By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — The Colfax Board of Education has approved another two-year cooperative wrestling agreement with the Bloomer school district.
Mike Hodel, athletic director for Colfax, presented information to the Board of Education at the February 19 meeting to give background for the board’s decision on whether to remain in the wrestling cooperative or to form an independent wrestling program in Colfax.
The Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) has no minimum requirement for the number of team members, Hodel said.
[emember_protected] Teams can compete in a maximum of 14 wrestling meets and in a maximum of seven meets with more than two schools, he said.
To be eligible for tournament competition, wrestlers must wrestle at a minimum of four WIAA sanctioned meets, Hodel said.
All together, wrestling has 14 weight classes, ranging from 106 pounds to 285 pounds, and the WIAA recommends filling at least seven weight classes, he said, noting that the Dunn-St.Croix Conference suggests each wrestling team fill 10 weight classes.
The number of weight classes that can be filled is, of course, determined by the number of students who have gone out for wrestling, Hodel noted.
The Bloomer-Colfax wrestling team is in the Heart O’ North Conference.
A small program like Colfax would have on its own would be less likely to be welcomed into a conference, especially if fewer than seven weight classes were filled, Hodel said.
Going solo as a wrestling team also would mean Colfax must pay the full cost of hiring officials and finding people to work at wrestling meets as well as cover the entire cost of transportation to and from the meets, he said.
In addition, if Colfax were not affiliated with a conference, there would be no opportunity for a team conference championship, no opportunity for an individual conference championship and fewer dual meets, Hodel said.
Under a cooperative agreement, two school districts combine to form a team, and both schools must agree to make up one team, Hodel said.
The two schools must be in the same geographical area, and the agreement must be for two years, he said.
The school boards from both districts must approve the agreement, and the conference must also approve, Hodel said.
The total enrollment of both schools, combined, will determine the WIAA tournament division, he said.
In a list Hodel presented to the Board of Education, the “pros” outnumbered the “cons.”
Under the “pro” category, both teams want the co-op, and Bloomer has a dedicated wrestling room, Hodel said.
Wrestlers from Colfax have access to multiple “quality” coaches, and the combined team has the ability to host multiple meets, he said.
Because the Bloomer-Colfax team is affiliated with the Heart O’ North Conference, team and individual championships are possible, Hodel said.
The financial costs of the wrestling program are split between the school districts, and students have an opportunity to wrestle all 14 meets, he said.
With a larger team, students also have the ability to wrestle other wrestlers on their team, Hodel said.
If the team were small, with, say, five members, it would not work very well to have a 106-pound wrestler face off a 285-pound wrestler, he said.
The WIAA would allow a small Colfax team to wrestle another team for practice, but it is considered a scrimmage and can only be done one time per year, Hodel explained.
The disadvantages of a wrestling co-op with Bloomer is that the students have to travel to Bloomer for events, Hodel said.
Colfax also has the opportunity to host only one of three conference meets, he said.
And because people have to travel to Bloomer for wrestling meets, there is less student and community support, Hodel said.
On the other hand, Bloomer might be willing to allow Colfax to host two or three conference meets instead of only one, he said.
Division 1 includes schools with 759 to 3,274 students.
Division 2 includes schools with 329 to 750 students.
Division 3 includes schools with 16 to 328 students.
The combined enrollment for Bloomer and Colfax is 651, which puts them in Division 2, Hodel said.
The advantages to Colfax having its own wrestling team is there is no extra travel required for events.
A Colfax team also would give Colfax an “identity.” Colfax could host all of the home meets, and there would be more student support, Hodel said.
The disadvantages of a Colfax team is there would be no other students to wrestle with at comparable weights, and Colfax would have full fiscal responsibility for the program, he said.
Colfax also does not have a wrestling room, and Colfax would not have multiple coaches. In addition, there would be no conference affiliation and no individual championships or team championships. Colfax would not be able to wrestle in all 14 meets, Hodel said.
The good news is that all five of the Colfax wrestlers will return next year, plus two incoming freshmen. Bloomer will lose one senior but will gain seven to 10 freshmen, he said.
Hodel recommended Colfax remain in the cooperative agreement with Bloomer.
The wrestling co-op will present the best opportunity for Colfax wrestlers, he said.
In the meantime, Colfax should continue working to build the youth program, Hodel said.
Colfax should hire a coach for the youth program and then work together with the Bloomer youth program, he said.
Several community members volunteer as coaches for the Colfax youth wrestling program, including Marty Harmon, who attended the Board of Education meeting, and David Blanchard, who has attended all of the school board meetings when wrestling was being discussed. April Nichols, who is working with the youth wrestling program kindergarten through third grade, also attended the Board of Education’s February 19 meeting.
Ken Neuburg, Colfax school board member, wondered if the Bloomer school board had already approved the cooperative wrestling agreement with Colfax.
Bloomer is waiting for the Colfax school board’s decision and is willing to continue the cooperative agreement with Colfax, Hodel said.
Todd Kragness, school board president, wondered if all cooperative agreements for any sport required two-year contracts.
All of the contracts must be two years, and extenuating circumstances must exist in order to break the two-year contract, Hodel said.
“I want what’s best for kids,” Kragness said.
For now, the cooperative agreement with Bloomer presents the best opportunity for Colfax wrestlers, but “I’m open to having our own in the future for Colfax,” he said.
If Colfax reaches the point where team members are able to fill all of the weight classes, or the number of wrestlers is more than the number of Bloomer wrestlers, then it would be time to consider a separate program, Hodel said.
Neuburg said he had attended several wrestling meets and was impressed with the quality of the wrestlers from Colfax.
The Colfax students won their matches, he said.
At the youth meet, there were 30 children from Colfax, and Neuburg said he was excited to see what that might mean for the future.
April Nichols said she had worked with Bloomer to set up the youth meet.
“Colfax had the most kids there,” she said.
“I think it went really well,” April Nichols said.
Terry Nichols, another community member who attended the meeting, said it is important for youngsters to find a sport they like because participation builds character.
Wrestling helps to build self-confidence because kids learn to compete, and they learn to lose, Terry Nichols said.
The Colfax Board of Education unanimously approved the cooperative wrestling agreement with Bloomer for the 2018-2019 school year and for the 2019-2020 school year.
The WIAA deadline for submitting approved cooperative agreements is at the end of March.
In addition to Kragness and Neuburg, Board of Education members include Andy De Moe, Jodi Kiekhafer, Christie Hill, Kyle Knutson and Ken Bjork.
Bjork was absent from the February 19 meeting. [/emember_protected]