Valley Elite wrestlers have national-level coaching, potential | Sports

On a dreary Thursday afternoon, the Valley Elite Wrestling Club was getting expert advice.

The off-season freestyle wrestling club is comprised of athletes fourth grade and up from all around the Minnesota River Valley, stretching out to Waterville and St. Peter as well as to students from the Le Sueur-Henderson and Tri-City United School districts.

Coach Dave Pfarr said the club is essential to developing top-tier wrestlers, partially because they get top-tier coaching. While Pfarr leads the team, three others help the athletes fine tune their skills.

The assistant coaches lead lessons for the team on different days. On Thursday, University of Minnesota wrestler and coach Nathan Rose walked the wrestlers through their first set of drills. Another Gopher wrestler, Brandon Krone, also coaches for the team.

Rose, an Arlington native, said he came to Valley Elite program when he was in eighth grade, and wanted to come back and help out. He said his time with the team gave him more time on the mat to develop as a wrestler.

“I thought it really helped me on my feet and made me more comfortable in different situations,” Rose said.

Another coach for the club team, Barrett Stanghil focuses purely on Greco-Roman wrestling, and was competing in a Las Vegas tournament that could qualify him for the U.S. team that wrestles in the Olympics Thursday. 

“These guys are really giving us the best of the best,” said Pfarr, who has managed the club team since it split from the Jordan-Belle Plaine club, The Ghost Rider Wrestling Club, 12 years ago.

Pfarr said the students wrestle in freestyle and Greco-Roman style matches, styles wrestled in Olympic sports and beyond that is different from the “folk-style” wrestled in high school and at colleges. Freestyle and Greco-Roman styles of wrestling emphasize using the upper body and taking control while still on their feet, Pfarr said. That emphasis allows wrestlers to refine their abilities for the high school season and beyond.

“At the [MSHSL] state tournament you have… 42 champions, 40 of those will be freestylers,” he said.

LS-H senior Chris Healy is in his second year wrestling with the club team. He said the program, while not necessarily his preferred style, helps him stay sharp while keeping him informed about the wrestling scene and preparing him for college. He intends to continue to pursue wrestling at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

“It’s a good way to get more experience and stay in shape for my [regular] season,” he said.

In its own season, the club participates in tournaments each weekend during their spring organized under Minnesota/USA Wrestling, the state’s chapter of USA Wrestling. The final part of the state’s freestyle tournament is set for May 13 and 14.

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