The high school winter tournament season is upon us. Soon the WIAA will crown state champions in girls and boys basketball, wrestling and boys and girls hockey. No doubt excitement will be at a fever pitch when the best team in the state captures their respective title.
Osceola high school recently got a jump on the winter tournament season. They didn’t perform in front of massive crowds or probably didn’t even work up a sweat. The Chieftains brought home the State ice fishing title.
“The ice fishing team at Osceola high school is a unique opportunity for students,” Osceola coach Rick Stewart began. “We have some students that are involved in many areas of school life and some students who only have this team as their connection to the high school, with others in between. For these kids, winning this State championship is going to be one of the main highlights, if not the highlight, of their high school career. We appreciate all of the support the community has given us.”
Stewart is joined by Jacob Meyer as the main coaches for the Chieftains. Several parents, including Josh Pingel, Mike Wallis, Tim Michel, and Dean Nissen, have stepped up to help coach with other parents offering their assistance when they can. The Osceola fishing team competes in about five tournaments every season.
You may not think that there would be much strategy going into the State fishing contest. Just go out and catch some big fish, right? Don’t tell the Osceola fishing squad and their coaches that there is no strategy.
“For State we fished lakes in St. Croix, Polk, and Oneida counties,” Stewart began. “We were able to split the team of 12 up into four groups and target different species. The kids came up with an awesome plan to target the different species and they executed to perfection. This was a true team effort from the planning stages through tournament day. This was a great group who is fully dedicated to fishing. They know how to read lakes, study patterns, and fish hard for long periods of time.”
How is the State fishing title decided? It varies by the year. This State tournament was a ‘total inches’ tournament. Each team of up to 12 anglers could register their top five each of bass, pike, and walleye. They could also register their top 10 each of crappie, perch, and bluegill for total length score.
“We were the only team in the state to register all 45 fish,” a proud Stewart said. “That was the main goal we had going into tournament day and a huge accomplishment for the team.”
The State tournament was originally scheduled to be in the Eagle River area but due to some unsafe conditions the WIFA Board of Directors decided to move the State championship to any public waters in the state of Wisconsin.
“This brought a new challenge to the tournament because every school was fishing their home waters,” Stewart said.
Osceola claimed the top spot with a total of 578.5 inches of fish, far exceeding second place finisher DC Everest of Schofield who ended the day with 523.5 inches. Drummond placed third, Appleton East fourth and Prairie Farm fifth. A total of 64 teams were entered in the State competition. Defending State champion Pulaski finished 24th.
The winning Chieftain anglers included Lance Wallis, Adam Mallin, Colton Wilmot, Nick Nissen, Eli Sirek, Dawson Rosenow, Brock Studer, Kaden Pingel, Drew Pingel, Coby Heimbach, Kolten Heimbach, and Nick Kremer. The alternate was Max Michel.
“I’m so happy that Osceola has this club and that we get to compete all across Wisconsin to fish,” Kolten Heimbach said. “I like this club because we get to learn new lakes and have more opportunities to catch new species and fish with amazing people. The tournaments are super fun and we fish some of the biggest waters in Wisconsin.”