Wrestling Against the Odds

Despite the many restrictions due to COVID-19, the wrestling team continues to prepare for the season under new leadership.


Nolan Jones

Brett. St. John and Kirk Briden, seniors, square off in practice.

Three years ago, the wrestling program faced a major shift in leadership as Tim Muehleisen, the founder of the program, stepped down. He then passed the torch on to a former assistant of his, Coach Wadley. Coach Wadley ran with it for two years, but unfortunately had to step down last year. This year, Coach Tobaben, a former assistant coach for four years, will be taking over duties as the head coach.

The team has also welcomed a new assistant coach, Aaron Clardy. Coach Clardy is an experienced wrestler who was a heavyweight state champion from Neosho and went on to play on the offensive line for the Missouri State Bears. Clardy’s wrestling knowledge brings immense value to the team.

Similar to other Westminster sports programs, the wrestling team has been fighting to find players for a while. The squad has struggled the last couple years to fill the line up since wrestling teams have to fill fourteen weight classes, starting at 106 going all the way to heavyweight at 285.

Last year, the team filled eighty varsity spots. This year, the team is hoping to fill about ten to eleven line up spots with several new faces.

The squad is anchored by four seniors: Mark Stump, Kirk Briden, Brett St. John, and Ben Van Zee, who have all been together since seventh grade.

“We’ve got a stacked lineup this year led by a core group of seniors, and I’m excited to see all our hard work pay off,” said Kirk Briden, Senior.

The current situation of the COVID-19 pandemic has discouraged some of the wrestlers, as all of their tournaments have already been cancelled. As of now, the wrestlers are going to have a significantly less number of matches, but the team still hopes to have a regular season. In an effort to make contact tracing easier, the plan is to wrestle scrambles, which is when a team meets against two or three other teams.

Right now, competing at all for the highest frequency contact sport isn’t looking too promising. Nevertheless, the team is still training hard and trying their best to remain optimistic.

Brett St. John, senior, was the only one on the team to qualify for state last year. St. John has always been one of the most committed workers in the room, and it certainly showed last season. He took second in the district tournament and got his golden ticket to go to state. Although his record was one and two at the state tournament, he looks to build upon his success this year for his senior season.

Nolan Jones, junior, and Kirk Briden, senior, almost qualified for state as well but fell just short in their bubble match. A bubble match is a match in the district tournament that ultimately gives the winner his ticket to the state and sends the loser home.

The potential for this season is unmatched, so the team is working hard and remaining hopeful for the chance to compete.