The Westby wrestling program is blessed with youth and is still in a rebuilding phase with plenty of energy on the mat. That energy earned the Norsemen a Regional Championship in 2016, despite an overall record of 10-8.
With the retirement of longtime co-head coach Kent Mikkelson in 2016, after 35 years coaching, the task of continuing to groom the Westby grapplers falls on the shoulders of Rob Kirner.
Kirner has years under his belt co-head coaching with Mikkelson, is a former wrestler himself, has 20 overall years’ experience coaching, and will continue to groom the team at the helm. Together with his assistant coach and former Westby alum, Jason Raasch, the duo will help Westby athlete’s to “Embrace the Grind.”
‘Wrestling season is long and tough, you have to work hard to be successful. The harder you have to work for something, the better the rewards feel,” Kirner said.
Norsemen coaches are excited for the upcoming season with plenty of returning talent, including eight returning sectional qualifiers from last year: Logan Turben (106 pounds), Mitchell McKittrick (113), Dakota Bakkestuen (120), Austin Mowery (126), Ryan Knight (132), Conor Vatland (160), Justin Erdman (170), Jack Lipski (182). Mowery was also a state qualifier.
“Our team goal every year is to be conference and regional champions. Each wrestler has their own individual goals for the season also, but at the end of the day every win is for the team,” Kirner said.
In 2016, five talented wrestlers graduated including two who advanced to state: Riley Cade (138 pounds) and a two-time State qualifier and Coulee Conference Champion; Hunter Groom (220 pounds) finished fifth at the State Tournament and was the Coulee Conference Champion. Other graduates included, Dillon Daute, Austin Klum and Nicolay Bjorndahl.
The challenge for wrestling coaches is finding an athlete to fill all the weight classes. Coaches, Kirner and Raasch, are confident with the current depth of its lineup that good things will happen this season. The Norsemen have one weight class open at 285 pounds.
“These kids are hungry to prove themselves, as they look to uphold Westby’s strong wrestling tradition so it should be an exciting year on the mat,” Kirner said.
Westby traveled to Cashton on Thursday, Nov. 30 and to Reedsburg on Saturday, Dec. 2.