by Angie Asam–Staff Writer
Thirty-two district titles, 11 regional titles, 71-state medalists. In the 45-year history of the Rogers City High School wrestling program all those things have been accomplished under just three coaches; the father of the program Bill Barrett, his successor Warren Gleason and since 2000 Pat Lamb.
Tuesday the Hurons will host the annual Bill Barrett invitational, a meet held each year in December in honor of the father of the program. As part of the meet this year coach Lamb will present Gleason’s family with a plaque in his honor. A plaque will also be placed above the wrestling showcase where the headstone of Barrett is placed.
Gleason took over the program in 1983 after Barrett was forced to retire for medical reasons. He coached until 1999 and had a coaching record of 289-70-2. His teams won 13 consecutive district titles from 1987 through 1999 when he and Lamb were co-headcoaches. Lamb kept that streak going as the team would reach 22 straight titles through 2008. On April 7 of this year Gleason passed away at age 78.
Following the passing of Barrett in 2001 the Huron wrestling team donned the initials BB on singlets, shirts and warm-ups for many years. Barrett coached from the 1970 season through 1982 and had a record of 143-38-3 and winning the programs first five district titles.
In 2013 when youth wrestlter Wyatt Saile, 10, passed away a pink W was and has remained on the warm-ups and shirts worn by the wrestlers and fans. Wrestlers even have a painted fingernails during the season, the right ring finger is pink with a black W on it, remembering the young energetic wrestler that was taken too soon.
“Wyatt was a member of our youth wrestling program and was an inspiring young wrestler that there is no doubt in my mind would have strived and succeeded in the wrestling program. He was also a member of my family and some of my wrestlers’ families. A lot of the wrestlers that are on the team knew Wyatt and respect what we are doing. Every year, I ask the guys, I can’t force them to keep painting our fingernails, to keep the W, that is them; they want to continue to do that. In my estimation we will probably continue to memorialize Wyatt until his graduating year, 2021. I am not going to force that on anybody but if they come to me and they want to keep doing it I am more than happy to. It means the world to me,” said coach Lamb.
Yes, the wrestlers do occasionally get strange looks from officials and opponents with a pink fingernail but it doesn’t bother them. When they are tired during a hard match coach Lamb often yells out to them to look at that nail and get energy to finish the match tough.
This year the Huron wrestling family is donning a new letter on their sleeves, an orange G, for the beloved “G” Gleason, the second coach of the program. Winter hats given out by coach Lamb have the G on the side and the pink W on the back. A new coaching jacket he wears features the G on one sleeve, a BB on the other and a W on the back.
“Just to remember. Obviously a lot of these kids don’t know coach Barrett, a lot of them never knew coach Gleason, however, I did. Coach Barrett was my mentor and my coach and I also was coached by Gleason in high school and I coached under him for a long time. I learned a lot from both of those men,” said coach Lamb.
“Our program has thrived because of both of those men. There is no reason not to memorialize those two gentlemen any way that we possibly can. I never ever want to forget either one of them and I never will. I just want to keep their names synonymous with the Rogers City wrestling program,” said coach Lamb.
THE MEMBERS of the 2015-16 team will soon be selling T-shirts, the popular fundraiser in high school sports right now, those shirts will feature the initials mentioned above, three members of the Rogers City wrestling family that are part of what the program does today.