Madras wrestling skyrockets in numbers
The Madras wrestling team has a new coach, and the number of Madras wrestlers has skyrocketed. Brad Padgett has taken over the program and, after a short stint as the Madras head coach, he is now ready to be back in the wrestling room.
Padgett wrestled at St. Cloud University and coached at the college two years after he graduated, helping develop national college champions. From there, he was a volunteer coach at different schools until he became the Madras head wrestling coach in 2015.
"My first head coaching job was here five years ago," said Padgett. "After that, I helped coach here and there because my life has been so busy, but now I am fully ready for it."
"So far, only five days in, I don't have any thoughts but excitement," Padgett said. "We have 46 kids registered, so that is probably the largest we have had in a decade from what I have heard. I think we will be a competitive team. We have a lot of tough-minded kids, but we still have to get the experience."
With all the new wrestlers joining the program, Padgett is sticking to what works best: fundamentals.
"My coaching style is working on basics, always the basics," he said. "You can't get anywhere without a foundation. You can't even build a house without a foundation. I am a highly competitive person and that is what I want to see our kids do."
The White Buffalos have a lot of talent this year. Seniors Kody Zemke, Orlando Torres and Bailey Dennis all made it to the state tournament last season, as well as sophomore Reece White. Dennis is a three-time state champion looking for her fourth state title this year.
"I haven't really singled anyone out that we are going to lean on this year," said Padgett. "I kind of want to lean on everyone as a whole. I have a rule as a team, which is don't let down your teammates. I am leaning on every single athlete to make this be successful. On seeing this happen at the end of the year, I expect Bailey Dennis to do something, same with Reece and Kale White, Orlando Torres and a couple other kids, as well."
Reece White had a breakout year as a freshman last season, placing third at districts, becoming a state qualifier. Zemke was a runner-up, placing second at districts.
"We have a new coach, and our numbers increased about three times as much as last year, so I think we can do pretty good this year," Reece White said. "It is just a different practice style. Nothing is really different from it. This seems like a contradiction. We have more active practices from last year, more stuff going on since we have more wrestlers. I want to see everyone grow because we have a lot of kids just starting out, which is really good for here. For me, I just want to see how far I can go this season."
"We will definitely have more dual meets this year," he said. "We had about five last year, and we should have more this year. I think we need to become one as a team and just want what is best for everyone."
Torres transferred from Culver last season and made a big impact for the Madras wrestling team, placing third at districts and also making it to the state tournament.
"I think we have grown as a team, and I see a lot of potential in a lot of the wrestlers just starting, like Tom Kallenbach and Jesus Alonzo," Torres said. "All the kids are really pushing themselves and I think we are going to be good. Our large numbers is helping us because we see how the sport is growing here at this school. It is all pushing us to do better, pushing ourselves to get better than the guy next to you."
"I like the way Brad is starting the year, how he is running practices," Torres said. "I want to have a full dual lineup, which we should have, and I want to take most of the weights to state. For me, I want to be at that top state podium, but my goal is just to push myself to the limit, do the best I can, and hope that is good enough."
With the large number of wrestlers come new inexperienced wrestlers eager to show their worth.
"Some kids that might surprise people this year are Jesus Alonzo and Leo Gutierrez," Padgett said. "I believe they are first-year wrestlers, but, man, are they natural talent. It is very evident they are highly athletics kids, so teaching them the basics and getting them comfortable with that, they will see something happen."
In addition to stressing fundamentals, Padgett will focus on building a culture around the program. He will look to build tough wrestlers with tough mindsets.
"Where I come from, it is a heavy culture in wrestling," Padgett said. "The town lives and breathes it. That is my focus, just developing the culture this year, developing a culture and mindset — a mindset of being tough, wrestling tough, not just being able to compete, but how you are able to live day to day. Developing that mental toughness that these kids can take on to other sports as well."
Madras will host a meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 7.
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