Old Mustangs return to the mat

Foothills: Bill Young and Andrew Lewis keep wrestling program alive

By: Bruce Campbell

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Jan 15, 2014 09:48 am

Andrew Lewis, right, squares off against Foothills Falcon Cody Thompson at a wrestling camp at Highwood High School on Jan. 4. Lewis, a Blackie native, has returned to Highwood to coach at his alma mater.
Andrew Lewis, right, squares off against Foothills Falcon Cody Thompson at a wrestling camp at Highwood High School on Jan. 4. Lewis, a Blackie native, has returned to Highwood to coach at his alma mater.
Bruce Campbell/OWW

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A touch of the old and the new is making sure a foothills wrestling legacy continues.

Veteran coach Bill Young from Cayley has come out of retirement to head the Highwood High School Mustang wrestling team. He is being helped by 21-year-old Andrew Lewis of Blackie.

The Mustangs program was in jeopardy when former coach Derek Markides took a job overseas at the end of the 2012-13 school year.

Neither Young nor Lewis, both of whom graduated at High River high schools, wanted to see the program die due to Markides leaving.

Lewis graduated from Highwood in 2010, wrestling at 65kg. He lost only three times his senior year, but missed out on the high school provincial due to a foot injury. He has helped Markides for the past three years, but stepped things up when the former coach went overseas.

“I was happy for Derek, but I was thinking: ‘What’s happening with the program now?’’’ said Lewis during a Highwood-Okotoks Wrestling club camp Jan. 4 at Highwood. “I was concerned that if we lost wrestling for a year, that it might not come back.

“I think wrestling is important for athletes who might not excel in sports like football or basketball.”

Lewis is glad to be under the tutelage of Young.

“Bill Young created something here that I don’t think any coach has lived up to yet — and they might not ever do it,” Lewis said. “He’s coached guys like (national Greco-Roman champion) Josh Schug, a lot of very good wrestlers who brought a wrestling culture to High River.”

Lewis is not afraid to get on the mat with the wrestlers. During the practice at Highwood, he had his gear on so all the wrestlers had a partner.

Lewis listened while squaring off against Foothills Falcon Cody Thompson as Okotoks coach Spencer Watkins, a former national champion, and Schug gave instructions.

“It’s great to have Josh and Spencer here,” Lewis said. “They give me tips on stuff that I am doing wrong — it’s hard to be that third person critiquing yourself. If they can tell me what I am doing wrong, I can pass it on to the other wrestlers.”

He is learning from a guy who has decorated the Highwood gym.

Young’s teams are responsible for more than 20 of the rural or provincial championship wrestling banners hanging on the gym wall. He started coaching at Highwood in the 1980s and “retired” in 2006. The provincial trophy for 3A girls is named after Young.

However, his retirement didn’t exactly take.

“When Derek left, I said to my wife: ‘I guess I will be helping out at wrestling this year,’’’ Young said. “I didn’t want to see wrestling gone for this year because it might not ever come back… Most high schools drive on basketball, volleyball and track. Wrestling isn’t first on the agenda… If a program isn’t at a school, administration might not see the importance of it.”

Young is kind of like The Who — he’s retired more than once.

In December of 2009, he helped coach some Highwood wrestlers in Montana.

Markides was at a tournament at Cut Bank in Big Sky Country and Young was in Browning.

“I came back with three medals,” Young said with a laugh. “I came back and told Jordan (former Highwood Mustang wrestler and current Foothills Comp vice-principal Jordan Rhodes) that I still have the touch.”

One of those medal winners was Lewis.

“Bill came down and I ended up winning that Browning tournament,” Lewis said.

“He is a great coach who loves wrestling… When I had him as a teacher at Highwood and I didn’t feel like working in class, I would bring up wrestling and nine times out of 10 he would talk about that all class.”

Lewis is definitely listening to his former teacher now.

“I respect what Bill has brought to the school and to the program,” he said. “Just having that extra set of eyes always watching me and giving different tips — it’s like he is teaching me again.

“It’s nice.”

Lewis is currently working on his certification for coaching. He has found out coaching in a small community can hit close to home.

He hears about it from time-to-time from his sister Shelby at the Lewis’ Blackie home.

“It’s hard to separate that coach from brother thing,” Andrew said. “She always thinks I am harder on her and maybe I am.

“But it’s nice to see her succeed and grow and (for me to) be part of it.”

Silver at the Hat

The home advice may be working for Shelby Lewis. She won a silver medal at the 65kg girls division at the Medicine Hat Hawks wrestling tournament Saturday.

The Mustangs Zac Scovoranski finished fifth at 63kg.

Michael Sealy was fifth in the 53kg.

The Mustangs will break for the final exams for the next three weeks.

bcampbell@okotoks.greatwest.ca


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