LUSK – The names and faces haven’t changed, but the title of Niobrara County High School head wrestling coach has turned over for the first time in almost 40 years. JD Wasserburger, who began wrestling for Ron Nelson as an eighth grader, became a successful official and has 18 years as Nelson’s assistant.
“It’s something that I’m proud to be a part of,” said Wasserburger. “We’ve got a nice looking squad so far this year, and I’m excited to get started.”
Nelson hasn’t left the room yet as he resumes his role as assistant, a position he held under Jerry Oestman in the 1970s and early 80s. Andrew Wasserburger also returns for his second season as an assistant coach. The foundation and tradition was established decades ago, and the continuity of a successful program is well in place.
“Even though our titles changed, I can’t think of one thing that will be different in the way we go about things each day,” Wasserburger added. “The kids know what to expect.”
Senior Sean Johnson was a state qualifier at 145 pounds last season, and Wasserburger would like to see him taking a bigger role.
“He’s more of a quiet-type leader, but he’s working hard,” said Wasserburger. “And, we’re going to work on some other leadership skills I think he has.”
Junior Colton Coffman finished fourth at state last season at 132 pounds and is hungry to reclaim a state title from his freshman season. Miles Ashurst is a returning state qualifier at 170 pounds and expectations are for him to finish with a medal this year. Blake Miller’s season was cut short due to an injury, but had a successful first year of varsity football and is looking for success on the mat. Jazmine Ladwig returns as manager for the Tigers.
“These four juniors stepped into the room ready to go,” noted Wasserburger. “They’re already leaders.”
Sophomores Gabe Matthews (fifth at state at 113 pounds) and David West (sixth at state 120 pounds) have gotten stronger and look to improve their finish on the podium. Wasserburger feels both of these two are also capable of contending for regional and state titles.
Newcomers include senior Cody Taylor, sophomore Damieon Pavone, freshmen Nathan Fish and Ivan Kremers.
“Cody was a surprise to us. He’s a smart, tough kid,” Wasserburger said. “Nathan is a highly skilled freshman and ready for this.”
Senior Chris Hicks is trying to get healthy to wrestle and classmate Donovan Kruse is expected to join the squad in January.
NCHS opens the season hosting the Tiger Invitational with close to a dozen teams in Tiger Gym Friday morning beginning at 9 a.m.