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Roberts to bring experience, high expectations to Wadena-DC wrestling

Brian Roberts was recently named the new Wadena-Deer Creek wrestling head coach. Submitted photo

It didn't take long for the Wadena-Deer Creek School District to fill its wrestling head coaching vacancy after the resignation of coaches Kyle Hagen and Norm Gallant. The Wolverines named Brian Roberts the new head coach of the Wolverines.

Roberts, in a phone interview from a wrestling camp in Iowa, was very excited about the position and the future of Wadena-DC wrestling.

"It's a lifelong dream. Since I was a young kid in sixth grade, I knew I wanted to be a head wrestling coach," Roberts said. "It feels pretty great to accomplish a lifelong dream."

Roberts brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the position. During his coaching career, Roberts, from Le Roy, Ill., started his wrestling journey as a sixth grader. He opened his career with a 25-10 mark and took from there. Roberts made his biggest jump as an athlete after his first season when the program gained a new head coach. He said that program mirrors the current state of the Wadena-DC program.

"They had a historic background and a good following, but they weren't producing like they could be," Roberts said. "He (Doug DeWalt) came in and changed that philosophy and turned our program into a family. Ever since then, I was a football player and I changed from being a football player that wrestled to a wrestler that played football."

Roberts started his coaching career at El Paso-Gridley High School where he worked on off-season activities. He moved to Concordia-Moorhead and wrestled with the Cobbers. He suffered an injury and was asked by his coach, Matt Nagel, to run the Cobber Club, which is the youth wrestling program.

He was able to learn about coaching under Matt Nagel and Phil Moenkedick, who is a two-time national champion from Perham. Roberts spent time with Fargo South for a season and during his time with both high schools, he has four state placewinners and a state champion.

Roberts was struggling to find a job, but it was on the advice from his wife's aunt that helped him land in Wadena. Roberts broaden his search to the Wadena and New York Mills area and moved here to become an english teacher. Roberts spent time with the program with Hagen and Gallant and Roberts said Hagen took him under his wing to show him the ropes as a coach.

"His motivation throughout really built me up this year," Roberts said. "Kyle let me take over the reigns running practices and supported every little thing that I was doing. From that point, we knew that somethings were getting ready to change. We didn't want those changes to be vast, we wanted them to be very straightforward and easy."

Roberts said it would be selling the kids and the program short if you don't keep your standards high. He follows the saying from Dan Gable, a hall of fame coach for the Iowa Hawkeyes, said "I believe in setting my standards high and raising them." Roberts said that is his philosophy. He believes the program can get back to the state tournament as a team and to compete in the state tournament as individuals and getting placewinners on the podiums.

"We are going to get this program back to where it was and beyond," Roberts said. "Our goal is to win state titles. Anything less than that would be cheating our kids. My goals for our program, as far as accomplishing things, we want to win state titles and we want kids to get up on that podium."

Roberts said he wants to create young athletes who will go out in the world and be successful, be hard workers and going to be diligent. He said he wants them to know their goals and be focused on their goals.

Roberts' biggest goal isn't to get more kids out, but to get the kids in the program working out in the offseason. He said to achieve those goals, you have to get the kids to buy into the system he is bringing in.

"I want to focus on them and get them prepared. One of the biggest reasons I was hired is because I'm in the school. I see kids all-day long throughout the school," Roberts said. "Once I get my kids that are already in the program going, it's my goal to start bringing kids in the program and start building it back up. To do that, you have to make the program more appealing, you have to be successful."

Roberts was quick to mention the success of Marc Reynolds and the Wadena-Deer Creek track and field team. Roberts said their success helps them bring in more kids.

Roberts will be joined on staff by Hagen, Jeremy Hagen, Reynolds and Gallant, when he is able to help out.

Jason Groth

 Groth is a Minnesota Newspaper Association award-winning Sports Editor of the Perham Focus and the Wadena Pioneer Journal. Groth worked in Grand Rapids as the Sports Director at KOZY/KMFY radio for two years and prior to that he was the Sports Editor/Writer for the Grand Rapids Herald-Review for seven years. 

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