On the 2015-2016 team picture for the Wrightstown Tigers wrestling team, the slogan they are using for the season is “Iron sharpens Iron.” Loosely translated, when practices and compete against champions, you BECOME a champion.
The Tigers will get every chance to compete against champions with their move from the Olympian Conference to the new North East Conference this season. Counting the Tigers’ three team state titles, the schools in this new conference boast 14 team state championships and an astonishing 65 individual state champions, making it arguably the toughest wrestling conference in the state of Wisconsin.
“The new conference is awesome. We will be in battles almost every night. There are a lot of state titles team wise in this conference,” said co-head coach Matt Verbeten. “Freedom, Lux-Casco, us, and Oconto Falls have all won team titles and the list of individual titles is even more impressive. Then throw in Denmark and Little Chute who are greatly improved and it’s just outstanding.”
For Matt and co-head coach Bill Verbeten, this means the members of their squad will have to work harder in practice against each other to prepare for the very tough conference schedule.
“We need a tough schedule. You get better wrestling tough kids. The more tough matches we can get the better. Most tournaments will have competitions for kids with like competition,” Verbeten said. “In some if you lose two matches you are done but most have extra matches for those kids. When you’re in tough matches then at the end of the year the kids have been in those battles so at Regionals, Sectionals and State it’s not something new. It doesn’t really matter if you win or lose, you just need to be battle tested by the end of the year. Records don’t win matches at the end of the year, earlier battles do.”
The Tigers once again should be strong in the middle weights from 145 pounds to 182 pounds. They will be led by three returning state qualifiers in Stetson Burmeister, Joshua Verbeten, and Ben Klister. Joining them will be returning Conference champions Darby Schumacher and Bryce Herlache.
“We will be very strong through the middle weights, especially the upper middle weights. From 126-195 we will have a lot of experience and kids battling for varsity spot,” Verbeten said. “106-120 will be a couple freshman and a sophomore who have had success before they just need to bring it to the high school level. 220 and 285 will probably be upperclassmen with not a lot of varsity experience but they will get better practicing with the guys below them.”
The senior class will provide the leadership for the Tigers. As Verbeten said, these seniors are battle-tested and ready to lead Wrightstown into a new era and a new conference.
“Our leadership will come from our seniors,” Verbeten said with conviction. “We have a great group of seniors that are successful on and off the mat in all areas of the school and community. There are a couple juniors that will provide leadership also.”
The conference may be different, but for the 17-time Olympian Conference Champions, the goals for the season remain the same.
“Team goals are always the same for us,” Verbeten said. “COMPETE in every tournament, win conference and win state and we have a team that’s very capable of that if we put the time in correctly.”
The Tigers begin their quest for a conference and state title with a dual meet against new conference foe Marinette. Wrestling begins at 6:30 in the Wrightstown High School gym.