Wirtjes is Class A Coach of the Year
The third place team trophy and Max Ehrich’s fourth place finish in the individual portion of the tournament were not the only honors collected by members of the Blue Earth Area Buccaneers wrestling program at the Minnesota State Wrestling Tournament Feb. 27-29.
The Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association named BEA head coach Randy Wirtjes as the Class A Coach of the Year.
Koby Nagel and Max Ehrich were named to the Wells Fargo All-Tournament Team.
The squad was also honored as a Gold Plaque Academic Team by the Coaches Association. To quality for the award the team must have a Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.5 or higher. The Bucs had a GPA of 3.84.
Wirtjes had also received the Coach of the Year Award in 2002 along with Dave Pfaffinger. Wirtjes and Pfaffinger were co-head coaches that year and the BEA wrestling team won the State Team Tournament.
“We inherited an incredible group of wrestlers,” Wirtjes remarks. “It was the second consecutive year we were able to take first at State.”
Wirtjes graduated from high school from Elmore in 1980 and wrestled for the Wildcats. He qualified for the State Tournament twice.
“I made it as a sophomore and a senior,” Wirtjes recalls. “They only placed the top four wrestlers back then. I would have been fifth or sixth place as a 10th grader and then I managed to finish in third place my senior year.”
He continued his education and wrestling career at Rochester Community College for two years before heading west to Pocatello, Idaho, where he competed for Idaho State University.
“I started my coaching career in Elmore and was there a couple of years before I began coaching in Blue Earth in the 1989-90 school year,” Wirtjes says. “When Jack Eustice retired as the head coach in 2001, Dave and I took over as co-coaches for the following year.”
Having coached for as long as he has, Wirtjes has many great memories involving the sport he loves.
“This year was special because the whole family made it to the tournament,” Wirtjes says. “My wife Jody, and all the kids, Travis, Lacey, Jake and Megan, were all able to make it. And being able to coach Travis when he won State in 2002, and Jake when he was the runner-up in 2011, those were very special moments.”
And while individual titles are nice and certainly something to be celebrated, it is the team wrestling honors which really mean a lot to him, Wirtjes says.
“Team wrestling is hard to beat,” Wirtjes states. “When you turn around and see all the fans from the community who have come to support these guys it is pretty amazing.”
Less than a week after the wrestlers claimed their third place finish at State, Wirtjes offered these thoughts on the season.
“We always thought we had a shot but we knew we had to stay healthy and things had to go the right way,” Wirtjes says. “We had great leadership and it was a total team effort. The boys went through a lot together and it served to tighten their bond.”
And Wirtjes says he was just as proud of the boys for their academic award.
“It is a great honor,” he comments. “You know you have been successful when the kids succeed in the classroom and the practice room.”