IT’S A FAMILY
Home grown talent and work ethic have fueled Lynx wrestling success for years
Cam Phetxoumphone was breathing hard, his eyes shifting from side to side as he stood in the tunnel of Wells Fargo Arena Friday night. His Class 2A 113-pound semifinal win over West Delaware’s Carson Less hadn’t even been updated on Track Wrestling yet and I was already asking him to shift to his state final bout that was less than 24 hours away.
On to the next, right?
Anyway, I wanted to know what Phetxoumphone was thinking about the prospect of winning a second straight state title. What would it mean to add another bullet point to his already bloated wrestling resume?
And that’s when he caught me off guard as he began to speak. His words spoke to the kind of kid he is, and to the kind of program that resides at Webster City.
“I love this program, they love me, and to get that second one would be special,” the WCHS junior said.
One night later, after Phetxoumphone had secured his second gold medal with a 2-1 win over Crestwood wunderkind Anders Kittelson, I stood in a different part of the arena with my recorder stuck in front of Lynx head coach Chad Hisler and he bought up his star’s comments.
“I got emotional when I heard that,” Hisler said. “It’s emotional to see that and see him buying into what we’re doing. It means a lot.”
Hisler is great at deflecting compliments, a master really. The success that WCHS has attained under his leadership — four individual state titles in the last six seasons and 14 state medals in the last seven campaigns — represents one of the greatest periods in the history of the program. And with Phetxoumphone and 106-pound bronze medalist Carson Doolittle returning next season, that’s not likely to change anytime soon.
But it’s never ‘I’ with Hisler. It’s ‘we.’ He routinely gives the credit to his coaching staff, which includes assistants Billy Bertran, Joel Kennedy, Tyler Patten, Carson Hartnett and Zane Williams, as well as those coaches that came before them.
The Super Six is homegrown. They all wrestled for the Lynx and have given blood, sweat, tears and more hours than anyone really knows to the program. They don’t know any other way.
“It’s nothing magical because it’s us, it’s our program, it’s all of the coaching doing what we saw (former coaches) Dick (Kennedy) and Ted (Larson) do,” Hisler said. “If you were a Lynx wrestler, it was important for you to be a part of the program. If you were a Lynx wrestler, you still follow it because it meant something to you. And now we get to return the favor.”
Too often, wrestling is seen as an individual sport, and maybe that’s true with some programs. But at WCHS, it’s about the family. History means something. Tradition means something. Pride means something.
Take those six coaches, for example. They accounted for five North Central Conference titles, 12 state tournament appearances and seven state medals when they wore the Lynx singlet.
And if you would happen to step into the practice room on any given winter evening, you’d see all six — representing three different decades from their 20s to their 40s — in wrestling gear, sweating and occasionally bleeding on the mat still. They do it because they love the sport and the program, and they do it because they want to see it continue for generations to come.
I never wrestled and, I’ll be honest, I was uneducated about the sport when I first came to the area 21 years ago. I still have to constantly bother Hisler about things I don’t understand, which occurs more frequently than I’d like to admit.
But I have grown to appreciate the sport perhaps more than any other. The work that goes into in. The mental and physical strength that is required by athletes and coaches to not only thrive, but also just survive. And the benefits that come from it.
After I posted Phetxoumphone’s comments to Twitter Friday night, I had several former Lynx wrestlers and coaches reach out and offer their thoughts. And they only bolstered my belief that the WCHS program is about so much more than the wins and losses.
“No doubt in my mind, any success I had in life is due to the influence of the (Webster City) wrestling program and coaching staff,” Vic Vanderpool, a former Lynx wrestler and coach who is now the principal at Gilbert High School, said in a message. “I would imagine almost all wrestling alumni would say the same.”
Maybe now you understand why Phetxoumphone’s love and appreciation for the program meant so much to Hisler. Who nows, it may be Phetxoumphone himself someday back in the practice room offering insight to the next generation. What a boon that would be.
From Dick Kennedy to Ted Larson to Chad Hisler and all of the coaches that have helped to pave the way. WCHS has been awfully lucky.