Lynx coaches love the wrestling program, and you should love them right back

Webster City head coach Chad Hisler and assistant Tyler Patten. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

Joel Kennedy can’t remember the first time he stepped foot in the Webster City wrestling room, but it’s felt like his home ever since.

He grew up in there. Watched his dad, the late and revered Dick Kennedy, coach in there. Eventually wrestled in there himself. And now he’s come full circle; he’s a coach himself.

Wrestling taught him so much, things like discipline and humility. It’s given him great joy and, yes, maybe even greater sorrow. But it’s what he knows and what he loves. Giving it up doesn’t even seem possible.

Many of the same things can be said about Chad Hisler. About Billy Bertran. About Tyler Patten. Webster City wrestling helped mold them all. And it’s for that reason, maybe more than anything else, that each day from late November through late February, they change into shorts and T-shirts, throw on the wrestling shoes, and put their bodies through hell as they teach the next generation of Lynx wrestlers.

And Webster City is lucky to have them all.

Webster City assistant coach Billy Bertran. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

“I’ve taught other places, but I’ve still always chosen to coach here because I couldn’t bring myself to coach against Webster City wrestling,” Kennedy said. “It means so much to me.”

How unique is it to have an all homegrown wrestling coaching staff? I don’t have the faintest of clues, but it’s worked wonders at Webster City.

All four were state qualifiers themselves when they were in Lynx singlets.

Bertran, the elder statesman of the group, twice made it to Des Moines, winning a fourth-place medal in 1986.

Hisler, who shifted from assistant coach to head coach a year ago, advanced to state in 1992 and Kennedy in 2006, where he was mere seconds away from advancing to the state finals before eventually finishing fifth.

Webster City assistant coach Joel Kennedy. DFJ photo/Troy Banning

And then there’s Patten, one of the most decorated WCHS grapplers ever. He’s one of only two four-time state qualifiers and the only four-time state place-winner. He has two state bronze medals, two silver medals and 137 career victories, the fourth-most all-time.

But as much success as someone like Patten had, he had plenty of disappointments as well. You don’t finish second on the podium twice and not have remnants of some of those scars, but that can also be a benefit in his new role.

“My experiences definitely help me relate to the kids,” Patten said. “I was down here (at state) seven years ago, so I know the struggles they’re going through. I’m able to relate to them pretty well and that’s a good edge for me.”

Patten does it because wrestling is in his DNA. But would it mean as much at another school? Probably not.

“I think that’s the best part about this team,” he said. “The coaches all grew up in the program and everyone has been around so long that it really makes it special. We’ve gotten so much from the program and now we can give back to the team.”

That’s why, at 50 years of age, Bertran still lives and dies emotionally with each match. The intensity in his eyes is fierce, and when he looks at one of his wrestlers, points a finger and shouts instructions, they listen. He’s earned that respect.

“You watched it play out in your own life and you know exactly what they’re going through,” Bertran said. “You have to keep planting the seed and hopefully it helps.”

Kennedy is his father’s son in the corner and no better compliment could be given. Do his wrestlers know that he too came up short twice in district finals when he was a prep wrestler? Probably not, but those failures have shaped him into a caring but demanding coach who knows when to be tough and when to empathize. His nephew, Lynx senior 152-pound state qualifier Luke Rohmiller, says he’s like a second father and not just when wrestling is the centerpiece.

Enough said.

“This sport, more than anything, is so mental,” Kennedy said. “But I’m just trying to give kids the same experience and same love of the sport and same love of the community that I had growing up.”

Hisler knows he’s cultivated a staff that can build not only good wrestlers, but good men.

“We’re lucky to have all of them,” Hisler said of his assistants. “All three of them have great strengths that help our program get better, and I think they help different kids in different ways.”

Hisler would never tout his own successes, but it takes a leader first and foremost before anything of substance can be built, and that’s him. He may take a more hand’s off approach inside the practice room now, but he’s the one pulling the strings. Dissecting potential match-ups. Moving the pieces all around the chess board. Some of those moves were crucial to WCHS not only reaching the Class 2A state duals, but placing fifth last week.

And when a kid like James Cherry, someone who had wrestled only a handful of varsity matches prior to his junior year, puts together a state tournament like he did last week, it makes all the pain worth it. The coaches are just as happy as the kids when they win. They’re just as miserable when they lose, too.

“You get to see both sides of the coin with emotions,” Bertran said. “You get to see someone like James and how that type of kid handles adversity … we all go through adversity and that’s the type of attitude I’d want. But then you also see the other side of the coin and that’s the tough part.”

What they’ve helped build is something special. Five 40-match winners this season, the most in program history. Seven individual state qualifiers and four state medalists, which tied program records. The most pins in a season. A trip to the state duals. And on and on it goes.

“Any way I can give back to this program I will,” Patten said. “I just want to help make this program as good as it can possibly be.”

You’ve done that, Tyler. And so have you, Chad. And so have you, Billy. And so have you, Joel.

A community thanks you for that.