New coach, graduations usher in new era for Herder wrestling

Juniors Corden Phillips (from left), Lane Raney and Dustin Simmons watch as head coach Kjell Elisson and Isak Elisson demonstrate how to best get back to standing during a match.

Harrison Epstein

It’s all about sweat equity. Sweat equity is the increase in perceived value because of labor put in. And right now, the Glenrock Herders wrestlers are investing in themselves and this team. Sweat equity was a phrase repeated by senior Cade Griffitts, one of the team’s two seniors and a leader on the mats.
“Sweat equity is a big key to myself and what I’m going to try to make our team, this year, be about,” Griffitts said. “Always trying to get better no matter what the circumstance is.”
By the time the team’s third practice wrapped up on Dec. 3, Griffitts’ hoodie, along with the shirts and hoodies of every other wrestler, were drenched in sweat. While Griffitts has been in Glenrock for his entire career, it was a winding road for the team’s other senior, Alex St. Gelais.
After starting high school in Glenrock, St. Gelais moved away, but now he’s back to spend his senior year with the people he’s closest to. He also can’t wrestle competitively until January because of school transfer rules, but that hasn’t stopped him from practicing with the team and helping coach the Glenrock Intermediate School wrestling team.
He said that after coaching the younger kids, he has a different perspective as a wrestler — he can better understand what the coaches are telling him to do. He also realized he should always listen to his coach because they have a broader view of the mat and can see things the individual wrestlers can’t.
“For me personally, I haven’t wrestled since freshman year but I’m glad to be back. I’m glad to be back with my family. It’s just an amazing feeling to be here,” St. Gelais said. “Now that I’m back in my hometown, back in Glenrock, I’m ready to represent and be here for the team.”
Despite the confidence going forward, the Herders are a fundamentally different team than in years past. The only returning member to place in the top five at the State Tournament last year is Dustin Simmons, getting fifth in the 126 lb. class.
Griffitts and St. Gelais are taking over the leadership mantles from a crew of seniors that spent years dominating the mats across the state. This at the same time Kjell Elisson is taking over as the wrestling head coach from Nic Dillon. Elisson is heading into the year with no head coaching experience, but has unique familiarity with the team.
He was a wrestling referee in Wyoming for the past eight years and stepped up to the position for two reasons. He wanted to make sure there would always be a wrestling program in Glenrock, that they won’t have to wrestle in other school’s colors, and that wrestling is brimming with life lessons about how to treat yourself and treat other people.
At practice, they spend every minute working on technique for every part of a match. The Herders want to be the most prepared team at every meet they attend and that means working diligently in the wrestling room to prepare their bodies and minds. Elisson also expressed gratitude for his assistant coach, his son Isak Elisson who has helped in practice, and for Dillon.
He praised Dillon for the work he did helping form a program with a host of State Champion wrestlers. Kjell said Glenrock wrestling couldn’t be what it is without the work and care Dillon put in.
Kjell believes that this team still has the ability to bring wrestlers to the State Tournament in 2020 and potentially win, but that’s not what it’s all about. He wants every wrestler to walk away with a better understanding of themselves, of the world around them and how to act moving forward.
“I don’t expect these kids to win every match. What I do expect is to get better every match and that they give their best to the sport,” Kjell said.
The first opportunity for the Herder faithful to see the team in action, outside of the sweat-filled basement in the Rec Center, will be at home Dec. 12 at 4 p.m. for a triangular with the Douglas Bearcats and Buffalo Bison.
Before the Dec. 3 practice ended, Kjell had one last drill for the guys. Everyone linked arms in a pile and fought to have someone else break the chain. Once a wrestler let go of the mass he went off to the side for 15 pushups.
After nearly 15 minutes, the 11-person pile winnowed down to two — just Griffitts and junior Lane Raney. Griffitts reigned supreme, but with barely enough energy to raise his arms in celebration. If everything goes right, he won’t have any trouble raising his arms in celebration on the floor of the Casper Events Center in February.


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