Getting back to the basics already is starting to pay huge dividends for members of the Mighty Mustang youth wrestling program in International Falls.
Assistant coach Jeremy Mann noted the 20-plus kids who currently are in the program really are starting to hone the basic skills of wrestling, which only will lead them to success down the road.
“Our numbers, they’re actually continuing to grow,” he remarked. “This is the first year, in probably as long as I can think of, that we’re actually going to end the year with more kids than we started with.
“Yeah, it’s amazing. I’m loving it,” Mann enthused. “I know Coach Dan [Schermerhorne] is, too.
“A couple of the reasons for it are more coaches, and I think fun is huge,” he noted.
“The kids are having fun again, and they’re starting to see success again.
“It seemed like, I don’t know, we were kinda stagnant for a while,” Mann admitted.
“So I think the new coaches are bringing new stuff to the table and it’s helping.”
Mann also is overjoyed with how the girls in the Mighty Mustang program are faring so far.
“We actually have four girls that are regulars and then we have two-three others that will stop in just to train and stay active and stuff like that,” he noted.
“All of our girls are picking it up really well.”
Schermerhorne also is pleased with the progress of the young wrestlers he oversees.
“I think they’ve come a long way this season,” he said.
“We wanted to really stress having fun in the practices; to keep the kids engaged and wanting to come to practice and wanting to learn,” Schermerhorne explained.
“That’s worked out really well this year.”
Mann also has been pleased with the support from the community, and is honoured to be able help provide local youth with another option when it comes to sports.
“Wrestling was gone for so long in the Borderland and when we first started, everyone thought we were going to steal kids from hockey and football and all that,” he recalled.
“That’s not what we’re about,” he stressed. “All we want to do is basically offer something to get kids off the couch.
“Not every kid wants to be a hockey player, basketball player, baseball player,” Mann reasoned.
“We just want to give kids another option because wrestling is something where kids can succeed–if they put in the work.”
The program already has seen its wrestlers compete in a number tournaments this season, and will be concluding the year within the next few months.
Mann described just how the rest of the schedule will shape up.
“There’s a couple of different levels of wrestling,” he explained. “Mainly for our first- and second-year wrestlers, we focus on what’s called the Jaycees State.
“That’s kind of like the beginning to semi-advanced level.
“What that is that’s kind of based on a round-robin [format],” Mann noted.
“So you’ll have a four-man or five-man bracket, and you wrestle each wrestler.
“There’s a southern Jaycee State tournament and that’s south of the city, it’s usually held in Albany, Mn., and there’s a northern Jaycee State and that’s held in Grand Rapids,” Mann added.
“So how you qualify for that is you go to some of these Jaycee qualifiers, and if you place first or second, then you get a piece of paper that basically says you qualified.
“It’s great and you do get some good competition there,” he enthused.
The next level is NYWA (Northern Youth Wrestling Association), where to qualify, the wrestlers have to place first or second, and the brackets can be up to six people.
There also are five-six regions for it throughout Minnesota.
“Our regionals are held in Bemidji,” noted Mann. “There, you’re going to face off in a bracket that has anywhere from six-16 wrestlers.
“The top three advance to State down in Rochester,” he added.
“It’s a step up from the Jaycees, just for the brackets, and the competition is a little stiffer.
“I would say, probably, No. 1 is going to be your MNUSA, and that’s affiliated with USA wrestling,” Mann continued.
“That’s based on a point system–first, second–and what that does is actually help you get seeded,” he explained.
“Brackets there can pretty much range from eight-man brackets on up to, I’ve seen, over 64-man brackets.
“We only have one or two kids that usually do that, [but] we’re slowly working our way to that,” Mann said.
“So usually if you take first or second, then you’ll get to wrestle off for a spot on the Minnesota national team.
“Then you go to what’s called the ‘Heartland Duals,’ and you get to face off against all these teams.
“It’s a really cool experience, we got to experience it last year,” Mann noted. “It was phenomenal, I can’t even say enough.
“We have three or four kids that are gonna do NYWA down in Deer River.”
As for this summer, Mann said he and the Mighty Mustang coaching staff will be running some camps to help their wrestlers maintain their skills.
“We’re actually going to open that up to any kid that wants to try it,” he remarked.
“Most of our camps are pretty much just going to be free-will donation, and we’re hoping to get a couple of guys up that are on world teams and different things like that [to help coach].
“Also, we’re looking at possibly doing a one day-a-week session for our kids, just to keep them freshened up until school gets out,” Mann added.
“I’m very pleased with how the program’s going, I mean it’s awesome,” he enthused.
“I know Dan is, too.
“It’s crazy, the kids are having fun and it’s huge,” he beamed.
“Anything we can do to help our kids.”
In other club news, members were in action at a tournament Saturday in Cloquet, Mn.
Jesse Homer of Fort Frances nabbed first place in the 50- to 55-pound division while his twin brother, Jonah, placed second in the 55- to 60-pound division.
“Both of the twins are showing more confidence on the mat,” enthused Mann.
“It’s great to see them using technique that we teach at practice.
“Some of the reasons are paying attention in practice, and getting to practice and tournaments,” he noted.
Hudson Mann, who was born in Fort Frances but now lives in the Falls, took part in MNUSA State tournament this past weekend.
With close to 1,800 wrestlers competing there, the seventh-grader earned a sixth-place finish in a 16-man bracket.