A sweet deal

Junior Jake Lynch (left) and head coach Andy Hackenmueller show off their matching mustaches at the Great River Conference tournament Friday, Feb. 7. Photos by Kat Ladwig

Junior Jake Lynch (left) and head coach Andy Hackenmueller show off their matching mustaches at the Great River Conference tournament Friday, Feb. 7. Photos by Kat Ladwig

RC wrestling coach boosts team morale with humor—

Nearly a month ago, Rush City/Braham head wrestling coach Andy Hackenmueller and one of his top wrestlers, junior Jake Lynch, shook hands on a deal. If Lynch won the 195-pound weight class at the North Branch tournament in mid-January, Hackenmueller had to grow a mustache to match Lynchs’, then keep it until the grappler lost.To top off the incentives, the tournament director at North Branch announced that instead of medals, the winning wrestlers would receive belt buckles.“Jake is a good ol’ farm boy, so I knew he would wrestle his butt off to get that belt buckle and to be able to boss me around for a few days,” Hackenmueller said.

A few days turned into weeks. And Hackenmueller still has the mustache.

Lynch, ranked No. 7 in Class AA, racked up his fourth individual title this winter at the Great River Conference meet last Friday, Feb. 7, to accompany his top accolades in tournaments at North Branch, Pine City and Mora.

The upperweight went 2-0 after receiving a bye in the first round of the conference tournament in Pine City, prolonging both his win streak and Hackenmueller’s mustache.

Junior Dominic Montgomery wrestles in the first round at Pine City. The 160-pounder went 3-1 on the day for third place.

Junior Dominic Montgomery wrestles in the first round at Pine City. The 160-pounder went 3-1 on the day for third place.

Hackenmueller said he agreed to the deal when the squad hit a low point in the season, struggling with ineligibility and injuries that plagued his team.

“I was a little desperate to bring some life back into the team. In hindsight I could have and maybe should have compromised on something else,” the first-year head coach laughed. “But then again, it’s something for them to work for, to talk about for fun and in terms of building relationships with the kids, I think they get a kick out of it.”

It worked.

The Tigers placed second of six teams at the conference showing, recording 167 points in one of their best showings of the season. Aitkin took first with 269.5 points.

Rush City defeated both Mille Lacs and Cloquet in points after losing to the Raiders and tying with the Lumberjacks earlier this season.

“That’s the best we had wrestled all year as a whole,” Hackenmueller said. “We had a tough opening round of matches and for whatever reason, were not on our A-game, then came back.”

Senior Tyler Sitz also earned top honors in the 126-pound weight class to join Lynch for an individual conference title by going 3-0 on the day.

Junior Jake Lynch looks for the pin during the first round last week.

Junior Jake Lynch looks for the pin during the first round last week.

Heavyweight Joey Peckels also made it to the finals match, earning second by going 1-1 on the day.

Six Tigers fought their way back up through the wrestle-back bracket to take third place overall: ninth-grader Dylan Mielke at 132 pounds (2-1), ninth-grader Bryce Bodell at 145 pounds (2-1), junior Dominic Montgomery at 160 pounds (3-1), junior Luke Rands at 170 pounds (3-1), senior Chase Grant at 182 pounds (3-1) and junior Collin Yaritz at 220 pounds (2-1).

The Tigers earned the fifth seed in the north division of Section 7AA, which puts them in the same bracket as top-seeded Grand Rapids. They traveled to Virginia to take on the fourth-seeded Blue Devils on Tuesday, Feb. 11.

As for Lynch, his coach said he hasn’t quite worked out a deal if the winning continues.

“It’s been brought up, but we haven’t come to terms yet,” Hackenmueller said. “The wheels are turning though.”

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