Amherst’s Rieck advances to State Tournament
Portage County Gazette
By John Kemmeter
In his first full season of high school wresting, Amherst senior Josh Rieck earned a trip to the WIAA Division 2 State Tournament.
In a Sectional that contained four of the top wrestlers in Division 2 at 182 pounds, Rieck (34-11) finished third at the Wrightstown Sectional Saturday, Feb. 16, to advance to the State Tournament at the Kohl Center in Madison Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 21-23.
“It’s exciting,” said Rieck. “I was never really expecting to go to state at the beginning of the year, especially because last year I was a .500 wrestler.
“And at the beginning of this season I was still a .500 wrestler,” he said. “But then I started winning matches and I was like, ‘I have a chance to go to state.’”
“He’s put a lot of work in,” said Amherst wrestling head coach Charlie Wanty. “When you miss that much of your high school career, it’s really tough to just come back in and be a top contender.
“So he’s been putting in a ton of work, extra practices on the weekends, and staying after practice,” he said. “And he’s a real quiet kid, so it’s just been fun to watch him lead by example.”
After wrestling in the Amherst youth program, Rieck missed almost all of his freshman season of wrestling due to a broken arm, then decided not to wrestle as a sophomore or at the start of his junior season last year, until he joined the team mid-way through the season in mid-January.
“Last year after school every day, I would pretty much just go home, sleep, maybe lift once in a while,” said Rieck. “I was super bored, then I tried to go to watch all of the duals, and I was like, ‘I feel like this would be pretty fun to do.’
“And then I came to practice and I was like, ‘why not just keep going to practices,’” he said. “Then I was wrestling duals and big tournaments after that.”
Rieck went on to finish 7-6 as a junior, then continued to progress as a senior, as he got off to a 6-4 start this season, before he went 7-1 at the Oshkosh On The Water Classic Dec. 28 and 29, to place third at the tournament and improve to 13-5 overall.
“Even though you could tell he missed a beat and there was a lot of rust, he was mentally engaged, and last year he said, ‘I want to make it to state,’” said Wanty. “That’s been his goal, and getting him back this year, coach (David Peterson) and I still weren’t sure really what we had yet.
“And Oshkosh On the Water, huge tournament, 64-man bracket, he got third, and he was the 22nd-seed,” he said. “So coach and I looked at each other back in December and went, ‘alright, he’s back.’”
The performance vaulted Rieck into the Wisconsin Wrestling Online Rankings for the first time as the seventh-ranked wrestler in Division 2 at 182, and he went on to win the Central Wisconsin Conference Title Feb. 2 and won the Regional Title at 182 at Amherst Feb. 9 to advance to Sectionals.
There, he opened with a pin in 3:50 to advance to the Sectional Semifinals against senior Joseph Kain of Ripon (31-15), who had just knocked off third-ranked senior Jeremy Jorns of Sturgeon Bay/Sevastopol (36-4) with a 7-5 win in Sudden Victory Overtime-1.
With a trip to state on the line, Rieck pinned Kain in 1:24 to advance to Madison for the first time.
“I had a lot of adrenaline once I got that pin call,” said Rieck. “The pressure was just all the way off my shoulders, because I knew that I guaranteed to qualify to state after there.”
After leading in the Sectional Finals, Rieck was pinned by then-ninth-ranked Brady Eick in 4:22, then lost a 10-2 major decision to second-ranked Bryce Schumacher of Little Chute (38-1) in the second-place match to finish third at Sectionals.
“We just told him to wrestle every match like it was his last, and go out there and walk on the mat, and walk off the mat with no regrets, and whatever happens, happens,” said Wanty. “And he did that, and he had a great day.
“He had a tough loss in the finals, he had a dominating performance up until the third period, and he kind of got launched and caught,” he said. “But he’s wrestling really tough right now.”
At state, eighth-ranked Rieck will open against ninth-ranked junior Connor Vatland of Westby (40-7) at 7:15 p.m. Thursday, with the winner to face fourth-ranked senior Brian Flanagan of Waukesha Catholic Memorial (39-6) in the State Quarterfinals at 11:15 a.m. Friday, Feb. 22.
The top half of the bracket going into the State Semifinals also includes second-ranked senior Samuel Melton of Spooner/Webster (40-3) and fifth-ranked Schumacher, while the bottom half has top-ranked senior Shane Liegel of River Valley (44-0) and third-ranked Eick.
“I’m not as nervous as I was last week, because my main goal was just to qualify for state,” said Rieck. “But this week, I see I have a good potential to go pretty far, so I’m excited.
“I’m just going to try to win every match,” he said. “I’m not going to focus on my final place, if I keep winning, it will be good.”
Rieck said that he’s excited to have fun at the Kohl Center this weekend, and to stay in a hotel and get to eat out wherever he wants, while he’s glad he decided to go out for wrestling, and that he was able to reach his goal of making it to state.
“It just took a lot of work,” said Rieck. “A lot of conditioning, sprints, live wrestling, and Sunday practices, those were always bad.
“I always had something better to be doing than going to Sunday practice with Dennis Hall and almost dying, so it was a lot of work,” he said. “But it’s definitely worth it.”
“It’s just a great story of, how many guys like that are walking around the halls that used to wrestle, or have the potential,” said Wanty. “We have a handful of other guys walking around the halls right now that wrestled when they were young, that I’d love to get back on the team.
“So he’s just a great example that, if you want it bad enough and work hard enough, you’re going to get it,” he said. “It’s been a fun ride with him, and I’m just so glad he’s back on the team.”