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February 24, 2011 12:52 pm

Like fathers, like sons: two generations of wrestling

Written by Don Amend

Back in 1981, a sophomore reported for wrestling practice at Greybull High School and was greeted by his new coach. Last week that wrestler and his old coach sat in the stands to watch their sons compete for Powell in the West regional tournament.

Jim Seckman's son Jimmy, a senior on the Panther team, was wrestling in quest of the 152-pound championship with tools he learned from Tom Urbach's son Nate, the Powell Panther coach. 

Nate Urbach is in his seventh year as coach of the Panthers, and Jimmy Seckman, a fifth grader when Nate arrived in Powell, has developed into one of the Panthers' top wrestlers, reaching the finals last year and looking for a state championship this year.

Both dads are happy with the way things turned out, and for Jim, it was something of a miracle.

"We were very excited when we heard Nate was coming to Powell," Jim said. "Tom kept us updated, and we knew it was a long shot, but it all kind of fell together."

Tom said he is happy that Nate, who was offered other coaching positions, ended up close to home in Powell, and he's equally glad that Jimmy is one of his wrestlers.

"I'm happy Nate got the chance to coach Jimmy," Tom said.

The coaching careers of the Urbachs have followed a similar path, and, according to Tom, Jim and Jimmy share some of the same traits as wrestlers.

Tom Urbach arrived in Greybull to take over a team that had finished 11th in the state tournament the year before. Greybull at that time was wrestling in the old Class A classification, contending with the likes of Star Valley and Evanston, but the community had built up a strong USA wrestling program and the results were beginning to show.

The growth wasn't readily apparent that first year, as Greybull dropped one place to finish 12th, but Jim remembers that "wrestling got more exciting," that year.

"The next year, it really took off," Jim said.

That season, the Buffaloes traveled south one December weekend and pinned a dual meet defeat on the perennially tough Star Valley Braves, despite having to forfeit two matches.  That win, coupled with a win over Evanston, drew the community's attention, and it intensified when Greybull finished second behind Star Valley at the  state finals, again without two wrestlers who were out with injuries, by only 8.5 points, and ahead of bigger schools such as Evanston, Wheatland, Douglas and Torrington.

The current school classification was established in Jim's senior year. Greybull dropped down to the 2A ranks, and won the first of eight state championships in nine years. Jim finished third that year and his younger brother Mike, won the first of his two state championships.

Like his father, Nate came to a program that was down. After several years of finishing among the top five or six teams in the state, the Panthers had finished 10th in 2004, and wasn't generating much enthusiasm. Nate's first year was like his dad's first year in Greybull, as the Panthers dropped one place at state, to 11th.

But things were changing, as young wrestlers from the USA and middle school programs were entering high school. The Panthers climbed to fourth in 2006 and to third the next year before taking two consecutive state championships and missing a third by a single point last year. This year, the Panthers are again among the leaders, and battling defending champion Douglas and Worland in their quest to regain the state championship.

The Seckmans wrestling careers also have parallels, although Jimmy, who finished second at state last year and third the year before has already outdone his dad in winning state medals.

"I get reminded of that all the time," Jim said.

"They are a lot alike," said Tom. "They are both hard workers, and both are very single-minded."

Tom remembers Jim as "a tough kid" who never gave up in a match. He recalled a match when Jim was down by double digits, but came back with a reverse and won by pin near the end of the match, and he said Jimmy reflects that same determination.

"Jimmy is kind of a basic guy," Nate said of his wrestler. "He just focuses on winning."

Jim said he thinks Tom and Nate are "a little different" in the way they coach.

"It's hard to explain," Jim said during a conversation with Nate, "You seem to do a lot to prepare the kids technically for opponents. Your dad was more of an emotional guy who tried to motivate us."

Jim credited Tom with getting the absolute most out of his wrestlers, even those without talent.

"I was not a talented wrestler by any means," Jim said, "but he was able to pull every ounce of effort out of me."

Tom agreed there are similarities between his coaching and Nate's. Nate holds a special conditioning day, SEAL Day, every year, just as his dad scheduled a special day. Like his dad, Nate encourages his wrestlers to attend camps in the summer. Tom said there is a difference, though.

"Nate's SEAL Day is much tougher," Tom said. "I took my team to one camp every year, he takes his to three," Tom said.

Both the Seckmans and the Urbachs say their relationship is an example of the bonds in the wrestling community.

"Wrestling is a family deal. It carries on from one generation to another," Jim said. "It's neat to sit here and watch with Tom and talk about the old days."

Nate said his relationship with the Seckmans extends to Jim's brother Mike, who, along with another brother, died in a drowning accident in 1996. Mike helped out with USA and high school wrestling when Nate was competing, and Nate remembers Mike coaching him as a USA wrestler.

"I remember Mikey," Nate said. "I had a good relationship with him and he helped me a ton."

Nate said there is a special relationship among wrestlers and their coaches, and while wrestlers may not appreciate it at the time, "later they realize what we did for them."

Of the second generation, Jim said his son's wrestling under Nate has been a great experience, and Tom is glad it worked out that way.

As for Jimmy, he's focused right now on the state tournament, and his aspirations for himself and his team, but he said it's "pretty neat" to be coached by the son of his father's coach. Like his dad, he appreciates his coach's efforts and thinks his coach is the best.

"I couldn't ask for a better coach," Jimmy said.

Friday, Jimmy will take the mat for his first-round match, with Nate in his corner, and two dads, who share the same bond as their sons, will be in the stands watching.

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