SOLON — Solon wrestling coach Blake Williams reflected on the last two decades as a head coach.
He realized he qualifies as seasoned in the coaching ranks and he has been a part of successful programs during two stints with the Spartans that sandwiched 12 years at Cedar Rapids Prairie. Two elements in reaching the 400-win plateau.
“It’s a sure sign that I’m getting old, that’s for sure,” Williams said. “I’m not a young pup anymore.”
Solon earned three victories Saturday at the South Tama Duals, giving Williams 402 career dual wins — 253 at Prairie and 149 at Solon.
Williams credited talented wrestlers and dedicated coaching staffs for the feat.
“It is a testament to a lot of good kids I’ve had the pleasure and opportunity to coach throughout the years,” said Williams, who concedes being the second-best coach in his home behind his wife, Emy, who coaches Solon’s cross country teams. “You can’t do it without good kids and definitely a lot of good coaches. They don’t get that number beside their name, but it’s them, too. I’ve had a lot of great assistants.”
The Spartans are 3-4 overall this season. Williams guided Solon to its first state duals appearance in 2001 during his first tenure. He returned in 2015, leading the Spartans to Class 2A state duals runner-up finishes in 2017 and 2019.
He cut his teeth as a head coach at Solon and notched No. 400 with the same team he won his first.
“Those two schools have made up all but two years of my coaching and teaching career,” Williams said. “To have those numbers reflect those two schools, it means a lot.”
Williams received the Bob Siddens Iowa High School Coaching Excellence Award from the Glen Brand Wrestling Hall of Fame in June. He wrestled for his father, Roger Williams, as a Decorah prep and went on to be an All-American for Wartburg Coach Jim Miller.
“Two of the biggest influences have been my dad in high school and Coach Miller in college,” Williams said. “I think a lot of what I instill in kids today comes directly from how I saw them positively influence young athletes.”
Like the coaches who impacted him, Williams’ goal as a coach is more than teaching takedowns and turns. He isn’t only focused on conditioning and crossfaces. Williams gets as much satisfaction from wrestlers’ achievements beyond wrestling.
“It’s been good and fun,” Williams said. “It’s been rewarding. Not in the wins, but just seeing what happens to them when they leave the program and when they come back to visit, come in the room and talk about how much wrestling meant to you. To me, that is head-over-heels better than any win or number.”
Jalen Schropp reaches 150 wins
Williamsburg senior Jalen Schropp recorded five victories Saturday at Western Dubuque’s Bobcat Duals, posting a 15-0 technical fall over Southeast Polk’s Caleb Sodergren for his 150th career victory. The second-ranked 138-pounder improved to 13-0 with six pins, two technical falls and a major decision this season.
Schropp is a two-time state medalist and three-time qualifier, placing third at 132 as a junior and fifth at 126 in 2018. He became the eighth wrestler in Williamsburg history to get to 150 wins, joining former Raiders like Austin and Holden Blythe and J.C. Vercande. Austin Blythe is the Raiders’ all-time wins leader, going 188-11 from 2008-11.
Williamsburg Coach Grant Eckenrod said Schropp has been great for the Raiders’ program.
“He has put in a lot of extra time in the offseason,” Eckenrod said. “Wrestling freestyle and Greco every spring and summer and those matches against national competition has had a lot to do with his success. Plus, he is a gamer. When the lights come on, he is fearless.”
Ed-Co hosting Patriot Night
Edgewood-Colesburg will hold “Patriot Night” during its quadrangular dual with Class 1A second-ranked Lisbon, Midland and Bellevue, beginning at 6 p.m. Admission is free for current and former veterans and fans are encouraged to show their support for military personnel and their families by wearing red, white and blue to the event.
Ed-Co Coach Alex Hanna confirmed the evening will begin with a speech before the first duals. The hope is to conduct fundraisers during the competition for donations to a veterans organization.
Hanna said Vikings manager Kirstyn Payne came up with the idea.
“Many Ed-Co alumni have served in the military and recently some of them have gotten their orders for deployment overseas,” Hanna said. “In order to thank them for their service and show them just how proud we are of them, Ed-Co wrestling will be taking a moment to thank those who served, are serving, the ones who won’t be home for Christmas, and those who plan to serve in the future.”
Lisbon Coach Brad Smith said his team will join the recognition, wearing camouflage singlets.
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