Prep wrestling preview: Tigers take shorter season 'week by week'

Despite only being able to compete once per week, Northwestern expects to have a strong season, coach Tim Kaufman said.
Northwestern’s Ian Smith lifts up Spooner’s Brandon Meister during their match at 195 pounds in Maple Tuesday, Dec. 15. Smith won the match 8-3 and the Tigers won the meet 51-12. (Jed Carlson /

When asked what the biggest challenge is for his team this season besides the COVID-19 pandemic, Northwestern wrestling coach Tim Kaufman had to think for a second.

" We’re pretty strong this year. That’s kind of a tough question, actually," he said with a chuckle.

That's because the Tigers return a team loaded with talent. Juniors Camren Benesch (120) and Logan Trautt (126) and sophomore Tanner Kaufman (152) all took regional championships in their respective weight classes last season. Senior Markus Brown (132) has placed twice at the state wrestling tournament.

And that's just a start.

RELATED: Prep wrestling: Tigers throttle Rails The Tigers won the dual meet 51-12.


But, it's 2020 and there's a worldwide pandemic. As a result, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association has put more restrictive rules in place for wrestling compared to other winter sports. Most sports are limited to dual meets or games with only one opposing team. Wrestling, however, is the only sport that must have six or seven days between competitions.

So instead of his wrestlers getting more than 30 matches in a season, they'll get eight to 10, Tim Kaufman said.

That's OK, though. The team is using this season as an opportunity to bond, to soak in the meets they do have and to have fun.

"We’re trying to find new ways in the wrestling room to have fun, keep it a little bit lighter than normal. We just don’t want to burn them out," Tim Kaufman said.
Northwestern’s Markus Brown gets announced before the Tigers match with Spooner Tuesday, Dec. 15, in Maple. The Tigers won the meet 51-12. (Jed Carlson /

Huge strengths for the Tigers are its three seniors and the leadership they bring to the table, Tim Kaufman said. Brown, Braden Trautt (160) and Trent Orlowski (285) serve as role models for the younger wrestlers on the team who aren't as well known around the state yet, he said.

"Our captains do a nice job for us, which makes it easier for us as coaches," he said.


Junior Shane Schiff (182) rounds out the Tigers' veteran corps, bringing three years of varsity wrestling experience to the table.

Sophomore Tommy Brown (106), who took sixth place at last season's state tournament, is out for the season with an ACL injury. Tim Kaufman said he hopes Brown will be back next season looking to improve on his freshman year performance.

The new faces to watch include freshman Ian Smith (195), who wrestles year-round and has won multiple youth wrestling titles; sophomores Ethan Meller (113) and Mark Jarman (145); and junior Jesse Larson (170), who will wrestle at the varsity level full time this year, Tim Kaufman said.

No matter what the season brings, Tim Kaufman said the Tigers are taking it one week at a time.

" We focus on each dual meet, and that’s our focus — just go week by week. So far, we’ve been very healthy," he said.

Northwestern will host Hayward on Tuesday, Dec. 22, at 7 p.m. They will travel to Glenwood City for a dual meet Tuesday, Dec. 29.

Jen Zettel-Vandenhouten is the regional editor for Duluth Media Group, overseeing the Cloquet Pine Journal and the Superior Telegram.
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