MERRILL – Scott Arneson has been a fixture with the Merrill wrestling program for nearly three decades, guiding the Bluejays to four trips to the WIAA state team tournament, including a Division 1 runner-up finish in 2006.
The veteran coach, known simply as “Arnie” in the wrestling community, recently announced his decision to step down however, a decision which comes after his son, Scott, completed his senior season with the program.
“It’s kind of been my plan for two years. When my son was done, I was going to (resign),” Arneson said earlier this week. “I still have some energy left to coach and definitely am not burned out. I just wanted to have a stopping time and this is it.
“People have been coming up and saying ‘Congratulations.’ But, I’m not really sure how to feel right now. I have never not been a coach.”
Arneson has been with the program for 27 years, including the past 17 as the head coach in which he compiled a 300-88 record. He was an assistant under Roger Wendorf, when the Bluejays won consecutive state titles in 1992-93.
The Bluejays reached the state semifinals in 2014, the sixth state trip overall for the program. It was their first appearance since reaching the title match in 2006.
Arneson, who is a physical education and health teacher at Merrill, also coached 58 state qualifiers during his career with 32 reaching the podium, including six state champions. Mason Reinhardt won the title at 170 pounds this year, while Arneson’s son placed fourth at 132 pounds.
“It’s nice to have that in your last year, and kind of say that you are leaving on top, but that didn’t factor into the decision,” Arneson said of the team’s success the past two years. “One of the biggest things I have learned (in coaching) is perspective. There is the individual and team accomplishments and that is great, but the biggest thing is working with these kids and just getting to know them. Hopefully for these kids, wrestling was a positive experience for them, too.”
Arneson won a state championship in his senior season at Rhinelander and earned NCAA Division III All-American honors at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, and his son is expected to wrestle for the Pioneers as well next year.
Arneson, 49, is stepping away from coaching for now as he is close to completing his administrative degree in education. Arneson plans to remain coaching this summer with the Wisconsin Wrestling Federation.
“I hope by taking at least a year off will help me have a better perspective on what I want to do. I turn 50 this summer,” Arneson said. “Maybe it will turn out that I want to start coaching again someday, that option is still open. It’s not like I am stepping away completely.”
Tim Johnson can be reached at 715-845-0731. Find him on Twitter @timmyjo11