Wrestlers set eyes on state


Willie Katchmark (11) pins an opponent in a sections tournament.

 The crowd goes wild as the state tournament commences while the two adversaries get ready. The Columbia Heights High School wrestling team starts practice every school day from 4 to 6 p.m. This year, the Heights wrestling team is working together with DeLaSalle in a co-op. The head coach at DeLaSalle is Ernie McNeal, a former wrestler at the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities, assisted by team captain Matt Benson (12) from DeLaSalle. Together, members are led by CHHS math teachers: Mr. Honigs and Mr. Depies. Both have wrestled throughout their high school and college years and have joined forces this year to help grow and strengthen the program. 

“We are happy for any student to join the wrestling team,” said Depies. Although currently, the Columbia Heights wrestling team doesn’t have any female members, the coaches are supportive of the idea.  

While there are no girls on the Columbia Heights wrestling team, coaches Honigs and Depies encourage any student to participate in this sport. Although it might not be as common, there have been varsity wrestling teams with girls on them, and some colleges are even starting their own all-female teams. Overall, though, women’s wrestling isn’t an official sport. 

“We are hopeful that [women’s wrestling] will eventually become an NCAA sport,” Coach Depies said.

One famous and successful female wrestler is Adeline Gray, an American wrestler and five-time world champion. She is the first female wrestler to win the world championship titles back to back.

The sport of wrestling may not be one of the more popular nowadays, but it certainly is one of the oldest. This sport also comes with a lot of mental and physical struggles. Other than being pushed and tackled to the ground, a wrestler has to be mentally prepared to overtake their opponents.

“Wrestling [was] invented by the Greeks to train their soldiers after the Greeks were destroyed,” Depies said. “The Romans used it but changed [it] to make [it] less risky in order for it to be done as a sport. Wrestling is more than just winging it. [It] is about having fun and giving it your all.”

Effort and dedication are essential when it comes to wrestling, but it also takes inspiration from great champions or experienced relatives.

“Many people don’t start wrestling unless one of their siblings wrestled or watched on TV and were inspired to do wrestling,” Mr. Honigs said. 

“The reason I got into wrestling was because of my brother. He inspired me to join the wrestling team,” wrestler Michael Stewart (10) said. “I also thought wrestling was a chance for me to become stronger.” 

Strength does not mean everything, though. In order to compete as varsity-level wrestler, the athlete must be on top of their game when it comes to school as well.

CHHS is devoted when it comes to wrestling. Every day, Heights wrestlers practice in the gym to enhance both their skills and muscle strength. This year, after some key pins from captains Jon Heveron (10) and junior Willie Katchmark, the team hopes to make it to state.