Chickasaw wrestlers will finally be able to avoid the bus on Saturday
On Nov. 29, the New Hampton boys basketball team played its home opener.Three days later, the Chickasaw girls hoops team did the same.The wrestling team? Well, it traveled ... a lot. The Chickasaws have visited Charles City, Independence and Waterloo twice. They’ve also ventured to Waukon, Calmar and Humboldt and are heading for Waverly on Thursday.And all that travel doesn’t include the trip to the Des Moines area over the Christmas break to hold a pair of joint workouts with Class 3A power Southeast Polk.But the nomadic Chickasaws finally will have a chance to wrestle in front of the home fans on Saturday when New Hampton hosts the first annual Doc Carr Duals.“It’s going to be nice to not get on a bus for once,” New Hampton coach Nick Hemann said Monday morning. “But it is what it is, and we’ve been so lucky that our fans travel so well.”So why the dearth of home meets?Part of it is just the way wrestling has changed in recent seasons.Back in the day, double-duals (or triangulars) and quadrangulars were non-existent.In the early 1990s, for example, New Hampton wrestled single duals against each of its Northeast Iowa Conference rivals, which meant a team was assured of three home meets right there.This season, New Hampton’s six NEIC dual meets are compacted into four dates, and just one of them — a triangular that includes Decorah and non-conference rival Osage on Jan. 19— will be decided in New Hampton.The bottom line is that if you wrestle a triangular, that means you wrestle it at home only once every three years. The same goes for a quad, except you get that one only once every four years.Wrestling teams in Iowa are limited to 15 “dates” of competition, including their conference tournaments, although two-day tournaments count as just one.To put it succinctly, there’s not a lot of dates for home meets, and when this year’s schedule came out, Chickasaw fans did a double take because there were just two — yes, two — scheduled home meets.Now, there are three because the Iowa High School Athletic Association has placed one of the Class 2A sectional meets in New Hampton when the postseason officially begins on Feb. 4.And my guess is there may be a fourth home date for the Chickasaws once the regional dual assignments for Feb. 7 are announced.Still, four home dates isn’t exactly a bonanza so take advantage of Saturday when the wrestling team will not only honor the family and the memory of Doc Carr but will also pay tribute to the 1957 state championship team.Carr was one of four individual state champs — the others were Larry and Arlin Severson and Bob Duvall — on a team that simply dominated the Class B state tournament.Gene Ritchmond also made the finals and Jack Palmersheim and Larry Straw finished fourth.That’s five finalists and seven top-four finishes, and considering that there were a mere 11 weight classes back in 1957, that’s about as dominating a state meet as a team can have.In today’s world, that would equal five state champs and nine top-four finishers, and I guarantee you that any team that pulls that off will win a state title in 2017.If there’s a bonus to Saturday’s dual tournament, it is this: Fans don’t have to drive out of town to see a team that is, in a word, special.The Chickasaws are ranked No. 1 in Class 2A and are seeking their seventh straight home dual tournament title.And what’s scary about this team is it’s not even at full strength. New Hampton will welcome Michael Millage, an open-enrollment transfer student, to the lineup next week.So come out on Saturday. Honor the memory of a man who gave New Hampton so much, pay tribute to a team that put on a dominating performance 60 years ago and cheer on a team that hopes to do the same.•••••My youngest son spent much of Christmas Break at his mother’s house, but he stopped by the house after wrestling practice on Friday afternoon.“Man, I’m glad Blake Rasing is out of high school eligibility,” he said.Rasing, of course, is the former Chickasaw heavyweight who won a state title in 2007 and then went on to win a Big Ten individual title in 2011.He’s now a certified public accountant in Chicago, but he spent a good chunk of last week in the New Hampton wrestling room working with the Chickasaw “heavies.”“It was great for the Noahs — yours and Hopp,” Hemann said, “but I really liked was the talk he gave to the whole team. ... He talked about how wrestling has made him the man he is today, and the lessons he learned in the room still apply today.”I didn’t hear the talk, but I appreciate the sentiments he shared with the current crop of Chickasaws.I did, however, get a chance to see him wrestle, and I’m with my Noah on this one: The young man still has it.•••••Finally, as I looked back at the 1957 edition of the New Hampton Economist that celebrated that state championship team, I was struck by the fact that kids these days are bigger — much bigger — than they were 60 years ago.Need proof? The weight classes at the 1957 state tournament were 95, 103, 112, 120, 127, 133, 138, 145, 154, 165 and heavyweight.In other words, if we found a time machine to transport us back to 1957, New Hampton’s wrestlers at 170, 182, 195, 220 and heavyweight would all be battling for one single spot in the lineup.