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Adrian to celebrate 50 years of wrestling on Saturday

ADRIAN -- The Adrian High School wrestling program has come a long way in 50 years.

A very long way.

Jim Carr, who took over the team in the second year of its existence, for the 1968-69 school year, remembers that at least one person inside the school district advised him to decline “because the interest wasn’t there.” That year, only three boys came out for the team, and Carr wondered if maybe his unofficial advisor was right.

“After that first year, it was depressing,” Carr remembers.

But help was on the way. It was at about that time when St. Adrian had decided to close its doors, and the new coach learned that some of those kids wanted to wrestle.

Carr coached the AHS program from 1968 through 1999, taking over from Jerry Loomis, who cobbled together eight boys in 1966 when the fledgling operation competed in exhibition matches only. Under Carr and his assistant, Henry Peterson, who had very little knowledge about wrestling when they came onto the scene, the program slowly began to get competitive. In 1971 the Dragons achieved a conference championship, and in 1972 Daryl Wolf captured the first district title. The next year, Herman Dunn qualified for state. Eugene Wolf was the school’s first state champion in 1981. Since then, 12 AHS teams have qualified for the state tournament.

On Saturday, 50 years of Adrian High School wrestling will be on display in the southwest Minnesota town. Bruce Loosbrock, a volunteer high school wrestling assistant, has coordinated a town celebration that will feature the return of many athletes and coaches. There will be speeches, too, including a short talk by Coach Carr.

“I don’t want to talk about the success of the program,” he said this week. “That sells itself. I just maybe want to talk about how it all got started.”

Much of the Saturday celebration will center around the school’s wrestling room, where state championship photos will be displayed along with an “honor roll” of wrestlers. There will be yearbooks to sort through, and trophies. State tournament photos will adorn the walls along with pictures of state tournament teams.

The wrestling room will be open from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. At 1 p.m. a social hour will take place in the tent behind City Hall. A 2 p.m., a roast pork meal will be followed by a program at 3 p.m. featuring Jim Knips, Daryl Wolf, Herman Duin, Kay (Loosbrock) Wolf, Doug Bullerman, Eugene Wolf, Pat Dorn, Henry Peterson, Stephen Loosbrock, current head coach Gregg Nelson, and Carr.

All events are open to the public.

Nelson acknowledges that the celebration involved a lot of work.

“We’ve contacted all our former wrestlers that we could, and all the managers and cheerleaders over the last 50 years were notified,” he said.

Nelson is a major player in the story. He assumed command of the varsity program in 1999 after coaching the sport years before that, and he remains at the helm.

“I’m proud to be part of that. Next year will be my 25th year, so I’ve been around for half of it,” he said. “For a town this size, for what we’ve done and for what we’re trying to do, I think it’s been pretty impressive.”

Currently, numbers in the Dragons varsity wrestling room have been lower than normal. Peaks and valleys will always occur in high school sports, but the youth program is growing again. Nelson sees better times ahead.

Carr, as well as anyone, knows what it takes for a program to go from weak to strong. Early during his stint as head coach, he had to simultaneously learn the rules and the techniques and become a salesman -- encouraging kids to try the sport. Then, when success came the Dragons’ way, he had to work to keep it at a high level.

“Obviously, for that program to succeed, it had to win, but not at all costs,” Carr explained. “I wanted the kids to demonstrate good sportsmanship on and off the mat. And for them to learn to respect the other team.”

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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