If you’ve driven down Deadwood Highway lately and seen cars parked at the Alsea Grange you may be wondering what’s going on. Well, they’re not there for a Grange Dance or even a Holiday Bazaar, it’s a sign that the Alsea Wrestling program is back up and running.
Under the guidance of former Alsea student-athletes, Head Coach, Scott France and his Assistant Coach Rick Gammon (a 4th place finisher at State as a Junior), Alsea is busy molding the next generation of ‘mat rats’ while making the Grange their temporary home.
Attempting to revive any sports program, no matter the level, is no small feat. Ensuring you have the proper equipment, practice space, buy in from the school board, transportation arrangements and adequate numbers of student athletes, among many other factors is something France has grappled with, head-on and has frankly had his eye on for quite some time. He describes the process he had to go through in order to see his goals come to fruition,
“For years it has been a goal of mine to get the Alsea Wrestling program back because I know the positive impact the sport can have on young people. First, we needed to find students interested in trying a new sport. I met with a group of students who were interested in learning more about what the wrestling program would be like at Alsea. Once we got it approved through our school board, we contacted schools in our league to organize our league dual meets and tournaments to compete in.”
Coach France is able to relate to his student athletes and share his personal experiences that not only helped him place 6th in the State Tournament his Junior season, but also made him a more well-rounded young man. Afterall, it’s not solely about wins and losses, it’s also about how sports can truly be transcendental,
“I began wrestling for Alsea in 6th grade for Coach Chilcote and continued through high school with Coach Woosley and my dad, Coach France. What I loved most about wrestling was the fact that it is an individual sport and I had to rely on myself to work hard, be successful, and compete to the best of my ability. When I fell short, there was no one else to blame but myself and I used my losses to learn and grow in the sport. My favorite memory about wrestling for Alsea was the competition I had with two students from other schools that I wrestled against from middle school through high school. We ended up becoming good friends through our rivalry.”
The memories and life-long relationships, fostered by France during his time at Alsea, is something he’s hoping to replicate with his wrestlers in order to create the same emotions he was able to experience,
“Wrestling for Alsea is one of my greatest memories which is one reason why I wanted to give back to this community and have new students have the same experience.”
Coach France invited us out to take an inside peek at his team and how they go about preparation each day at practice. While wrestling is a very physically demanding sport, that doesn’t mean there can’t be any fun had. The practice began with a brief warm-up to get muscles loosened and then moved to what we’d describe as 3-on-3 knee football game.
Wrestlers had to work to get free from their defender using the moves they have been practicing to try to get to the other side of the mat and score a touchdown. A taped towel played the part of the pigskin. Coach France’s ability to incorporate fun and hard work into a single drill was neat to see. Wrestlers had both smiles on their faces as well as sweat dripping from them. The old saying ‘If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life’ was on full display as we watched both Coaches partake in all activities with their team.
The current team consists of five wrestlers – Jacob McGrew (138, So.), Isaac Rutland (140, Sr.), Brayden Connour (182, Sr.), Gerald Peck-Cleveland (127, Fr.), Gunner Kill (190, Fr.). Coach France is busy building these young men up and fully understands the task ahead,
“We currently have five wrestlers on our team. They are all competing in the sport for the first time. They are performing well for all being new wrestlers. We are working on building a strong foundation, basic moves, conditioning, grit, and sportsmanship. I am impressed with their work ethic and willingness to learn a new sport all while having fun. I hope my wrestlers grow a love for the sport and want to continue in future years.”
The team has competed in 3 dual meets to date: Harrisburg, North Douglas, and the most recent, Benton County Championships in Philomath. France’s boys all placed in their respective weight classes in the Benton County Championships: Gerald Peck-Cleveland and Braden Connour took 4th place while Jacob McGrew and Isaac Rutland took 6th.
As the work continues for the Alsea Wrestling program there is quite a bright future ahead and Coach France summarizes what he’s looking to accomplish moving forward as this program grows,
“I am most excited to watch them (the kids) develop their skills and grow as wrestlers. As for the program moving forward, I hope to establish a middle school program so students can learn basic skills at a younger age so they have time to grow as wrestlers and have the potential to be competitive at the high school level. I hope more students will be interested in joining the program next year and we can continue this important program at Alsea.”
If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s that these boys, led by their dedicated coaching staff, are going to compete day-in and day-out to become the best wrestlers they can be on the mat, and the best young men they can be in the community. All Alsea community supporters are encouraged to come out and cheer on their Varsity Wrestling Team, something they haven’t been able to do for nearly 13 years according to France. Go Wolverines!