EDITOR'S NOTE: The Swnews4u.com Athlete of the Week is a web-only feature that will publish each Thursday throughout the calendar year.
By Andy Ringgold, Courier Press
Rhett Koenig, Sr., 138 pounds, Prairie du Chien wrestling
MADISON — Prairie du Chien senior Rhett Koenig won his fourth WIAA Individual Wrestling State title by defeating Brody Hart of Winneconne, 7–6, in the 138-pound Division 2 championship match last Saturday night at the Kohl Center.
Koenig discussed how he felt the first-place match would be the toughest of his high school career. The felling was partly because Hart had won by decision over him during the recent sectionals, but also because he knew the pressures of attempting to four-peat as champion could disrupt your focus. Koenig said he was calm once we was able to get on the mat and, "just wrestle."
Koenig will end his Blackhawk career as a 4-time state wrestling champion. Accomplishing those achievements took a high level of commitment, focus, and dedication. To go further will require an even greater degree of effort in these areas. Here is what Koenig had to say about his career thus far and in his future.
On His Start
“I started basically because of my older brother who is four years older than me. When I began in kindergarten, he was a role model to me. So, I started because of him and kept with it.”
When He Realized His Potential
“It was early on. I had won a couple of youth state titles and I think it was, probably, third grade when I started improving. So, that is when I really knew I had potential. The true realization didn’t really kick in until freshman year when I won it.”
His Journey To The Final Match
“This season was pretty tough. The pressure of everyone knowing you are going for four - the expectations. A lot of people ask you about it throughout the season and being committed to the University of Minnesota people expect a lot more out of you. The pressure kind of got to me a few times this season but I just kept pushing through and persevering. To get to the state tournament I just tried to forget everything, like all the outside stuff, and just focus on myself once I arrived in Madison. I felt I did a really good job of blocking out all the noise, the interviews, and everyone talking about your fourth because you have to focus on one match at a time.”
The Final Match
“It was pretty hard the whole day just waiting for that match. I knew it was going to be my toughest match, probably of my high school career because everyone wants to take down the 3-timer in front of the whole crowd. I mean, they would have went wild. I knew I was going to get my best match out him and it was going to be tough, especially losing to him the week before at sectionals. So, I just focused on what I could do throughout the day and just envisioned myself winning. Then it got to five o’clock and that’s when I really started to get nervous with the Parade of Champions and then waiting until the point I actually got on the mat. The calmest I was the whole day was when I could finally just wrestle and not think, just do!”
His Inspirations In Addition To Brother Reid Koenig
“My family support is like none other. My mom and dad would do anything for me to accomplish my goals. I was hurt a couple of times this year and they spent a lot of time and money doing whatever they could to get me back to health. They gifted me with any opportunity I wanted outside of high school, like taking me to my club practices and national tournaments in the summer. It was a lot of extra time and effort that they would put into me. So, definitely my family is #1. Then there my coaches, anyone who would help me with any questions I had for wrestling. It would be my high school coaches, club coaches, and college guys I have connections to. Anyone who would help me with the sport of wrestling and to get better throughout the years.”
“To win a team state title next weekend is my only goal left for high school. So, that is first and foremost. Then I want to win a national title in college and be a 4.0 student every semester. That would be big for me.”
HONORABLE MENTION (in alphabetical order):
Brett Birchman, Sr., 113 pounds, Tristan Steldt, So., 160, and Evan Gratz, Jr., 285, Fennimore wrestling
Fennimore crowned three first-time state champions in Division 3 at last weekend's WIAA Individual Wrestling State Championships and had two other finalists. Birchman (26–5) defeated Glenwood City sophomore Wyatt Unser, 9–6, to win the D3 113-pound title. Steldt (40–4) dominated La Crosse Aquinas senior Calvin Hargrove 8–3 to win the D3 160-pound title. Gratz closed out the D3 state tournament in grand style when he threw Wittenberg-Birnamwood senior David Gauderman (51–2) and pinned him in 1:15 to win the 285-pound state title.
Camryn Nies, Sr., PG, Platteville
Nies made 8 of 14 field goal attempts, including 4 of 7 on 3-pointers, and scored a game-high 24 points to lead Platteville to a 39–29 comeback victory over #3-ranked Edgerton (22–3) in last Saturday's WIAA D3 regional final. The Hillmen outscored the Crimson Tide, 17–2, to end the game. Nies also scored five points in Platteville's 8–2 closing run and assisted on classmate Lizzie Poller's game-winning 3-pointer with 9.1 seconds left a night early in a 50–48 regional semifinal win over Madison Edgewood (14–12).
Haakon Peterson, Fr., 106 pounds, Charlie Meudt, Jr., 113, and Reid Spurley, Jr., 120, Dodgeville wrestling
Dodgeville also crowned three state champions in Division 2 at last weekend's WIAA Individual Wrestling State Championships. Peterson (25–0) dominated Brillon's Logan Mueller, 14–17 at 106. Charlie Meudt (54–1) won a second-straight title title with a 12–6 win over Darlington/Black Hawk's Ethan Aird at 113. Spurley (50–1) defeated Baldwin–Woodville's Colton Hush 3–0 at 120 to win his second state title.
Lucas Sullivan, Sr., 138, and Tarrin Riley, Sr., 145, Mineral Point wrestling
Sullivan (49–4) capped his career with a 7–2 victory over Auburndale sophomore Colton Weiler (52–5) to win the D3 138-pound state title. Riley (50–4) also finished his career on top of the medal stand after a 9–0 major decision victory over Cedar Grove–Belgium senior Mason Hoopman at 145 pounds.