By Chris Parker
Wrestling is returning to West Plains this season for the first time since 1978.
There will be a tie to the past with former Zizzer wrestler Dan Taylor serving as head coach. His son Chris Taylor will be an assistant on staff.
“Over 40 years ago, my dream was to come home from college and coach the West Plains Zizzer Wrestling Team. It didn’t come to pass, and I spent 31 years teaching and coaching elementary and junior high kids here in the West Plains area. Wrestling changed my life and got me pointed in the direction I wanted my life to head. I am pumped for the chance to give our West Plains kids the same opportunity that was given to me in high school,” Dan Taylor said.
The Zizzers expect to have around 30 boys and nine girls competing this season. Those numbers are thanks largely to a strong youth wrestling program in West Plains.
“The West Plains Youth Club has grown in numbers and some of the kids from the club have now aged out. There were many parents and supporters of the youth club that had been pushing to get a program back in high school. With the help of parents, supporters, and many donors around the West Plains community the school board gave permission to start a program,” Taylor said.
Even with youth experience, this team will be starting from scratch, so growth will be paramount this year.
“We have a handful that have a few years of club wrestling under their belts, but overall we are all beginners. What we lack in skill we make up for in hard work, determination, and heart. We will face challenges this year just because of a lack of experience. We are starting from zero, but the only way to go is up,” Taylor said. “The only expectations we have for this team this year is to lay the groundwork for a disciplined and hardworking program. We want to gain experience at every competition and end the season with hope and confidence that we will have a winning program and turn out not only quality wrestlers, but even better young men and women.”
The job of this first group of Zizzer wrestlers is to establish a culture and blueprint to success for future wrestlers to follow.
“Our long term vision for our program is to have a standing tradition of discipline and winning. Zizzer Cross Country is the program that took the place of wrestling in 1978. They have one of the greatest traditions in Missouri sports. We can only hope to have a fraction of the success that Zizzer Cross Country and many of our other Zizzer Athletic teams have. We look forward to the day when we have our first male and female state qualifiers and team state trophy,” Taylor said.
West Plains wrestling officially returns to the mat on Tuesday, Dec. 3 at Springfield Catholic.