“You remember the time Ronnie Allen had to cut his hair to make weight?” Dave Mischick said to Jim Hennessy, Jason Ott and Eric Ashman.
“I remember you taking a razor to him,” responded Ashman, who wrestled for coach Mischick at Brookfield High School in the early ’90s.
There were many stories like that one going around Feb. 14 when Brookfield wrestling celebrated its 50th anniversary.
Those on hand included Don Lott, who founded the program. He said he wrestled at Ohio State University and his college coach asked him to participate in a wrestling clinic after Lott had moved onto a teaching career.
“I enjoyed it,” Lott, of Orangeville, said of the clinic.
So, he approached Brookfield school Superintendent John Sittig about starting a program.
Lott, who taught eighth-grade math, said he set high standards for his wrestlers.
“We scheduled Reynolds third year and we were doing pretty well,” Lott said, referring to perennial Pennsylvania wrestling powerhouse Reynolds High School.
“Our kids were coming into their own at that time,” Lott said. “If you want to beat fast horses, you have to run with them.”
Over Brookfield wrestling’s history, the school’s horses have included 35 who made it to the state tournament. Ken Christello was state champion in 1977.
Jason Ott came up from Fort Myers, Fla., to attend the anniversary match, which also was senior Joe Hackett’s last home match.
“It’s the first time I ever heard of them having anything like this,” said Ott, who wrestled in the early ’90s. “It’s important to support the team in your home town.”
Ott wrestled in grades six through 12.
“You learn how to compete as an individual, but you also compete in the team aspect,” he said of why he enjoyed the sport.
Ashman said wrestlers wrestled year-round at the time and became lasting friends.
“It’s a bit of a brotherhood,” he said.
Sisters have since entered what was a brotherhood as girls now wrestle, including Hackett’s younger sister, Bailey.
Ashman, who lives in Brookfield, said he has no problem with girls wrestling, but is cautioning his 8-year-old daughter, who wants to wrestle.
“It gives a beating on your body,” he said. “I got joints that still hurt.”
Mischick, who taught 30 years at Brookfield, mostly middle school science, said the skills required for wrestling transfer to other sports, including football and baseball.
“Wrestlers that learn how to leverage learn the footwork to be a good offensive lineman, defensive lineman,” he said of football.
But, Lott, who also founded the Liberty High School wrestling program after leaving Brookfield, said wrestling takes in kids who don’t fall within the stereotypical size and athletic expectations of those who play other sports.
“What else is a 100-pound kid gonna do?” Lott said. “They’re not gonna play basketball. They only need so many managers.”
Hennessy, of Brookfield, has been a wrestler, wrestling referee and Brookfield High wrestling coach, with his sons Jim and Brian making state in the ’80s.
“It’s been in my blood since the ’50s,” said Hennessy, who refereed Lott’s first match as a coach.
Hennessy recalled walking around the Brookfield school cafeteria to scout. He would approach a kid and say, “You look like you could wrestle,” a scheme that occasionally added to his team.
Noting that one of his teams had 38 wrestlers, he lamented that it’s harder for teams to fill out all the available weight classes these days.
“You can’t get kids to participate,” he said. “They’d rather go home and play video games and ride four-wheelers. We need more kids.”
Despite the high expectations he placed on his students, Lott said his pride as a coach is not based on the records of his teams and individual wrestlers.
“I’m proud of the guys that just turned out to be good citizens,” he said.
See a video of photographs from the anniversary match at https://youtu.be/Wj2qf_11jzk