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Talented Wisconsin Rapids wrestling team off to hot start

The Red Raiders are the second-ranked team in the state at Division 1
Published: Jan. 5, 2022 at 2:58 PM CST
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WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wis. (WSAW) - The rich tradition of Wisconsin Rapids wrestling is one of the most prestigious in the state. The Red Raiders’ 21 team state titles are the most by any school in Wisconsin wrestling history. Now, the start of the season echoes some of the sentiments from years past.

Wisconsin Rapids is currently the number two ranked team in the state in Division 1. Their season started with a gritty dual win over Wisconsin Valley Conference foe, Marshfield.

“I felt like we just come out the gates strong in that dual against Marshfield,” said head coach Scott Benitz. “We’ve just gotten progressively better.”

Entering this season, there was a renewed buzz around the program after last year felt nothing close to a traditional wrestling season.

“Last year it felt like we wrestled middle school for a whole year,” said Benitz. It was pretty hard to convince young guys coming up that it’s any different and high school wrestling should be, for most kids, the pinnacle of their athletic career, and it wasn’t last year.”

This year has already felt like a fresh start.

“One of the things was getting back to normal,” said Benetiz. “We could actually have normal practices and we could have normal dual meets with fans, have a line-up, have music, have a real event.”

The energy has been apparent as the team has eight wrestlers ranked in the top ten in the state at their respective weight class. One of those ranked wrestlers is three-time state qualifier and senior Preston Spray. He says this year feels more special than any he’s had.

“This year feels so much different than it has in my other three years,” said Spray. “This team, there’s something about us, we feed off each other’s adrenaline and we wrestle for each other in every single match that we’re in.”

The Red Raiders are coming off a strong showing in the Northern Exposure Tournament last weekend where they faced off with teams from Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota.

“We got a lot of work to do,” said Benitz. “We’re not where we need to be, but we’re on the right track.”

The team has a mix of veteran talent and young potential, something Spray is excited for the program to build on.

“Anytime I’m with someone, if they’re my age or they’re young, I’m trying to teach them everything I know so that they can perfect some of the things I know so hopefully that can help us at the end of the year,” said Spray.

Coach Benitz said the first two team goals are to win the conference and then win regionals. Spray echoed that sentiment but also knows the team has real potential.

“We think we’re a really good team this year. We feel like we could be 22-time state champs,” said Spray. “I enjoy being just a guy on the team, helping out anybody I can. It’s a lot of fun. We work hard together and we’re going to succeed.”

Wisconsin Rapids next takes to the mat Thursday in a dual against Merrill before the Cheesehead Invitational in Kaukauna.

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