TOP: Junior Caleb Rickenbach, top, pinned his first three opponents at last week’s State Class “B” Championships en route to his first-ever appearance in the state finals, which took place at The Monument in Rapid City on Friday, Feb. 24. (Photo courtesy of SDPB)
BOTTOM: Eighth-grader Sarah Rickenbach, left, goes head-to-head with eventual state champion, senior Nevaeh Leonard of Yankton during the 142-pound quarterfinals of the State Class “B” Championships. (Photo by Brett Nachtigall/Fall River County Herald-Star)
Older brother Caleb is runner-up at 195 lbs, younger sister Sarah places 7th at 142 lbs
By Brett Nachtigall
RAPID CITY – There was a lot to celebrate in the Rickenbach household this past weekend, as the brother-sister duo of Caleb and Sarah each brought home medals from the State Class “B” Wrestling Tournament in Rapid City.
Caleb, who was the No. 2-ranked Class “B” boys wrestler at 195 pounds, earned his seeding when he finished as the runner-up in his weight class, following a 3-1 record over the two-day tournament on Feb. 23-24. The Hot Springs High School junior pinned his first three opponents and made it all the way to the championship finals where he ultimately lost a 4-7 decision to undefeated senior Tanner Meyers of Canton (44-0). Caleb finishes his season 41-6 record overall.
“Caleb did what we expected him to do, and losing in the finals the way he did is nothing to be ashamed of,” said Hot Springs head coach Ray Ringstmeyer. “Tanner (Meyers) is signed to go wrestle at Northern and was an All-American at Fargo with our SDUSAW team last summer, so Caleb hung with a hammer in that final match.”
Sarah, just an eighth-grader in her first year of wrestling varsity for the Hot Springs Bison, earned a 3-2 record to place seventh overall in the girls 142 pound division. She won her very first state tournament match with a 5-0 decision over Atlantis Witt of Todd County, but then met top-seeded, and eventual state champion, senior Nevaeh Leonard of Yankton (36-2) in the quarterfinals, who won by a 12-1 major decision. Sarah finished her inaugural wrestling season with a 23-11 record.
“Sarah only wrestled for seven weeks, so to accomplish what she did in that short of time is definitely not the norm,” said Coach Ringstmeyer. “She has put herself on the radar to be one of South Dakota’s best girl wrestlers in a few years.”
Prior to going under the spotlight of the championship finals, Caleb was dominant in his first three matches, first pinning Seth Siebrecht of Redfield in 56 seconds and then Lincoln Dikoff of Faulkton Area (3:07) in the quarterfinals, all of which took place on Thursday, Feb. 23. The following morning, Caleb punched his ticket to his first-ever state finals when he pinned Jayden Kahler of Kimball/White Lake/Platte-Geddes in 4:26.
The previous two years, Caleb won bronze medals by placing third at 170 pounds as a freshman, and then third at 195 pounds last year as a sophomore.
Sarah’s first-ever state tournament appearance this year also included a 1-0 decision over Saige Hinricher of Brookings in the Second Round Wrestlebacks on Thursday night, which propelled her in the medal matches on Friday morning. There she lost a close 1-3 decision to eventual fifth place finisher Summer Guthmiller of Sioux Valley. In the seventh place medal match, Sarah once again defeated Atlantis Witt of Todd County, this time by a 1:47 pin.
Hot Springs also had four other wrestlers qualify for this year’s state tournament, including senior Dylan Webb (182 lbs) on the boys’ side, and then Ciara Wright (126 lbs), Keely Mogen-Frankfort (170 lbs) and Madison Nicolaisen (285) on the girls’ side. All four wrestlers however lost their first two matches on Thursday and were not able to move onto the medal matches on the second day of competition.
“Of the four girls we had competing at state, two were new qualifiers while the other two were there last year,” Coach Ringstmeyer said. “Ciara did a great job all year long. She struggled with some injury and illness toward the end of the year that kept her sidelined a few times, but she made the most of her career. Keely and Madi, just being freshmen, have a bright future, and I look forward to how far they go.”
Coach Ringstmeyer also commented on a pair of Bison girls wrestlers who did not compete at state, but still had outstanding seasons for Hot Springs.
“Meredith Ramacher just missed out on qualifying, but we took her along as a manager for her senior leadership, being a state placer last year. Her experience and advice to the younger ones was very valuable. Serenity Schell was also just short of qualifying, and she’ll be a great leader for us next season.”
Hot Springs only other boys qualifier, Dylan Webb, capped off his senior season with a 26-19 record overall and his first-ever state tournament appearance.
“Dylan has improved so much over the years,” Ringstmeyer said. “I kidded with him about his first year in wrestling with us; he was tripping over every tape line and that if we got 20 wins in a season that would be our success story with him. He not only did that, but qualified for state and put up a valiant fight in trying to get out of there with a medal. I am very proud of his effort.”
Coach Ringstmeyer said his team’s returners on the boys’ side for next year are many.
“We have a young team and they gained a lot of experience,” he said. “We had three come within one place at regionals of qualifying, and they saw what their competition could do at state, so I think that also should have instilled some confidence in them, and hopefully some motivation to keep wrestling off and on during the off season to prepare for next season.
“My goals for next year are to field full teams in both boys and girls,” Ringstmeyer added. “If we can do that, I think overall every individual will be a lot better simply because of having more practice partners to work with. We have a lot of kids at HSHS and HSMS that are not doing any winter sports, and I would encourage them to give us a try.”