Culture change big part of wrestling teams' success

Greg Mast
The Ottawa Herald

Sustained success is hard to to accomplish in organized sports.

There are various reasons behind the ups and downs of teams year in and year out.

There are programs at the prep and college level that are known for success in certain sports. Kansas, Duke, North Carolina and Kentucky are the blue bloods of college basketball.

McPherson and Miege are known for high school basketball. Derby, Paola, Louisburg and Miege are state powers in football.

Third-year Ottawa High School wrestling coach Dalton Weidl’s goal is for the Cyclone programs to be consistent year in and year out.

“It is about trying to change the culture at Ottawa,” Weidl said. “That is my whole entire goal is to create a program that Ottawa is known for. We have some of the boys buying in. We started seeing more success in our boys program. Now our girls program is the same. You have to change the culture one person at a time.”

The Ottawa boys and girls wrestling teams are building toward that consistency. The boys are coming off one of its better seasons in decades. The girls made history with its first dual win this season and had a state champion in just its second year.

Weidl said the first part of success is having interest. The numbers increased this year with 40 boys and seven girls.

“We had depth,” he said. “Someone starts learning something and they keep learning. Iron sharpens iron. Our boys program kept getting better. I could take JV kids and put them into the varsity line-up and they would have success. In years past, it was hard to get a full varsity line-up. It is awesome to see that. It is awesome to see people enjoy the sport.”

Wrestlers are a different breed of athlete, Weidl said.

“You start winning and get a couple of matches in, it is contagious,” he said. “You are addicted to that feeling.”

The Cyclone boys are on the verge of climbing the ladder in wrestling. Ottawa went undefeated in Frontier League duals, won district and regional titles and had three wrestlers earn state medals. All 14 boys wrestlers advanced to the regional tourney and 10 to sub-state.

“We had a really good upperclass,” Weidl said. “They were committed. That gets the lower classes to buy-in. You are able to hold the kids accountable. If some kids mess up and do something wrong, it is the next kid up now. Those kids are bought in already. They are onboard.

“Winning the league title was awesome. It was the first time we got it in the Frontier League. The reason we were able to do that goes back to our depth.”

Senior Darby Weidl won a state girls title after taking second last year. The coach said his sister has been a great help in getting the girls program creditability as two wrestlers qualified for state this year.

“Hopefully more girls start to buy into that,” Weidl said. “Hopefully, we get some of the youth to see that and look up to her.

“Getting a dual win without having a full line-up is insane. We had half a line-up. We had to win every match in that dual.”

Collin Creach, Kael Lane and Jared Ferguson were state medalists for the boys and all three surpassed the 100-win career mark this season.

Weidl said the future looks bright for both programs. Ottawa loses just three seniors from the boys team.

“So next years team could be better,” he said. “[This year] was definitely a building block for creating a program. This is the first building block where you see a glimpse of what Ottawa wrestling could become.”