Nicolet wrestling coach Gus Kaufmann can't really pay all the family members who help make the Knights' annual scramble invitational a success each year.

But he said they know he appreciates their efforts.

"My love and adoration should be enough," he laughed as another successful Nicolet Scramble was held Saturday, Dec. 3.

But seriously, Kaufmann did call in a lot of family favors to get this thing done.

"My mom helps; my dad and sister run the (scoring) table; and my brother-in-law is the announcer," he said.

Furthermore, after the meet, everyone involved went to the Silver Spring House, which is owned by Kaufmann's in-laws. There, between beverages and laughs, a fundraiser was held for the Knights' youth wrestling program, with 10 percent of the day's proceeds being donated, along with various raffles and other events being held.

Safe to say, it's Kaufmann who owes everyone a few favors now.

Finish fourth

It was also a good day for a young Knight squad at the scramble, as they were a solid fourth out of 10 teams with 110 points. Elkhorn won with 264.5.

Kaufmann said the 22-member team will be built largely around freshmen and sophomores with only two seniors. He said his program is actually in fairly good shape, even as a precipitous decline in wrestling participation is being noted around the state.

"Things are still positive with us," he said. "Our youth program has about 65-80 kids any given year, and this year, we have 10 to 12 freshmen out. It's not good around the state, but I feel good about my own team."

He should, as he builds around sophomore fifth-place state finisher Parker Keckeisen. Keckeisen, who dominated the 170-pound class at the scramble, had a great summer, Kaufmann said.

"An awesome summer," Kaufmann said. "He was a folkstyle All-American, and he qualified for nationals in both freestyle and Greco-Roman. He's looking to do some very serious things this season."

As noted, a young group surrounds him. The only veteran senior is 182-pounder Collin Shea, while fellow senior Cameron Cooper will look to man the 285-pound slot.

Other veterans include sophomore Ryan Kuesel at 113, junior Alex Riedijk at 132, sophomore Robert Lagerman at 126, junior Jaren Yoder at 138 and junior Peter Driscoll at 160.

New team on scene

Other than that, Kaufmann calls it "almost a completely new team," as the Knights graduated eight starters from last year's squad. Freshmen Kazi Wynn-Beavers (106), Ben Hersh (120), Angelo Morgano (126) and Will Dietrich (195) will see a lot of action early, while other younger wrestlers look to gain experience.

Kaufmann said he's going to be patient because the goals for the end of the season are big.

"We want a 2.5 GPA (at minimum) for everyone on the team, and we want to win the regional," he said. The WIAA has realigned teams into different sectionals in the southeast portion of the state, giving the Knights a chance at earning a coveted regional title plaque.

A sound finish at the Scramble was a good step forward. The Knights had actually opened their season with a North Shore dual-meet loss to defending champion Germantown on Dec. 1.

Keckeisen led the way, dominating his class with two pins, two technical falls and and a major decision. Drscoll also had a good day at 160, going 4-1 with two pins. Wynn-Beavers at 106 and Kuesel at 113 (4-1) both earned fifths.

"Driscoll buckled down and worked as hard as anyone we've had in the off-season," Kaufmann said. "He may be the mentally toughest kid that we have."

Both Riedijk at 132 and Yoder at 138 bounced back from opening-round losses to record four straight wins to earn sixth. Riedijk pinned all four of his backdraw opponents.

Kaufmann was pleased for sophomore 152-pounder Nick Noble, who recorded his first varsity win ever in the second around against a Brookfield East opponent. He also praised Lagerman, who didn't have a varsity slot for the meet going into the day but volunteered to move up a couple of classes to wrestle 138, winning two bouts.

"He didn't want to just sit in the stands and watch," Kaufmann said.

And as for organization of the meet itself?

"Everything went well," Kaufmann said. "We were a little late starting, but we still got it done on time."

With a little help from mom and dad.