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Norwalk Spear

The History of Norwalk Wrestling

How Norwalk Wrestling has gotten to where it is today
Jenny Thomas
Coach Brown (right) watches as one of his players wrestles at a home meet on Dec. 12, 2023, in the NPECC. The district wrestling team wrestled this past Saturday, Feb. 10.

Wrestling has been recognized as one of the oldest sports in the world, and over the years strategies have been gathered and passed from one person to another to create what we know as modern-day wrestling. 

The Norwalk wrestling program has had success as of late in wrestling, sending nine wrestlers to state this past year. But every program has a beginning, every team has an origin, and developing a successful program doesn’t come like magic.

Brandon Schmitz was an assistant at Norwalk for six years, then 10 years as a head coach. He is currently the strength and conditioning coach at the high school. Schmitz said that the team wasn’t as successful then as they are now.

“There were two years where we had some pretty talented guys but we were unable to qualify anybody for State because of the tough district,” Schmitz said.

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When Schmitz took over the wrestling team, he said he walked into a good situation.

“Coach [Darin] Schreck did a really good job rebuilding our culture,” Schmitz said. “ I was pretty fortunate to step in when I did and I was in a pretty good spot when I took over.”

Schmitz has since stepped down from his head coach role, but said he still likes to stay involved in wrestling.

“I really like my role as strength and conditioning coach, being able to help all the athletes,” Schmitz said. “Normally I come in the morning and I run the morning workout for the wrestling team.”

Schmitz said he doesn’t just stay involved in boys wrestling, but other types as well.

“My daughter is now a seventh grader, so the practices they have in the evening I give back and volunteer to help coach the girls’ program,” Schmitz said. “I also run the girls’ youth club, which has about 35 girls involved.”

Schmitz said that the NHS wrestlers aren’t just good athletes but also people. 

“They all have good intentions with what they do,” he said.

Schmitz said an example of this is senior Tyler Harper. Harper is the number two ranked wrestler in the 113 lb division for 3A and has committed to Arkansas at Little Rock to continue wrestling.

“I could just sit down and watch Tyler Harper hone in his craft,” Schmitz said. “He’s a very special individual, being a leader in our program makes the whole program better.”

Currently, the wrestling head coach at Norwalk is Jacob Brown. This is Brown’s third year at Norwalk, and ninth overall. Previously he coached at his old high school, Solon, while he was a student teacher.

As the wrestling program has matured, the bar has risen as Brown shares his expectations for the season. 

“Hopefully [we] make state duals and be a top ten team, which is hard to do in class 3A,” Brown said. “But the guys have put in a lot of time, a lot of work to hopefully make that happen.”

Currently, Norwalk is ranked 16th in class 3A, but rankings are subject to change.

Brown said the guys on varsity aren’t the only ones pushing each other to get better.

“It’s just a good, hardworking group of guys,” Brown said. “We’re pretty competitive up and down the lineup, not even just the starter but the next guy in. So it’s a competitive team overall.”

Brown said that the wrestling team has a set of values they strive to follow.

“We’re doing everything with a purpose,” Brown said. “Even if it’s a really hard day, we’re working really hard with a purpose. If it’s a day we’re just learning technique, we’re super focused, so everything we’re doing – every rep – is a purpose in that way.”

Brown said that with a purpose, they can edge out other teams.

“Just getting more out of everything,” Brown said. “ Every team is doing pretty much the same thing but we’re trying to separate ourselves by doing a little more, lifting a little harder, running a little harder, working a little harder on our technique, stuff like that.”

The extra effort hasn’t been the only thing that has changed on the wrestling team. Brown said the addition of the Norwalk Physical Education Competition Center (NPECC) has impacted the team.

“I can just start with our mornings, rather than a morning run, where we had to run around literally the hallways of the school, we have an indoor track we could do that on,” Brown said.

Brown went on to talk about the new weight room, the cardio room, and the new wrestling room that the team is able to use now and the benefits that come with it.

“So it’s just so much more size and space, and definitely in the wrestling room, we got 60 kids, we got a three-mat wrestling room,” he said. “People got a lot of room to wrestle and not run into each other, you get to avoid injuries and everything. It’s a lot more space and it’s always better.”

Seven of the nine state qualifiers from last year have returned this year. Brown said this was important to the team.

“It’s nice to have leaders in the room for the younger guys’ team” he said. “So they know those guys have been there done that, they’ve been to the state tournament, they’ve done what they want to do in their future so it gives them some people they want to follow.”

Brown also said that the motivation remains high for the state qualifiers from last year.

“But also with those seven guys, they got a taste of it, and they know they want more than what they achieved,” he said. “We don’t have one guy that’s coming back like, ‘Wow I got what I wanted out of last season.’ Every one of those guys wants a little more.”

As the activities director, Josh Tobey has been overseeing Norwalk activities and extracurriculars, like wrestling, for the past two years. Tobey hires and evaluates coaches, and sponsors, supervises events, and monitors the budget for each activity. Tobey said that Coach Brown has many similarities with multiple other Norwalk coaches.

“Like many of our coaches, he puts kids first,” Tobey said. “The number one trait I think you want out of a teacher or a coach, at any level, at any sport is that the student athlete’s well-being comes first and he does that just as good as anybody does.”

Tobey said that Norwalk has come a long way as a wrestling program.

“Norwalk wrestling compared to where it was a while ago has just kept on going up and up and up,” Tobey said. “That’s a credit to Coach Schreck, Coach Schmitz, Coach Brown continuing to build every year and every class that comes through… each and every year they’re going to work hard to try and provide that first-class experience for any kid in the wrestling program.”

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About the Contributor
Brayden Plourde
Brayden Plourde, Staff Writer
Brayden Plourde is a sophomore at NHS taking his first semester of journalism this year. Brayden is involved in multiple sports such as football, swimming, and track. One of his favorite things to do is watch movies, and one of his top picks is Ace Ventura Pet Detective. Something interesting about Brayden is that he was born in Rhode Island and has lived in 4 different states. “I want to be a sports journalist so it's a great opportunity to see if this is something I want to do when I'm older," he said.
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