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Panther wrestlers go camping in Chadron

The PHS wrestling team, shown here during a December practice, traveled to Chadron, Neb., last week for a team camp. Head coach Nate Urbach said he would like to take his team to at least three camps during the summer. The PHS wrestling team, shown here during a December practice, traveled to Chadron, Neb., last week for a team camp. Head coach Nate Urbach said he would like to take his team to at least three camps during the summer. Tribune file photo

Teams don’t win three straight state titles because they take the term “offseason” literally.

While some teams might use the summer for rest, recovery and recreation, Powell High School wrestlers — back-to-back-to-back Class 3A champions — are staying close to the mat, even if it means venturing far from home.

Nearly 20 Panthers (and one middle-schooler) traveled to Chadron State University in Chadron, Neb., for a three-day team-wrestling camp last week.

The high school season runs from early December to early March, giving high schoolers who are serious about wrestling only three months to concentrate on their sport.

PHS head coach Nate Urbach, who helped organize and run the camp, said the camps bring the team together more than three months after it was crowned champion in Casper.

“I try to get the kids to at least three camps in the summer,” Urbach said. “It’s important for us as a high school team to get together and drive 400 miles — for team bonding.”

The Chadron State camp gave the Panther wrestlers a chance to practice against opponents from Nebraska, South Dakota and Colorado.

“It’s a good opportunity for us to get a bunch of summer matches in,” Urbach said.

The camp, which ran from June 15-18, wasn’t conducted as a tournament, and there were no trophies for the winners of the unofficially scored matches.

Urbach said he doesn’t gauge his team’s camp performance by a win-loss record, though he did note his guys went 8-0.

“Any time I can get kids matches in June it’s a successful camp,” he said. “(I) don’t want teams to worry about the score too much. There’s nothing at the end. We just want to get as many good matches as possible.”

Matches are arranged less formally than in official tournaments and duals. Coaches will try to match wrestlers according to skill level, not just weight class.

“It’s a nice deal for us, because it’s good kids wrestling good kids and then inexperienced kids match up with inexperienced kids,” Urbach said.

Teams from Cody, Douglas and Lander were in attendance, but Urbach said he makes it a point to save those schools for the winter.

“We set it up so we don’t wrestle Wyoming teams,” Urbach said. “We want to wrestle the Nebraska kids. (It’s) different styles and it’s just more fun.”

The Panthers have attended camps and tournaments in Billings, Mont., and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, in the past, but have visited Chadron State, Urbach’s alma mater, six of the past 10 years.

“That’s where I went to school so it’s nice for me to go and see some of the guys,” Urbach said.

Former Panther Zach Thompson, a two-time state champion at 195 pounds, will wrestle for Chadron beginning in the fall, and the camp may be a way for more Panthers to join him.

“It’s a good place for Chadron to look at our guys,” Urbach said.

But it isn’t the only place where PHS wrestlers can get instruction from college coaches.

The Panthers will attend Northwest College’s wrestling camp July 13-16.

“I really like the Northwest camp,” Urbach said. “It has a lot of really good technique coaches. Chadron is more competition and Northwest is a lot of teaching.”

Northwest’s camp is run by Trapper head coach Jim Zeigler, the 2004 NJCAA National Coach of the Year.

“He works with my boys really well,” Urbach said. “When I’m stuck on something, that’s the first guy I call.”

The Panthers seem anything but stuck as they prepare for a fourth title run, and the work they put in during the summer months ensures they remain moving in the right direction.

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