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Krueger sets sights on three-peat

New London wrestler Thressa Voight works on Menasha’s Cecelia Street Feb. 3 in a 120-pound match at the Bay/North Eastern Conference girls’ tournament at Waupaca High School. Voight piinned Street and went on to place third in her weight class. Greg Seubert Photo

New London wrestler undefeated

By Greg Seubert

If things fall into place for Hailie Krueger, the New London High School junior will wrap up her wrestling season later this month the same way the last two ended.

That would be standing on a podium with a state championship medal around her neck.

Krueger is well on her way to another run at a state title, as she pinned all five of her opponents Feb. 3 to win the 152-pound weight class at the Bay/North Eastern Conference girls’ meet at Waupaca High School while improving to 34-0 on the season.

She’s no stranger to the sport of wrestling, as her dad, Nate, coaches New London’s wrestling program and her brother, Preston, is a freshman on the boys’ team.

Krueger’s championship – along with Thressa Voight’s third-place finish at 120, Bella Flease’s fifth-place finish at 132 and Joselyn Eckhart’s seventh-place finish at 126 – helped the Bulldogs finish fifth out of 12 teams at the tournament, which included five Bay Conference teams (New London, Shawano, Menasha, Xavier and West De Pere) and seven out of the North Eastern Conference (Waupaca, Wrightstown, Marinette, Freedom, Luxemburg-Casco, Oconto Falls and Fox Valley Lutheran).

Shawano won the tournament with 93 points, followed by Menasha (86), Wrightstown (47), Waupaca (43), New London (41), Marinette (34), Freedom (25), Luxemburg-Casco (24), Oconto Falls (17), Xavier (16), West De Pere (10) and Fox Valley Lutheran (8).

Waupaca had a pair of second-place finishers in Savana Hansen (138) and Calin Johnson (152) and a third-place finish from Rylynn Eskildsen (165).

Krueger and Johnson pinned their first four opponents.

Krueger pinned Marinette’s Ariana Wickman in 1:38, Oconto Falls’ Nicole Woosencraft in 2:38, Fox Valley Lutheran’s Sarai Sanches in 1:48 and Shawano’s Courtney Schenk in 5:21.

Johnson pinned Schenk in 3:02, Sanchez in 20 seconds, Wickman in 23 seconds and Woosencraft in 25 seconds.

Those eight pins set up a showdown between Krueger and Johnson in the fifth round, with Krueger getting the pin in 5:08.

Waupaca’s Caylin Johnson puts the finishing touch of a pin over Shawano’s Courtney Schenk in a 152-pound match at the Bay/North Eastern Conference girls’ tournament. Johnson posted a 4-1 record at the tournament to place second behind New London’s Hailie Krueger. Greg Seubert Photo

One of seven

Krueger is one of seven female wrestlers competing for New London this season.

“There were three of us my freshman year and last year, I was the only one,” she said. “This year, we had at least five or six girls in the room every day.”

Most of Krueger’s opponents know they’re facing a two-time defending state champion.

“I’ve had my parents tell me, ‘Oh yeah, that coach was asking if you’re dropping down (a weight class) so they know where they can put their girls,” she said. “I definitely feel like there’s a target on my back and sometimes, I feel like they’re running from me.”

Krueger is wrestling at 152 pounds this season, which is up from 145, her weight class as a freshman and sophomore.

“There are a lot of new girls and it’s nice to see them help build the sport,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of matches where there were really good girls. I knew if I kept myself healthy and stayed away from injuries that I could become really successful. Lucky for me, I have stayed away from them, but unfortunately for my teammates, a lot of them have had small injuries or large injuries that have taken them out. I feel very fortunate that I’ve been able to avoid an injury.”

Most of Krueger’s matches have been at invitationals instead of conference dual meets.

“A lot of teams in our conference don’t always have girls that wrestle in my weight class,” she said. “I wrestled the Friday before Christmas break and then I don’t think I wrestled until mid-January. It was two or three weeks before I got to compete again.”

More coaches have made a difference for Krueger this season.

“It definitely helps having multiple coaches in the room this year,” she said. “We have a girls’ coach – Addison Young – and she wrestled for my dad in high school. I’ve known her forever, I like her and she does a great job.

“I guess it also helps having my dad in the room,” she said. “We go home, watch film on my matches, figure out what went wrong and work on those things. I do find that it is an advantage having my dad as my coach. I go home with my coach all the time and he’s always helping me and showing me new videos. We’re always working on the little things that went wrong.”

An early start

Although wrestling is her main sport, Krueger also competes in shot put and discus events in track and joined the girls’ swim team last year to help get in shape for wrestling.

“My brother joined wrestling first when I was little and I sat out for a year,” she said.

“I watched and thought, ‘I can do that.’ The next year, I decided that I wanted to wrestle. I was in second grade when I decided to join.”

Krueger won her first championship in 2022 at a tournament for girls in La Crosse, but last year’s championship came at the Kohl Center in Madison, as the WIAA combined the boys’ and girls’ individual meets for the first time.

“It was a little scary at first,” she said. “There were three other matches going for first. There was a great atmosphere and it was super-exciting. I was nervous, but it was amazing being there.”

She won her second championship with a 13-9 decision over Cuba City/Southwestern/Benton’s Chloe LaRue.

“At first, I didn’t know if I had won or lost,” she said. “I just couldn’t wait to go hug my coaches and my mom because I knew they were so proud of me.”

Krueger plans to continue wrestling in college.

“I’ve had one coach ask me to fill out a recruiting form,” she said. “I’m looking at a couple of colleges and I’m hoping to go to a college with wrestling. I see myself wrestling through high school and college and coming back to help coach one of our programs.

“Of all the sports, wrestling has the tightest bond,” she added. “We are all so close. We’re out there individually, but the bond with wrestling is so amazing and I just love it. My male teammate and my female teammates, it doesn’t matter. I have a great bond with them. I don’t see myself cutting wrestling out ever.”

In the meantime, Krueger will work toward her goal of four state championships.

“My ultimate goal is eventually four, but to get four, you have to get three,” she said. “Right now, I have my eyes set on three. I want three state titles and I want to see some success for my teammates as well.”

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