USC, NRHEG head to mat for heated rivalry

Published 8:34 am Thursday, December 11, 2008

The latest installment of the heated rivalry between New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva and United South Central will take place Thursday night in New Richland and this might be a reversal of roles for the nemeses on the wrestling mat.

Panthers head coach Paul Cyr jokes that it hasn’t been much of a rivalry in recent years because the Rebels have gotten the best of NRHEG in the previous meetings, but there’s much more to this matchup.

United South Central comes in considered the underdog of the matchup, despite beating the Panthers handily last season and beating the Panthers in the section championship by one point two and three seasons ago.

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“Everyone thinks they are really tough this year and we’re really underrated,” said Rebels head coach Steven Wood. “That’s kind of how I like it right now. We’re going to surprise a lot of people.”

Wood knows all about the rivalry, having gone through it his senior season in 2003, but he didn’t realize the enormity of the rivalry until he went into New Richland to wrestle that year.

“I was only here for my senior year and I didn’t really understand the rivalry until I went over there,” Wood said. “The fans were just intense.”

Last season the dual was in Wells and reached a fever pitch with USC having upset the Panthers in the section playoffs in football. The Rebel fans at the football game started a USC chant during the game, much to the chagrin of NRHEG players and fans. The bitterness continued into the wrestling dual last season in Wells.

“The crowd doesn’t like the other crowd, let’s just say that,” said Rebels junior Preston Stolach. “Last year it was at home for us so our AD had to split up the New Richland fans and the USC fans.”

USC junior Dylan Thisius said security was even added for the dual last season as the Rebels won 51-15.

While it’s unknown if there will be security in New Richland Thursday, Panthers wrestler Josh Dalbec acknowledged there will be tension in the air.

“There’s going to be a lot of hostility,” Dalbec said.

NRHEG got some retribution this season as the football team knocked off the Rebels twice, once in the regular season and again in the section playoffs. Still the wrestling team would like to get a win considering how close the section championship duals were in 2006 and 2007. The Panthers were leading by five points each time.

“We just need to win,” Dalbec said.

Cyr reluctantly admits that he would like a win Thursday, but he is looking at the season as a whole.

“Here’s the thing, do I want to win this match a great deal, yes,” Cyr said. “I look at the calendar Thursday is only the 11th of December. Am I going to be overly concerned about the 11th of December about the time of the 21st of February? It’s what we point to.”

USC graduated a load of strong seniors including state champion Jake Bonsack, and the Panthers return two three-time state entrants in Colton Schlaak and Tim Bartness. This certainly could be the year NRHEG could finally defeat the Rebels.

Bartness said a win would be spectacular considering the recent history between the two schools.

“It definitely has hyped up the rivalry even more and I definitely want to beat them even more,” Bartness said. “We’re definitely ready for them.”

The Panthers will be without Aaron Haggerty at the 215 pound weight class. Haggerty has a cracked rib that will sideline him possibly until Christmas time.

The Rebels are young this season with just one senior and Thursday’s meet will be a big test.

“I think we matchup pretty good with them,” Cyr said. “I look for a good dual meet.”