Brandon Dennis is best known as the top wrestler for the New Richmond Tigers, but wrestling is just one of the sports where he’s been a standout.
Dennis was a part of the New Richmond boys’ team that advanced to the WIAA Division 2 state soccer tournament last fall. He was also a member of the top doubles team for the Tiger boys’ tennis team last spring and will be a key member of that program again this spring.
Dennis became the 14th wrestler in New Richmond High School wrestling history to win 100 matches in his career when he was a winner in the Tigers’ dual match against Osceola on Jan. 16.
Dennis and his brother, Tyler, have both been wrestling since pre-school. It wasn’t their dad that got them into wrestling, which Brandon said is the question he always gets asked. Wrestling comes from his mom’s side of the family. Their maternal grandfather was a high school wrestling coach at Ladysmith.
The Dennis brothers are practice partners.
“Me and Tyler are super close. We’re always practice partners, we have been since kindergarten. So we get lost of chances to beat on each other. We push each other hard in practice,” Brandon said.
Tiger coach Jeff Swanson said Dennis is a leader for the team. He wants to be challenged in every match while wanting to see each of his teammates also show improvement.
Terms like “respectful, focused, positive attitude and hard-working,” were how Swanson described Dennis.
Dennis is hoping to finish his high school wrestling career with a berth in the WIAA State Championships. That’s his main wrestling goal, because he has come achingly close to qualifying for state each of the past two seasons. He’s competed at the state level five times in his youth wrestling career. He also has state experience at the high school level, in soccer.
Dennis was a reserve on the Tiger soccer team that advanced to the WIAA State Championships in November. While wrestling and tennis are mainly individual sports, Dennis said he enjoyed being able to compete as part of a team in soccer. The fact that he didn’t start didn’t deter Dennis. He brought a determined work ethic to the team and made himself into an important member of the team. He began the season as the main reserve for the players on defense. With his work ethic and knowledge of the game, the coaches also worked him into the rotation as a midfielder.
Tiger boys soccer coach Darian Blattner said Dennis’ team mentality showed whenever the team had breaks, where he was often seen working with the team’s freshmen.
“Brandon is the type of young man that every coach wants on his team. While he is a great athlete, it's more about the kind of person Brandon is that really brings out the best in others,” Blattner said.
One of the truly interesting sights of last spring’s tennis season was watching Dennis and his doubles partner, Matt Kukacka, in action. Dennis stands 5 feet, 5 inches tall. Kukacka is more than a foot taller than Dennis.
They quickly figured out that their differences are what made them a good team.
“He took the balls at the net and I took the balls that got past him,” Dennis said of how they made their skills blend together.
Kukacka graduated last summer, so Dennis will be looking for a new doubles partner this season. When asked about the possibility of teaming with his brother, Brandon said it was an idea they have discussed.
Brandon ran cross country in middle school. When their younger sister, Onalie, began showing interest in tennis, the boys decided to try it too. They now are all deeply involved in the sport, playing mini-tournaments against each other during the summer.
Dennis said he’s attending St. Thomas University. He said he’s not planning on wrestling in college because he wants to concentrate on his studies. He’s planning on majoring in mechanical engineering.
He said he’s thankful for the support of his parents and his sister.
“It makes wrestling super fun. It’s been 13 years of them being in a gym every Saturday,” he said.