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Gering Wrestling Club racks up 22 medals at tourney
August 06, 2015 Frank Marquez   

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Photo by Frank Marquez Gering Citizen - Draven Steele, a member of the Gering Wrestling Club, volunteers with about 30 other wrestlers at United Way’s Rubber Duck Dash in July.

Seven wrestlers from the Gering Wrestling Club scooped up several medals at the State Games of America annual tourney in Lincoln over the weekend, July 31 to Aug. 2.

The wrestlers, who ranged in age from 10 to 14, participated in five of the six styles of wrestling offered at the tournament. The boys brought home medals in folk style, freestyle, beach wrestling, takedown, and advantage, all except for Greco.

Six of the wrestlers attend Gering public schools, including Austin Garcia, 14, at 148 pounds; Nate Rocheleau, 12, at 108 pounds; Quinton Chavez, 12, at 82 pounds; Conall Mosteller, 10, at 110 pounds; Mason Coward, 13, at 97 pounds; and Jacob Awiszus, 11, at 130 pounds. Tyler Nagel, 12, at 81 pounds is from Morrill.

Among medal winners, Garcia collected three golds, a silver and a bronze; Quinton Chavez took three bronzes and a silver; Rocheleau, three silvers and a bronze; Mosteller, two golds, a silver and a bronze; Nagel, a bronze; Awiszus, four silvers; and Coward earned a fourth place, but did not medal.

The tourney was set up as a block bracket with wrestlers fitting into a certain weight class. For example, a bracket might range from 71 to 78 pounds.

The Gering Wrestling Club, which was established more than three decades ago, under the guidance of the late Nebraska Hall of Famer and Gering Head Coach Chuck Deter, has survived to where Head Coach Frank Ybarra took over nearly seven years ago.

“We have come a long way,” said Ybarra, who wrestled for the Gering High School Bulldogs from 1989 to 1992, in the 103- and 130-pound weight classes, competing at the varsity level all four years.

“When I started helping with the club, 50 to 60 kids would sign up. We would do local stuff. There were a few kids who would travel a lot. We pushed for bigger goals. Now we have about 90 kids, of that number, 60 compete in folk style, and 20 to 25 wrestle year around.”

The club, which competes in tourneys organized by USA wrestling and AAU encounter the same challenges of any private club, money, though Ybarra and assistant coach and club treasurer Mario Chavez remain passionate about promoting the sport. Going against the grain, they continue to bounce fundraising ideas in an effort to help the kids achieve success. In recent years, the sport itself has experienced a relative decline in popularity.

“We made a commitment to our kids,” Ybarra said. “We don’t want to discourage any kids from joining. We give them options for what they want to do. We just want to help them. One of our goals this next year is to get more kids to travel. So, we fund raise. For every match a kid wrestles, it’s about $25 dollars. We had three kids get about a hundred wins this year, while wrestling about 150 matches. When you go to these national tourneys, you can drop $500 to $1,000 per kid.”

This year, the club worked to raise money from January to February, during which it raffled a Husker golf cart. It also hosted a tourney called the Chuck Deter Classic during the first weekend in February. In the summer, wrestlers volunteer at the Chuck Deter Dynasty Golf Tournament at Monument Shadows Gold Course in July coinciding with Oregon Trail Days. Club wrestlers also participate in the Adopt-A-Highway program keeping Highway 71 tidy, and for the first time, volunteering at the United Way’s Rubber Duck Dash near the end of July, something Ybarra said they plan to do every year.

Managing the club, “kind of fell into my lap,” Ybarra said. “My cousins Mario Ybarra and Deanne had asked me to help out. Then, Mario had to step down due to job demands. But, he added that he gets “to do the easy stuff, I get to coach.” With no prior coaching experience, he’s learning as he goes.

The clubs website www.geringwrestlingclub.com is tended to by Mario Chavez, whose involvement with the club came via his wife who is a member of the club’s board. “We tried different clubs,” Mario Chavez said. “Then, we brought our son Quinton over, and I started getting more involved. My wife got on the board four years ago. Jumped on there, and took on a bigger role in the past two years.”

Ybarra is also helped by Gering Junior High Head Coach Willy Schwartzkopf, Assistant Gering Junior High Coach Ryan Barrett, Gering High School coach J.J. Behrens, and club coaches Jarred Berger and J.B. Stone.

In two years, the club plans to attend the State Games of America National Tournament in Grand Rapids, Mich., slated for the summer of 2017, according to Mario Chavez, who wrestled for the Bearcats from 1997 to 2000, lettering all four years in the 152-pound weight class.

Right now, club wrestlers are taking a brief hiatus, and will resume practices for folk style wrestling starting on Sept. 1. “We want to build on a west Nebraska wrestling league, which we started last year,” Mario Chavez said. “We had four sites last year, and we’ll have eight sites this year. During the fall league, we’ll try to get wrestlers as many matches each week, every Sunday afternoon.”

So far, the proposed sites for the fall league include Gering, Sutherland, Hershey, North Platte, Gothenburg, Hay Springs, Chadron, and possibly Alliance. “This is all folk style, getting western kids ready for national,” Mario Chavez said.

A farm system of sorts, the club has produced an exceptional wrestler in Garcia, who lost only twice last year for Gering Junior High. Only time will tell if this most recent crop at the Gering Wrestling Club will take things to the next level, something Ybarra said is only part of the plan.

“You can only be an athlete for so long,” said Ybarra, who eventually wants to start a program to tie academic achievement as a way to raise money for tournaments, and knocking down the obstacle of getting more wrestlers to travel. “Each grade would be worth something, given a dollar value. Athletics is a way to open doors for education. The real goal is to get them to the next level, and to have them be successful in other areas of life.”

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