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Emmetsburg Wrestling Supporters Seek Answers From School Board

By Staff | Apr 23, 2009

A large group of parents and community members addressed the board with their concerns for the district’s wrestling program at the Emmetsburg Community Schools Board of Education meeting held Monday night at the high school/middle school library.

Several individuals signed up to speak during the open forum and addressed the district’s efforts to fill the head wrestling coach position at the high school. In June 2008, Head Wrestling Coach Mike Lester resigned his position. Due to Lester’s resignation late in the school year, the district was unable to complete a traditional state-wide search for coaching candidates. In September 2008, the board filled the position with Zach Hamann, who served as interim wrestling coach for the 2008-2009 school year. The position is again vacant.

“I’m frustrated with the inability to hire a wrestling coach,” began Rich Stillman. “Over the past 30 some years, Emmetsburg has had one of the top wrestling programs in the state of Iowa; we’ve been in the top three in the state fifty percent of the time. I look at that tradition to continue here. Our school system has spent somewhere around $400,000 to $500,000 on a wrestling room and weight room, and the community spent $250,000 on the little kids’ wrestling room. I just feel we need the best wrestling coach we can find.”

Todd Lundgren, representing Little E’Hawk Wrestlers, noted, “It feels like we’re at a dead end here. I asked questions and asked for help and we get nowhere. We want answers. There’s a certain group of us that meet two or three times a week, we go to other communities, we talk to people, we interview people, but we get no help from the administration and school board. How do we get a coach?”

Board President Karla Anderson agreed that that’s a question that the school board has, as well.

“We have teaching and staffing positions open and those have to be filled first. Education is our number one priority. We had a similar problem with volleyball. It’s not just a wrestling problem; it’s a head coach problem. We have the same frustrations that you have now. We’ve advertised. We’ve talked with the community. It’s just a tough position to fill.”

Anderson stated that problems filling the position started when former head wrestling coach Mike Lester left a year ago.

“It actually goes back to when Coach Kenny left,” interjected Lundgren. “There always used to be a great correlation between the high school and the Little E’Hawk Wrestling Program. We’ve been on our own now for three years, for the most part. It’s going to take a long time for someone very special to get it back to where it was. I know there’s guys who are looking at creating a position at their own business to get someone in here.”

Superintendent John Joynt noted that it is considered unethical for someone from the school district to go out and recruit coaches from other communities.

“I know there are a lot of schools looking at the private sector for coaches and not from their staff,” Anderson said.

Board member Don Hagen wondered how taxpayers would react if the board was to create a $40,000 position on the staff in order to bring on a head coach.

“I had this same conversation with a past superintendent of the school system and he said he always had to work harder, but he hired good teachers who were also good coaches,” said Stillman. “It’s tough, but you’ve got to search harder to find the good candidates.”

Dan McCain, a wrestling parent, spoke on the issue, as well, noting, “I’m disappointed being here tonight. I don’t think your answer that you don’t have an answer is an acceptable one. Find an acceptable solution, one that meets the needs of the school and the kids, and along with that, foster an atmosphere that makes coaches want to be here. I don’t know what went wrong or what is wrong, but the fact that they’re leaving is of concern to me, too.”

“We’ll take this all into consideration,” said Anderson. “You’ve put the burden on the administration and the board, which is our job. We’ve advertised, we’ve had help from the community group, but we haven’t found the right person. We’ll continue trying.”

Wrestling parent Kay Glasnapp wondered what happens if a wrestling coach is not found.

“The program will continue,” said Joynt. “We have people who will step up. They don’t want to, but they’ll do it.”

“Our goal is the same as yours. Our goal is to find the right coach for this program,” Anderson said, bringing the discussion to a close.