a close match. It just means that Harry is right at that level.”
Returning as a second team wrestler is Hilgart, one of the other sectional qualifiers. He went 4-1 in the 145 class with two pins and one decision.
“Jason’s got lofty goals,” Bremer said. “I think he wants to be at the top of the podium on a regular basis, and I think not only on the top of the podium, but getting there in a dominant fashion.”
Duir, a second team all-conference wrestler, returns. He went 3-0 at 106 and also went 1-1 at 113.
Lakeland is going to have to replace some production from a couple fo wrestlers from a season ago. Xavier Burgess, AJ Starynski, and Nazar Lenz are all gone.
Burgess, a second team all-conference wrestler at 170, went 4-0 in that class, three of those wins by pins.
“Xavier accounted for quite a few wins last season, didn’t quite have the end of the season that he wanted, but that doesn’t diminish a phenomenal career and when you talk about the toughness leader on our team that was him,” Bremer said.
Another wrestler who graduated was Starynski, who 2-3 with two wins coming via a pin at 182.
“AJ was quiet, but an unbelievably hard worker, solid kid,” Bremer said.
Lenz transferred out of the district. He was a second team wrestler from a season ago, going 2-2 in the 132 class with both wins coming on pins.
Medford, Tomahawk and Antigo have been the top teams in the GNC for wrestling. They all went 4-1 in conference duals last season. Bremer sees them being strong again.
“Medford is another team that is going to be really tough this year,” he said. “They got a lot of returning guys who were around this state tournament or who had ideas of the tournament. Tomahawk’s always very consistent. They don’t make mistakes, you either have to be just as disciplined and well trained or really capitalize on those mistakes.”
The goal is to finish in the top three this season and be amongst the conference elite.
“When I talked about team goals we want to finish in that top three, that’s our goal for the season as a team,” Bremer said.
In order to do that, it’s going to take everyone doing their part and being passionate about wresting, a strength of this team. In the past, they’ve had football players or other athletes come into wrestling to stay in shape, something Bremer does not mind.
But this year, they have a bunch of wrestlers.
“One of the things I’m most excited about is we got athletes,” Bremer said. “When I look around that room, number one we have guys when you ask them what you’re going to do this winter (they say) ‘we wrestle.’”
Their first invitational comes Saturday, Dec. 7 at Antigo starting at 10 a.m.
Brett LaBore may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected]