MANCHESTER — West Delaware wrestling has always had a family feel to Jeff Voss.
In his 23 seasons as head coach, he has coached his share of siblings, two sons and even noted the program’s faithful followers remain interested, adopting wrestlers to cheer for when their sons have graduated and moved on.
This year, the family aspect has grown dramatically. Five current West Delaware coaches have sons in the starting lineup for the Class 2A second-ranked Hawks, who close out competition before the holiday break with a dual Thursday at Decorah.
The dynamic makes the good even better and the not-so good that much tougher.
“It’s that family atmosphere that we have,” Voss said. “It’s fun to see everyone enjoying things, realizing the kids have worked hard to get where they’re at.”
Voss’ sophomore son, Jared, wrestles at 160. Assistant coaches Doug Engel, Dale Meyer, Mitch Peyton and Pat Phillips also have sons on the team. Blake Engel is a freshman at 106, while classmate Jadyn Peyton wrestles 138. Cael Meyer is a sophomore ranked ninth at 145 and senior Ryan Phillips is a fifth-ranked 132-pounder.
They have helped West Delaware move to 8-2 in duals with two tournament team titles this year.
Fathers coaching sons in the sport isn’t new, but it is special to share it with each other. Plus, it is someone who can relate to what a wrestler goes through daily.
“I think that adds something to the process just having my dad in there every day,” Ryan Phillips said. “He knows what I’m doing to get better. He’s there when I compete.
“Usually, right before I’m there to compete he’s there giving me a high-five before I go on the mat. He’s the first person I go to right after my match. It’s just something that is kind of a routine built over the years.”
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It isn’t a steadfast rule, but the coaches aren’t hands-on with their own sons during the season. For the elder Peyton, a former West Delaware state champ, he has “minimal” influence on ninth-ranked Jadyn.
“At the end of the day, I want it about him and not his dad,” Mitch Peyton said. “I wanted him to do it and not because his dad wanted him to do it.
“We are blessed to have coaches that coach the same way I do.”
Phillips grew up watching his dad coach and older brother, Sam, wrestle. He looked forward to his time in the program, but family matters don’t enter the wrestling room.
“I get help from all the coaches,” Phillips said. “We aren’t really focused on each other.”
The shared philosophy makes it easier to place their sons’ development into someone else’s hands. The tight-knit environment makes it seem like you’re coaching your own anyway.
“Our goal is for the kids to be their best,” Voss said. “We trust each other that they are in good hands.”
The Hawks share the same attitude outside of wrestling as well. The Phillipses watch some college wrestling, but bond over outdoor activities when away from practice. Voss said it is key to avoid letting the sport bleed over into the home.
“Personally, when I come home I’m not a wrestling coach anymore,” Voss said. “They have to have a place where they are without wrestling. I feel they need a place they don’t have to talk about wrestling the whole time.”
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