By: Dennis Kilian
In San Antonio, football is still king…and a contributor for the turnover rate in wrestling coaches, particularly in the North East Independent School District. Coach Jason Conger (who does a podcast with Wrestling Texas) was my son’s freshman coach (with Coach Richer serving as Head Coach). Local district policy was all coaches had responsibilities with the football team. Thus, when an opportunity to focus on wrestling presented itself, Coach Conger capitalized on it, taking a Head Coaching position in the Dallas Metroplex, focusing on helping young men and women maximize their wresting potential. His replacement at my son’s school was Coach Cruz Dyson, who came in as the Asst Coach with Coach Lee Miller returning from a crosstown rival as Head Coach. Both of these coaches come from wresting backgrounds, but coached football with wrestling as an additional responsibility. The School District policy changed for the AY 2019-2020 season, allowing the Head Wresting Coach to be dedicated to wrestling, however, assistant coaches still were part of the football coaching staff. When a Head Wrestling Coach position came open within the school district, Coach Dyson like Coach Conger before him, took that opportunity and is really helping young men and women achieve wrestling success. This turnover of talented coaching staff really speaks to the benefits of club wrestling, locally.
In San Antonio, there are a some excellent clubs, with NB Elite being the one I am familiar with and where several of the better San Antonio area kids train. My son, Scott, has massively benefited from NB Elite, with Coach Steve Horton (also referenced on Wrestling Texas) and Coach Mike Mathews. For UIL District 14-6A, 9 of 14 boys’ weight class champions or runner up wrestlers come from NB Elite. Up in Austin, 3 of the District 13-6A champions / runner-ups were NB Elite members. Simply put, Coach Steve Horton is amazing. Not only is he still competing on the International Level, but his dedication to the kids is amazing! Coach Horton shows up across the region, supporting these competitors. The kids are an extension of family, supporting each other, beyond simple school colors. This speaks to the culture of wrestling.
Speaking of culture, San Antonio is known as “Military City, USA.” One-third of the boys on my son’s team come from military families, which means they can come and go, but bring athletic experiences picked up at other locations. (As a retired Army Colonel, my son got the wrestling itch while we were stationed in Germany). Other sports have kids who have known each other most of their lives. Wrestling, being the ultimate meritocracy, only requires you put in the work, but it helps to have a workout buddy. At our high school, the 113 lbs, 126 lbs, 138 lbs, 152 lbs & 182 lbs wrestlers all come from military families. Two of the boys (State ranked) arrived at the beginning of their Freshman Year, when their parents PCSd (military Permanent Change of Station move) to San Antonio, home of one Army Fort and two Air Force Bases. In other sports, this would had disadvantaged the kids.
This leads to something noteworthy, as our 152 lbs wrestler’s mother got to see him compete into mid-January; Mom is now deployed to Afghanistan while her son goes about the discipled business of wrestling. Thankfully, the young man has an equally amazing Army Dad (with extensive wrestling background), who quietly goes about keeping a young teenage boy focused. Never a small feat.
Another of our military wrestlers broke his elbow last year, in football. It took him months to get full range of motion back, last year. Once football season ended the year and he got into “wrestling shape”, he joined NB Elite; his performance has been stellar, since. At Schertz Clements, the 138lb athlete is the son of a military Physician’s Assistant. I knew his dad from work before I ever knew the boy. Across town, my other son attends Lee HS (wrestled / lettered freshman and sophomore years, but played QB, so stopped wrestling) so I know the Volunteer wrestling boys. So very proud of the Lee 106 lbs athlete. Been a joy to see him for the last three years, giving up 10+ lbs in his underclassman years. It’s been great seeing all of these kids display the perseverance common to good wrestlers.
I am confident each of the 16 “6A” districts have their stories. San Antonio takes on a Military culture, with Johnson having 5 of its 14 boys varsity wrestlers coming from military families. Discipline, dedication, self-reliance, goal orientation, grit and perseverance. It bonds the kids with shared experience, beyond athletic performance. So thankful to have supported my son in his athletic passion. It’s amazing to watch.
Look forward to the push to State.