Everybody knows about the other guys across town: the Flathead Braves, the three-time defending state champions and one of the highest-ranked wrestling programs in the nation last year. But at Glacier High School, there are 42 kids who are reminding you to pay attention to the Wolfpack, particularly if you’re an opponent on their schedule.
The Glacier Wolfpack are officially a team to be reckoned within the ranks of Class AA wrestling. They have earned that distinction through several strong showings this year, including a seventh-place finish at the large C.M.R. Holiday Classic and a weekend sweep over Whitefish, Libby and Columbia Falls.
Improvement is mostly a gradual process in high school sports, but head coach Mark Fischer can trace the Wolfpack’s success back to one specific instance in which their season changed in a day.
After the first day of the Mining City Duals in early December, Glacier found itself sitting near the bottom of the standings. Admittedly, the Wolfpack had disadvantages in terms of experience, but they knew they had more talent than the standings showed that day. So they decided to prove it, as simple as that.
“The next day they were on fire,” Fischer said, “and since then the fire hasn’t left.”
Glacier’s roster has its share of freshmen and, at times, the Wolfpack have shown their age. It has affected their consistency, especially at the beginning of the season when nerves often took over. Last year, these kids were grappling with eighth-graders and now they’re wrestling 18-year-olds with beards.
But Fischer said the freshmen have also injected a sense of immediacy and, in turn, energy into both practices and matches. Older kids, Fischer said, know they have to perform at all times because there’s always an eager underclassman waiting for his chance.
“They have forced everyone in the room to wrestle hard,” Fischer said.
One of those freshmen is Larry Francis, who has jumped out to an impressive 22-3 record in the 152-pound weight class. Francis isn’t afraid to admit how nervous he was during his first matches as a freshman.
“It’s a big step for us,” Francis said.
When Francis was asked what he does to overcome his anxiety, teammate and senior John Frandsen interjected: “He just throws them on their backs.”
Frandsen has done his share of throwing opponents on their backs this year as well. Wrestling in the 215-pound class, Frandsen is 20-3 on the season. While he said he’s pleased, for the most part, with his personal performance so far, Frandsen is more impressed with his team. He believes the Wolfpack can be a top-five team at state. And personally, his goal is to be the state champion.
“That’s everybody’s goal,” he said.
Fischer said Frandsen is doing what it takes to end up at the top of the heap when the season ends. Frandsen spends extra time in the weight room and is consistent in practice.
“He’s being a real mature person in terms of knowing what he needs to do to fulfill that goal,” Fischer said.
Jordan Nelson, a 135-pound senior, recovered from an early-season separated shoulder and has been undefeated since his return. Last year, he finished sixth in the state in the 130-pound division.
Glacier is without Stormy Day who placed fourth in the state last year in the tough 125-pound weight class. Day is out with a back injury and won’t return this season.
“We miss him,” Fischer said.
Fischer said his team is talented and, most importantly, content with working hard.
“We have a pretty solid crew and they’re going to surprise some people,” Fischer said. “It would be tough to find any other team that works as hard as this one.”
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