Winter 2020-2021 sports summary
By Bob Skubal
Retired coach, historian, author of ‘History of Tomahawk Sports’
COVID-19 continued to dictate the 2020-2021 sport seasons.
Some changes to the winter sport season included large tournaments being cancelled, season lengths being adjusted, and competition largely being conference-only. Add to that athletes battling through injuries, COVID-19 quarantine, and the uncertainty of not knowing if COVID would shut down their practices or even cancel their season totally. But through it all Athletic Director Garth Gerstenberger, THS coaches, and athletes did an amazing job in a very difficult time.
Let’s start our 2020-21 winter sport summary with boys’ swimming.
Marion Kohl coached the team to a 3-4 dual meet season. Team members were Noah Buckwalter, Taje Casey, Cullen Flynn, Adam Hall, Zach Hanse, Caleb Kretzschmer, Ethan Liebnitz and Alex Norman. Dual meet victories were over Shawano 82-74 and 82-75 and Medford 95-39. Losses were to Rhinelander 136-28 and 125-41, Medford 60-45 and Lakeland 83-73.
Rhinelander easily won the conference dual and tournament titles. The conference tournament at Shawano saw Rhinelander score 414 pts., Lakeland 239, Shawano 219, Tomahawk 199 and Medford 103. All-conference honors went to Zach Hanse – 1st Team (100 yd. Breaststroke with a new conference record of 1:03.33), the 200 yd. Medley Relay Team of Caleb Kretzachmer, Zach Hanse, Ethan Liebnitz and Adam Hall – 2nd Team, and Zach Hanse – 2nd Team (100 yd. Butterfly). Sectionals saw Tomahawk place fifth with 226 pts. Zach Hanse would set a new school record in the 100 yd. Breaststroke with a time of 1:02.66 and qualify for state in two events. At state Zach would place 11th in the 100 yd. Breaststroke with a new school record of 1:02.59 and 13th in the 200 yd. Individual Medley. This was the first time in school history Tomahawk sent qualifiers to state in back-to-back years.
Hockey was coached by Chris Bembinster, and he was assisted by Ryan Flynn, Derek Dotter, and Andrew Flynn. Team members were Cody Cox, Caleb Dickens, Zach Friske, Mitch Jimenez, Dawson Street, Jaxsen Selissen, Wyatt Leasure, John Mark Hawley, Aiden Jashinsky, Kaleigh Seliskar, Ben Schertz, Logan Seymore, Patrick Samundsen, Lindsey Nelson, Clayton Ristau, Gavin Michaud, Rex Pentz, Nathan Graeber, and Andrew Samundsen.
The team struggled through a winless season, ending at 0-20. Only four times did they score more than one goal. These four games were 10-4 and 9-5 losses to Shawano, 12-2 to Medford, and a 4-3 loss to Chequamegon (Logan Seymore had the hat trick). Seven of their losses were shutouts. Opposing teams did not seem to let up on the Hatchets, as 15 of their losses were when opponents scored 10 or more goals. Overall, THS was outscored 226 to 23 for an average of 11 to 1 per contest. However, weekly comments from coach Bembinster continued to be positive. He continued to encourage his athletes and found areas to praise them through this difficult season. The hard work put forth by the team did not go unnoticed, as Zach Friske was given Honorable Mention All-Conference honors. Eagle River, Rhinelander, and Mosinee tied at 8-2 for the overall conference crown, with Eagle River winning the conference tournament.
There was no girls’ hockey this season. Tomahawk had only one female on the co-op team last year and had no interest this season. This was the second time in the last three years that there was no interest. One female in three years leaves the question, “Is girls’ hockey going the same way as boxing?” Only time will tell.
Girls’ basketball was coached by Dean Borcherding, and he was assisted by Ron Volz and John List. Team members were Sydney Barnettt, Addison Bartz, Amber Florczak, Gracie Barnett, Madeline Marino, Tiana Gerstenberger, Ava Dragosh, Haley Liebelt, Ella Genelin, Mallory Watland-Copiskey and Emily Maki.
Tomahawk saw their season come to end at Regionals against Eagle River, but they put together a 3-10 record overall. While they struggled against teams from the Great Northern Conference, they found success on the non-conference schedule. Their three victories came in two games versus Chequamegon by scores of 33-20 and 46-20 and a 54-10 victory over White Lake (Tomahawk has never lost to White Lake in school history). They also put together good efforts against non-conference teams from Florence 48-41, Tigerton 44-33 (first time in school history that Tomahawk has played Tigerton), and Rib Lake 32-22. In a 58-44 loss to Eagle River, Gracie Barnett scored 25 points and had 11 rebounds. This was the most points scored by a lady Hatchet since Sierra Graeber scored 22 in a 2018-2019 game, also against Eagle River. While a variety of factors affected many of the games for the season, Tomahawk did seem to make a good case for going to the Northern Lakes Conference for more games in the future. In this writer’s opinion, maybe the time is right to put Tomahawk in the Northern Lakes Conference or to go as an independent, similar to what football did from 2004-2007.
Tomahawk ended up with a 0-0 conference record because of injuries and COVID allowing conference teams to schedule non-conference replacement games if they wished, while staying under the WIAA-mandated limit of 24 regular season games. Forfeits counted toward a team’s regular season total, meaning that any games played against conference opponents prior to Jan. 20 were considered non-conference. Conference games after that point were simply cancelled. Mosinee won the conference with a 9-1 record, followed by Lakeland and Medford at 7-3. Coach Borcherding and his coaching staff did a great job of putting the best team out possible game after game.
Boys’ basketball was coached by Jacob Jarvensivu, and he was assisted by Jeremy Baalke and Jim Charles. Team members were Tyler Jablonski, Tyler Welke, Gavyn Palmer, Isaiah Stelling, Elijah Scheffler, Mason Phalin, Drew Bolder, Payton Bunce, Trey Baalke, Jaxson Werner and Garrett Nelon.
Tomahawk ended up with a 5-14 overall record. Victories were 49-42 over Rib Lake (Bolder scored 25), 68-35 over Marion (first time playing Marion since the 1933-34 season), 51-48 over Antigo (Bolder scored 21; this was the first time Tomahawk defeated Antigo since the 1959-60 season), 57-45 over Lakeland (Bolder scored 26), and 61-41 over Crandon. Losses were to Mosinee 78-30 and 66-27, Medford 77-33 (Bolder scored 21) and 77-33, Athens 71-45 (Bolder scored 21), Lakeland 77-51, Eagle River 64-41 and 66-50, Prentice 54-37, Wittenberg-Birnamwood 66-37, Rhinelander 79-42 and 68-49, Antigo 66-37, and Menominee Indian 58-54 in the playoffs.
Wrestling was coached by Bob Garrou, and he was assisted by John Repinski, Ted Towle, and Dane Borchardt. Team members were Presley Gutbrod, Ryan Larson, Blake Felser, Hudson Mattke, Mason Peck, Micah Arnott, Logan Bishop, Mason Evans, Brayden Jones, Isaiah Scheffler, Marcus Matti, Ethan Trayes, Kade Wenninger, Erik Decker, Addison Peissig, and Mitchell Holloway.
Medford would win the dual meet portion of the conference when they defeated the Hatchets 37-34. Tomahawk would, however, return the favor in a nonconference competition by the score of 38-36. Forfeit wins over Shawano and Rhinelander and victories of 52-15 over Mosinee, 44-30 over Lakeland, 51-27 over Rhinelander, and 43-33 over Antigo meant that Tomahawk would end up in second place in conference dual meets. A competitive Tomahawk would wrestle extremely well at the conference tournament, scoring 425 points, followed by Medford with 382, Antigo 292, Rhinelander 255, Mosinee 229 and Lakeland 212. With the conference tournament being run as round robin competition (run as five dual meets), Tomahawk would defeat Antigo 54-24, Mosinee 64-18, Lakeland 54-24 and Rhinelander 60-15, while Medford would win a 37-37 dual meet based on Criteria #8 (most first match points scored). All-Conference honors went to Mason Evans – 1st Team, Logan Bishop – 1st Team, Marcus Matti – 1st Team, Kade Wenninger – 1st Team, Erik Decker – 1st Team, Presley Gutbrod – 2nd Team, Isaiah Scheffler – 2nd Team, Blake Felser – 2nd Team, and Addison Peissig – Honorable Mention.
At Regionals, Tomahawk scored 231 points, followed by Antigo 179, Mosinee 137, Nekoosa/Port Edwards 90, Wautoma/Wild Rose 85, and Waupaca 65. Presley Gutbrod, Blake Felser, Mason Evans, Logan Bishop, and Kade Wenninger were all Regional champions. Erik Decker, Isaiah Scheffler, Addison Peissig, and Ryan Larson would be runner-up and also qualify for Sectionals.
Sectionals did not see Tomahawk wrestle their best, and they ended up tying for 12th of 24 teams, scoring 47 points. The top place finishers for Tomahawk were Logan Bishop and Kade Wenninger placing third. In a normal year, both would have qualified for state, but because of WIAA changes due to COVID, they did not advance. Other place winners at Sectionals were Presley Gutbrod fifth and Erik Decker sixth. This was the first time since 2017 that Tomahawk did not had a state entry.
A 23rd conference tournament title and a 22nd regional title in the 57-year history of Tomahawk High School wrestling, along with nine all-conference athletes and nine sectional qualifiers, speaks volumes of the wrestling program history. This is especially true as their season was also affected by injuries and COVID quarantine. Coaches did a great job of covering the 14 different weight classes and keeping the program competitive. Bob Garrou, John Repinski, Ted Towle and Dane Borchardt were also rewarded for their hard work by being voted Great Northern Conference Coaches of the Year.
Last but not least, I would like to mention THS athletes who have passed away during the winter sports season. Those passing were Roland Copiskey (Class of ’47), Paul Renn (Class of ’58), Chester Bell (Class of ’64), Dennis Burgy and Otto Yirkovsky (Class of ’65), Andy Beiler (Class of ’66), and Ron Haring (Class of ’85).