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December 22, 2008 3:49 am

PHS wrestlers spread Christmas joy

Written by Tribune Staff

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Linton's Big R cashier Dani Byrd (foreground) helps members of the Powell High School wrestling team with their Christmas purchases last Thursday. Members of the Panthers in this shopping group included (from left to right in the background) Jimmy Seckman (not visible), Cody Kalberer (partially visible), Trevor Donarski, Cole Kary, Zach Thiel, Cory Eden, Colt Nix (partially visible) and Olie Olson. Tribune photo by David Dickey

Team extends helping hand to those less fortunate

It's not everyday you see a group of rough-and-tough wrestlers buying doll-and-stroller sets, but such was the case late Thursday afternoon in Powell.

But have no fear, the members of the defending state champion Powell High School Panther wrestling team aren't turning into a bunch of softies, at least not on the mats. They were buying more than dolls and they were doing so for a good cause. They were purchasing gifts for young boys and adults, too, as part of what has become known as Wrestlers' Christmas — a program to help families in need during the holiday season.

According to PHS head coach Nate Urbach, the program is now four years old and is a way for the Panther wrestling program to give back to the community which has always been gracious in its support of the team.

Urbach said the idea stemmed from a conversation with fellow coach James Kapptie.

“He and I were talking one day, and he brought up the idea,” Urbach said. “It sounded like a great thing to do, and I just ran with it.”

Urbach said people in the community submit the names of families who need a helping hand at Christmas time.

Once that list is complete, Urbach's team, Panther parents and a number of other individuals and businesses pitch in to make those families' holiday time a little more special.

On Thursday, the Panther wrestlers met in the locker room after school. Once the group was assembled, Urbach handed out money and sent the wrestlers to local businesses with shopping lists for the families. This year, eight families were on the receiving end of the wrestling program's holiday effort.

Senior Cory Eden, the leader of one shopping group Thursday, made sure plenty of care was taken when it came to picking out gifts. As the group pondered purchases, he made his case for the best-possible choices.

“If you're getting dolls for sisters, be sure to get the same doll so they won't fight over them,” Eden told the group.

Eden's quick thinking is a product of being around children at the day care his mother once operated. He also said he had no reservations about walking up to a cash register with a large selection of dolls.

“It doesn't bother me at all,” Eden said with a laugh. “We have a lot of fun doing it. It feels good to do something like this. It's our way of giving back to the community.”

Once the wrestlers made their purchases Thursday, they ventured back to the high school and joined forces to wrap all the presents in the locker room. The group did its best to pick out teammates who could do the best job of wrapping gifts. Once that task was completed, the team members ventured to the homes of the families to deliver the gifts.

Eden recalled last year's trip to one of the families on the receiving end of the Panthers' goodwill.

“The kids were so happy,” Eden said. “The dad was so appreciative and was just overwhelmed. He was offering us cookies, milk and all kinds of stuff as a way to say thanks for what we had done. The mother was crying because she was so thankful. It felt really good to know we had done something that made their Christmas better.

It left all of us wishing we could do even more.”

Senior Cody Kalberer, whose mother, Jean Kalberer, helps organize much of the effort, said the team also gives out items related to the wrestling team like posters and t-shirts.

“We try to reach out and do what we can,” Kalberer said. “We want to be more than just a team. We want to be a team that helps people in the community.”

In addition to toys, the wrestlers gave out plenty of other items, including winter clothing, gift cards for groceries and more.

Urbach said several avenues are used to raise money for the program. One such way is the raffle at the Powell Roundtable Invitational. This year, Starla Craig and members of her family helped sell tickets. This year's raffle winners included Jon Carter, the father of PHS wrestler Auston Carter, and the head wrestling coach from Rawlins. Instead of keeping their winnings, they gave the money back to the wrestling team so the Panthers would have more to spend on the families this year.

Others included in making this year's effort a success were Vision West, the local John Deere dealership, Brandon Construction, Bob and Teri England, Thiel Construction, Leslie Kobbe, Tom and Tammy Jones and Dennis and Crystal Eden, the parents of Cory Eden. Some of the money donated to the program also comes from the wrestlers, Urbach added.

“The support we get from the community always amazes me,” said Crystal Eden. “There are so many people that help make this work, and we owe them a great deal of thanks. It also means a lot to us that Coach Urbach does this. As parents, we try to teach our kids to do things like this. Having someone like Coach Urbach, who is a sports figure and a role model — for the kids to see what he's doing, makes an even bigger impact.

“He's teaching them some great life lessons, and I believe they will use those lessons down the road. They see what this means to people. It's something they'll remember, and they'll want to continue helping people later in life.”