HORTONVILLE – The Hortonville Polar Bears didn’t tiptoe into their new wrestling league Thursday night.
They entered with hurricane force.
Hortonville’s Fox Valley Association debut was marked by a parade of Polar Bears pins in an impressive 64-11 victory over Appleton North at the Hortonville Fieldhouse.
The Polar Bears delivered seven pins and won all but two matches in quickly erasing any question marks over whether they would be able to compete against bigger schools in the FVA. Hortonville had previously competed in a Bay Conference loaded with heavyweights at the top, but lacking in overall depth.
Curtis Diedrich of Hortonville and Gabe Koenig of Appleton North wrestle at Hortonville High School in Fox Valley Association wrestling on Thursday, December 4, 2014. Ron Page/Post-Crescent Media
“We’ve been looking forward to this,” said Hortonville coach Chris Gennrich. “I’ve been saying for a long time that I wanted to get into this conference. No knock on the Bay. The Bay has some very top teams, but I thought the FVA was stronger from top to bottom. I wanted to see us wrestling against the bigger schools. When people talk about the FVA, they always say, ‘Big schools, good competition, good league.’ “
Gennrich didn’t have any problem pumping his Polar Bears up for their first FVA match.
“You read some publications here and there, and they had Appleton North and Oshkosh North fighting for second, and, ‘Oh, Hortonville joins the league, too,’ ” said Gennrich. “We wanted to make sure that we said, ‘Hey, we’re not just joining the league.’ We’re not here just hoping to be competitive. We’re coming here to contend. We wanted to make a statement right away and I think we did that.”
Noah Heimmermann got the Polar Bears off to a fast start by opening the match with a pin at 106. Following a couple of Appleton North forfeits, Hortonville’s Curtis Diedrich kept the Hortonville snowball rolling with a pin at 126.
“With all the other teams thinking that we’d be seventh and not even competitive in this league, I think we proved a point,” said Hortonville sophomore Elliott Luker, who had a pin at 160.
Luker competed at the 2013 individual state meet at 126, and was wrestling five weight classes higher in Thursday’s opener.
“Going from 126 to 160, it’s quite a bit different style of wrestling,” said Luker. “Guys are a lot bigger and a lot stronger. You have to use a lot more technique.”
Hortonville also received pins from Nathan Lichtfuss (138), Joe Cliver (152), Michael Hills (182) and Jacob Stein (285).
“We’ve been getting after it pretty hard in practice and it feels good to see all that hard work pay off,” said Cliver. “Coach G has been telling us all along that it’s not going to be easy in the FVA and that we’re going to have to bring our A game all the time. It felt good to show we’re here to wrestle and we proved that we deserve to be in this conference.”
Senior Hunter Lee had the only pin for Appleton North at 220, and he delivered it in a brisk 43 seconds.
“He’s a kid who’s been with us four years and it’s difficult to compete against Hunter because of his length,” said Appleton North coach Scott Clough. “He took advantage of that tonight.”
The Lightning’s other win came at 132, where senior Dellas Vandenberg won by technical fall, 19-3.
“Dellas is a great kid and a great leader and he put in a ton of time in the offseason,” said Clough. “He does things the right way, in the classroom and in the wrestling room.”
APPLETON NORTH 11
106: Noah Heimmermann H pinned Jake Jones 3:49. 113: Roman Howser H won by forfeit. 120: Jacob Barnett H won by forfeit. 126: Curtis Diedrich H pinned Gabe Koenig :49. 132: Dellas Vandenberg tech fall over Joe Cleerman 18-3. 138: Nathan Lichtfuss H pinned Brandon Books 3:11. 145: Cam Luker H maj decision Jake Trofka 10-1. 152: Joe Cliver H pinned Logan Coppenger 3:05. 160: Elliot Luker H pinned Matthew Medema 3:36) 170: Brad Conger H dec. Brock Danielski 6-3. 182: Michael Hills H pinned Josh Thiel 4:11. 195: Jack Huebner H dec. Alex Jarrett 5-2. 220: Hunter Lee AN pinned Tyler Pyke :43. 285: Jacob Stein H pinned Connor Schmalz 1:48.
— Tim Froberg: 920-993-1000, ext. 423, or email@example.com; on Twitter @twofroberg
See more photos from Thursday’s match, and a video with Hortonville’s Elliott Luker, at postcrescent.com