The wrestling program at Little Wolf High School has a new head coach, but don’t expect a lot of changes taking place in the program. That’s because John Peterson has been hired to replace longtime coach, Mitch Patri.
“This is my fifth year teaching. The first year I became Mitch’s assistant [coach]. Mitch has been the head coach for awhile. This last year, due to our numbers, I wasn’t offered the position of assistant coach but I just helped out with it,” Peterson said.
Peterson, who teaches Technology, Education and Engineering at Little Wolf High School, said Patri stepped down as head coach because of his increasing workload in the technology department at the school and he knew he couldn’t be available for the amount of time required to be head coach for wrestling.
Patri stepped down around three weeks prior to the start of the wrestling season, at which time Peterson applied for the opening. He accepted the job about one week before the wrestling season began.
This is Peterson’s first time as head coach of a high school wrestling program, but he said his familiarity of the Manawa wrestling program will help him with the transition.
Because each wrestler has their own strengths and weaknesses, Peterson said he realizes he can’t teach all the wrestlers to wrestle like he did.
“I have my way of wrestling but it’s not going to work the same way for everybody else,” Peterson said. “You have to find the unique ability that the kids have and you have to focus on what they can learn and which style they are going to go with. You can’t tell kids ‘you are going to wrestle the same way I wrestle.’
“I was more of a thrower. Some kids don’t have the upper body strength, but they are faster, they are quicker so you have to go with the style they do. You try to teach them all the moves you can but you get the basics down and then you go from there. You have to mold them at what they are good at.”
Peterson also said he has the luxury to turn to Patri and Scott Hahn, both former head wrestling coaches at Little Wolf High School, for advice.
“I think I have the best of both worlds. Mitch also is a bus driver and I think all but one match this year Mitch is going to be our bus driver, and having his knowledge in the corner is phenomenal. I still regard Mitch as a coach and Mitch will be in the corner for our matches,” Peterson said.
As far as the prospects for this season, Peterson said the team is inexperienced, and is comprised of two seniors, two juniors, three sophomores and four freshmen. Petersons said the three returning sophomores – Garret Griffin, Casey Johnson and Joe Vande Vrede – are the strength of the team, and they are the captains of the team.
Despite the inexperience of the team, Peterson is happy to be the head coach.
“It’s fun. I love it,” Peterson said. “You get to see these kids on a level outside of school and that’s why you can help these kids out in so many different ways.”