NEW ULM - New Ulm High School wrestling coach John Rieser said that his team's 5-8 record as of Thursday is about where he thought it would be at this point in the season.
"The first half of our schedule has been a little tougher than the second half," Rieser said. "I still feel that we will be in double-digit wins by the end of the year if we wrestle like we should."
Going into this season, Rieser said that his team was capable of double-digit wins.
"But I think that the team has even exceeded my expectations," Rieser said. "We have a lot of matches left and we do wrestle well to win them. But it has been a fun year in being able to compete in some of the matches and know that you have a chance to win them in the end."
Now in his third year as coach of the Eagles, Rieser said he has taken progressive steps in rebuilding the program.
"I am basically staying with the basics," Rieser said. "We do not do anything real fancy. You stick to the basics in any sport and especially in wrestling. That will get you a long ways and you build from there."
New Ulm has seven senior matmen on the varsity roster in Austin Iles (132 pounds), Jagger Hoffman (138) Austin Brandes (138) Riley Shelgren (160) Cole Wilfahrt (182), Braxton Greenwaldt (220) and Granger Lehman (heavyweight). But the squad also has younger wrestlers in seventh-grader Sean Howk (106) and eighth-grader Hunter Ranweiler (120), three freshmen in Ryan Wacker (113), Taylor Bode (126) and Max Deslauriers (145).
"We have some good, quality younger wrestlers," Rieser said. "We have younger wrestlers who are contributing big-time. I have three wrestlers who already have 10 wins each or more."
Howk has posted a 14-3 record so far with Ranweiler at 10-7. Wacker currently has an 11-9 mark.
"It is nice to get the dual meets started off with wins and I am excited for their future," Rieser said. "We just need to build a few more kids around them in the next couple of years.
"My big thing right now is that all three of those younger wrestlers have been at two weights during the year. And one of them has to get bumped up, one of them is wrestling bigger kids and is under-sized but is still competing and winning some of those matches. That is exciting for our future."
Rieser said that he has done a rotation when bumping up a wrestler.
"We scout and look at the other teams and see who we think has a better chance to win," Rieser said. "If we win all three of those matches we do it that way. It depends on who we are wrestling."
Rieser said Brandes has supplied the leadership this season.
"He is one of the hardest working kids I have," Rieser said.
Rieser said that a wrestler who has been a pleasant surprise this year has been Ranweiler.
"He is the most improved kid on the team." Rieser said. "Last year he was under-sized and only wrestled a couple of varsity matches when Ryan [Wacker] wasn't. Hunter was a JV kid last year and stepped in and wrestled sometimes at an undersized weight. He has a winning record on the varsity at this point and I am real happy with his progress."
Rieser said that Ranweiler has been wrestling pretty much all year round.
"He is three-sport athlete [football and baseball] and I encourage that," Rieser said. "But he has put in extra time and goes to different camps in the offseason and to spring tournaments. He has put in his time in the wrestling mat and that is showing."
As with any coach, Rieser wants to see improvement.
"I want to see us improve on our feet a little bit more," he said. "We need to be able to finish and get takedowns in the third period if we need to either to solidify the win or to win a match from behind. That is the next big step for our team."
Rieser and his Eagles will compete in a tournament in Tracy on Saturday with sectional teams in Marshall, Luverne, Morris, Dawson-Boyd and Tracy-Milroy-Balaton.
"I think that this will be a good measuring stick for our team especially if we are wrestling those sectional opponents," Rieser said. "That will come into play for seedings later on. I told the our kids that we really need to be on our A-game. So I hope they step up and respond.
"We want to be in top physical condition come the end of the season. We are headed there, we have stepped it up more after Christmas. Five weeks from Friday is our sectional tournament."