Any good varsity program has a feeder system, and that's what Mighty Mustang Wrestling Club assistant coach Jeremy Mann is starting to realize.
With ages ranging from pre-kindergarten up to Grade 8, Mann is hoping the club's coaching staff can build a reputable youth program that will help make the junior varsity/varsity wrestling program at Falls High School stronger.
“We want to build our youth program to where we'd be getting about 30-35 kids, and start retaining them on a little better basis,” Mann said during a Mighty Mustangs' practice last Wednesday at the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School gym in the Falls.
“If you look at any successful junior varsity or varsity program in any sport, hockey, basketball, baseball, softball, whatever, they have a very successful feeder program,” he noted.
“That's what we are trying to create now,” Mann added.
“I feel we brought the right group of coaches together to do that,” he enthused.
The Mighty Mustangs' coaching staff—comprised of Mann, Mike Holden, Dan Schermerhorne, Cory Wolfe, and Chris Thoresen, who all either are certified USA wrestling, MSHL, or college coaches—are looking to give its kids the training they'll need to succeed.
With tournament action beginning in January (dates still to be determined), Mann feels as though getting the kids to learn the basics of wrestling will go a long way in ensuring the program's success.
“A couple of things that I noticed last year are that our kids were not getting the basics,” he remarked.
“I felt that was because we only had the one coach [looking after every kid] at a time," he noted. ”Sometimes it was just myself trying to run 15 kids, so I would try to do the best I could but did I get around to every kid all the time?
"No, probably not.
“So, for the first month we're going to be working on basics hard but we're kind of making it fun,” Mann stressed.
“They're learning basics that they don't even know they're [actually] learning right now.”
Something different the coaches are doing this season is getting parents more involved during practice. That way, every child has an easier time learning and developing proper wrestling techniques.
“What we saw last year is a problem with parents not understanding what wrestling actually was,” said Mann.
"So we [the coaches] sat down and one of the main things we decided to do is encourage parents to actually come into practice and watch, and get on the mat and help their wrestler.
“Because when you go to a tournament, you can see we have a lot of little kids out there and I don't care if you have 20 coaches, it seems like everyone is wrestling at the same time and you're not gonna make it to every kid,” he reiterated.
“So that's one reason we wanted the parents [to get involved]," he explained. ”So they can actually coach a kid mat-side if they have to.
“The more we get parents involved, the better it is for the kids. We want to create that team unity.”
This is the 10th year of the Mighty Mustangs' existence and it currently has 24 children in the program, with six coming from Fort Frances—Hudson Mann (Jeremy's son), Jesse and Jonah Homer, Hudson and Zayne Basaraba, and Vai Lockman.
Mann noted Fort Frances has some exceptionally strong wrestlers, and knows they'll be key to the long-term success of the program.
“We do have one wrestler that is ranked nationally in USA Wrestling, and that's Hudson,” he said.
"He's ranked No. 41 in his weight class.
“He actually won the Minnesota state title last year," Mann added. ”That's the first time in Mustangs' history that there's been a state title up here.
“Down the road, we're looking to have a competitive junior varsity and varsity team and for us to do that, we are going to have to co-op with Fort Frances,” he reasoned.
“There are some tough kids over there and it's inevitable that we'll have to do that.”