Former state-qualifying grapplers plan reunion for Jan. 31
The Ranger wrestling Alumni Night is combining with the program’s Senior Night before the home match against Hastings on Thursday, Jan. 31.
Head coach Billy Pierce said the special night is a “welcome back” for former Forest Lake wrestlers to reminie while watching the Rangers take on the Raiders, as well as a “welcome to the alum club” for the soon-to-be graduating grapplers.
“We want seniors to keep coming back and supporting the program,” Pierce said. “It’s kind of like they’re leaving one club and joining another.”
Members of both the first-ever Forest Lake state wrestling team of 1983 and the state champion squad of 1993 will be announced alongside other members who contributed to a strong Ranger program over the years.
Vince Niemczyk, a member of the ‘83 team that went 17-4 and earned fourth place at the Class AA state tournament is one of the organizers of the Ranger Alumni Night. The longtime Forest Lake-area resident said the event had a turnout of more than 80 alums last year. Organizers are hoping for upwards of 100 to come support the current Rangers in their big match.
“It should be a fun evening to sit around and catch up with wrestlers from three, four, five decades ago,” Niemczyk said. “Last year we just sat around and reminisced. This is something we all have in common.”
Niemczyk is also the father of current wrestlers, junior middle-weight Luke Niemczyk and seventh-grader Ben Niemczyk. Other alums and fathers of current wrestlers, including fellow ‘83 graduate John Kolbow (sophomore Thomas Kolbow) and the class of ‘82’s Jeff Winberg (junior Kyle Winberg) have also helped in coordinating the big night.
“It’s great having dads from the program’s past get involved,” Pierce said. “It means something to them, and it’s great for the kids and the community for the guys to come back, say hi and reunite. We get great support from our alumni sponsorship and involvement— And that’s great for the vitality of our program.”
With high school wrestling participation on the rise with more than 272,000 student-athletes in wrestling nationwide (National High School Federation of Associations), Niemczyk said it’s important that communities continue to advocate the sixth most-popular boys’ sport at the high-school level.
“It’s not an easy sport, but it’s a good sport,” the ‘83 state qualifier said. “It turns young boys into men, and good men, which is an important quality. It teaches you self-discipline, to work hard, achieve goals and allows you to do as good as you want to do.”
The planning committee asks former Rangers sign in by 6:30 p.m. so the ceremony can be held prior to the home match at 7 p.m.