Head wrestling coach Dave Wingert paces the wrestling room at Yellow Medicine East High School surrounded by nearly 57 wrestlers as he counts off a number of post-practice announcements before his excitement begins to rise and his semi-circle steps quicken; his words bunch up and his hands come down on each sentence as if he was hammering in the punctuation.
Naturally, he’s an excitable guy, you envision him as the high school wrestler who could never leave the mat-room—and now he’s swept up in it with his own team—a team that now legitimately fills the room with wrestlers from three different schools.
“Friday (hammer). Saturday (hammer). Were two of the best practices I’ve ever been apart of since I’ve been coaching (hammer). We had wrestle-offs today that were as intense as anything we’ve had here. It’s all about competition (hammer). You’ve got to have great competition in the room before you can go out and be competitive on the mat. And we’ve got competition here.”
In bold letters made of all-caps the back of Wingert’s shirt reads “three schools—one goal”. The front reads “Quad County Wrestling”.
He rousts up his wrestlers to break practice as a group. “Quad County,” offers his team as they surround him with there hands reaching for the center of the circle. But the coach isn’t happy. “That’s the worst we’ve ever broken it down, guys get back in here.” They go again.
From there the team disperses. Wrestlers from the MACCRAY, Renville County West and YME school districts. They drift out from the current center of their universes, walled with mats and stinking of sweat, to return home to Renville, or Sacred Heart, or Maynard, or Clara City, or Clarkfield, or Granite Falls and all parts between; expanding outward into the ether like the exploded remnants of a super nova.
“I’ve been through this now three times,” says assistant Quad County wrestling coach Darrel Refsland who has deep wrestling roots that extend from Renville and Sacred Heart to Granite Falls and Clarkfield. “I was here back in 1988, or ‘89 when Granite Falls first paired with Sacred Heart and Renville for wrestling. Then I was here again when Granite Falls and Clarkfield combined. Now this time,” said Refsland when asked about the new wrestling coop between Yellow Medicine East and what had been a coop between MACCRAY/RCW.
“There’s a lot more competition and it’s definitely made us a better wrestling program,” said Refsland. “No, it’s not a win-win totally. Of course there’s going to be some kids—some seniors especially who’ll be disappointed— but they will have chances throughout the season to get back their spot. And they have to buy in to the team concept.”
Page 2 of 2 - Wingert uses his own example when addressing his wrestlers, “the most exciting years I had as a wrestler were when my team was winning—not just when I was winning.”
For this team, Wingert counts off the positives he’s already seen: Numbers were even better than expected, kids that had quit wrestling at all the schools have come back out, he’s seen excitement from all the communities Quad County represents, practices have been awesome and intense. And then there’s that “buzz” in the room.
“We’re going to have close wrestle-offs all season. It’s pretty neat to have that kind of competition in the room—all that extra energy,” says Wingert.