The wrestling program in Stevensville is so young that the wrestling mats still have that ‘new’ mat smell on them. (If you’ve ever been a wrestler or even to a wrestling match, you know that isn’t what they normally smell like.) But the program is flourishing and the enthusiasm is high. Throughout the practice, even though the boys are being taught new moves every day, they are smiling and encouraging each other.
Ted Adams, the coach of the Yellowjackets said the turnout of 20 was better than he expected, but he wasn’t complaining. Adams is a product of the Polson wrestling dynasty under Bob Owen. After a career in the Marines, Adams moved back to Western Montana and settled in the Bitterroot. He was a substitute teacher last year and an assistant wrestling coach under Jeff Nagel of Corvallis where they have huge numbers out for the sport.
“That was a great place to learn,” he said.
While he wanted to coach, what Adams was really looking for was a teaching job and one opened up in Stevensville this year. He’s a high school history teacher. It was only after he signed on to teach that the coaching position for wrestling came open and he was hired for that.
One of the biggest challenges he has faced has been the lack of the fundamentals that most high school wrestlers already have. Only a couple of the Stevensville wrestlers have had any experience, gained through Little Guy Wrestling. The others have started at ground zero. But that hasn’t slowed the team down. They work hard in practice with Adams and assistant coach Kirk Crews showing them the moves and even doing a bit of one-on-one with the wrestlers.
“We can set an example at practice,” he said. “And, as a Marine, I learned how to see what a person was capable of and help them reach that. That’s what I’m doing here too.”
Florence also has a new wrestling coach. Jamie Muir took over the coaching position this year and is working to bring the numbers back up there. Muir, who was raised in Darby, has had a couple of years experience as a volunteer coach here in the valley, one year at Darby and last year at Florence. He coached at Mesa State in Colorado after attending and wrestling at West Virginia. Muir is a two time state champion. He attended Darby High School one year and then moved to Ronan where he continued to wrestle successfully. He lives in Florence and is a smokejumper in the off wrestling season.
Muir is hoping to increase the number of wrestlers out at Florence. Although the wrestlers he has out are doing very well, they can’t fill all the weight classes and so they are not a very good dual team. The Little Guy program is booming and has the largest numbers of any program in the valley so there is an interest. This year, the wrestlers moved their practices to a building just down the road from the school.
“This gives them a place to call their own,” he said. “They have a sense of pride about that.”
Matt Lawson is the assistant coach at Florence.