MBC, DSC Wrestling Preview

Panthers have promising freshman class, Prescott welcomes new head coach

SVE adds alumni, Badger wrestler to coaching staff

By Joe Peine
Posted 11/22/23

The Prescott Cardinals wrestling season will begin ramping up over the next few weeks, and nobody is more excited than first year Head Coach Ian Ruble.

A conscious decision was made within the …

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MBC, DSC Wrestling Preview

Panthers have promising freshman class, Prescott welcomes new head coach

SVE adds alumni, Badger wrestler to coaching staff


The Prescott Cardinals wrestling season will begin ramping up over the next few weeks, and nobody is more excited than first year Head Coach Ian Ruble.

A conscious decision was made within the program that they were going to prioritize consistency in the staff despite Coach Russ Wargula’s departure. The main change to the wrestling program for the Cardinals this year is going to be the addition of a girls’ team, which the organization thinks is an exciting and excellent step for the program as a whole, according to Ruble. In fact, he is very optimistic about his first season all the way around.

“My expectations for the season are simple, the first being to have fun. Wrestling is tough and if you dread coming to practice it will be a long season,” Ruble said. “Secondly, I want the team to compete in every match they are in until the final whistle is blown. Wrestling provides an athlete the ability to win a match at pretty much any point with a pin, so it's important to realize that even if you are down 14 to 0, you still have a chance. Finally with an overall young team it's important for them to build their base. Taking the time to hone those fundamental skills is vital to being successful. You can't build a stable house with a poor foundation.” 

The Cardinals are returning some talent this year, and that’s important for a program that is in transition.

“We are looking for senior Nolan Thomley to take a step forward this year. Nolan wrestled hard last year and ended up in a tough sectional bracket that saw him taking fourth. It's tough seeing your wrestlers fall short of their goals by just one spot, and I know it motivates him coming into this season,” Ruble said. “In our first few days of practice Nolan has really taken the time to assume a leadership position helping out the newer wrestlers, which has been great to see. While only spending this first couple of practices with the team in general, I think that there are a handful of kids who could surprise some people this year and really scrap with high level competition.” 

Practices started officially last week on Monday, Nov. 13.

“Going into the season my assistant Tanner Merriman and I shaped out rough practice plans that spanned the entire season. This lets us add or subtract things easier during the season. It can be stressful trying to plan practice the night or day before, so making a plan is essential to being effective and present coaches,” Ruble said. 

Running a program is new to Ruble, but he plans to draw on his wrestling background to try to propel Prescott into the next era of success for their program.

“Coming into my first year, I bring lessons I learned along the way from some of my own wrestling coaches. How to best reach a kid who is struggling on or off the mat. How to most effectively run practice,” Ruble said. “I was fortunate in my career as a wrestler to have a variety of coaches with their own coaching philosophies and styles. Seeing what worked for my coaches, what made them successful, where they thought they could have done better or how they connected with their wrestlers has been invaluable to me going into this season. I'm grateful for the guidance they have shared and continue to share with me.”

Prescott’s first wrestling meet is an invitational hosted by Ellsworth starting at 9 a.m. Dec. 2.


The Ellsworth Panthers wrestling team is in something of a drought as they haven’t won the Middle Border Conference Championship since 2019 after winning it a landmark 14 times in a row.

Even so, the Panthers still had three wrestlers place well in the state tournament in Madison last year as individuals after they missed out on making it as a team. Of them, only Willy Penn, who took fourth at state, will return this season.

Mark Matzek, a former Ellsworth wrestler who is entering his ninth year as head coach, says they need to take one step at a time to work their way back into another trip to Madison.

“We're going to start by focusing on winning the conference, then we have to take top two at regionals, and then it’s fighting to get back to the state tournament,” Matzek said. “We've had a four-year hiatus after losing in the regionals to a Melrose-Mindoro team that ended up taking second at state in 2020. So, we haven't been to state since 2019.”

Besides Penn, who is the team captain and a leader for the Panthers, Ellsworth has a solid group of talent as usual.

“We have plenty of juniors and seniors that are capable of taking that next step. We have upperclassmen in the lower weights who have put work in the past two or three seasons who are hungry to accomplish more. Blake Nelson in the middle weights and co-captain Ethan Veenendall in the upper-middle weights are two of them,” Matzek said. “The first week of practice has gone very well. The incoming freshmen are learning what it takes to not only survive an Ellsworth wrestling practice but also thrive in the environment. The greatest attribute this freshmen class has right now is their work ethic and how hard they like to work.”

Matzek says their program is balanced and that older wrestlers help to acclimate the incoming underclassmen.

“The class as a whole seems to enjoy pushing themselves physically to new limits, and that will pay off in February. The upperclassmen have done a nice job of showing the freshmen how hard to work as well. They have been great role models in the weight room and the wrestling room,” Matzek said. “We have a couple of weights where we will most likely need to fill in with a lighter wrestler. So, this just makes matchups all the more important when dissecting duals and lineups. We may have a bit of a smaller roster than usual, but the young men that are in the wrestling room work hard and are improving at a very quick rate.”

While expectations are high, the Panthers expect a slow start that will build as the season moves on, with the goal of peaking in time for the postseason, according to Matzek.

“Realistically, I see us taking some lumps early in the season until we get our team down to weight. Most of the team will wrestle up a weight until the Northern Badger after Christmas. This is to allow their body to adjust to wrestling and naturally lose their weight by jump starting their metabolism while also burning 5,000 calories or more a day in their workouts,” Matzek said. “I expect our team to be transformed from a season full of tough competition and training and become a team who wins the regional and contends for a trip to the state tournament.”

Dunn-St. Croix Conference

The winter sports season is upon us once again, and the combined wrestling forces of Spring Valley and Elmwood began practices this past week.

It’s a program that is featuring multiple new assistant coaches this year: Chase Arens, who is from Princeton, Minn., has a strong wrestling background and coaching experience; Ryan Turner, a Spring Valley alumni and former Wisconsin Badger wrestler; and Carter Turner, a former Spring Valley/Elmwood head coach who is in the Wisconsin Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame.   

With these sorts of moves, this program is primed for a rejuvenated output, and third year Head Coach Gable Frandsen says expectations are high.

“Overall, we are a young team with talented individuals. The team will focus on 1% improvement every day. Each practice and competition, every athlete needs to have a good attitude and put in 100% effort. I’m excited for what the team will become as the season progresses,” Frandsen said. 

Spring Valley-Elmwood’s first competition is in less than two weeks when they will travel to Ellsworth for an invitational at 9 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 2.

Prescott Cardinals, Ellsworth Panthers, Spring Valley Elmwood, wrestling, Middle Border, Dunn-St. Croix