Together again, after all these years
January 12, 2011 - Music began and broadcasted throughout the gym, sounding a familiar tone for the 1991 Clarkston High School Wrestling team.
|The 1991 Clarkston Wrestling team and Coach Scott Strickler, center, share memories during their reunion. Photo provided (click for larger version)|
It was AC/DC's "Thunder Struck," the song the State Champions would listen to as they warmed up on the mat.
While the music played during a brief break in the midst of the Clarkston and Lapeer East meet, Dec. 22, former Wolves' Head Coach Scott Strickler walked down the bleacher steps and into the middle of the mat.
From the southeast door emerged wrestlers and managers from the 1991 team. They formed a circle around Strickler before they presented him with a 20-year reunion plaque.
"We wanted to remember our coach and recognize his contributions in making us great sons, husbands and fathers," said Tony Miller, now defensive coordinator for the Wolves' Varsity Football team. "Most of all, for making us better people."
Twenty-nine wrestlers and four female managers were part of the champion team. They faced the number one ranked team, Temperance Bedford, for the title. They beat them 36-27, winning seven of thirteen matches – five of them with pins.
They not only defeated the odds, but walked away as champions and ready to face any challenge.
Twenty-three wrestlers and Strickler headed to Fountains later and shared memories and where their paths led.
Six months after winning the state title, Strickler married his biggest fan. They have two children. His oldest is on the Lapeer East wrestling team.
Strickler lives in Lapeer and is the director of probation for 41B District Court in Clinton Township. He officiates in high school wrestling and has officiated at MHSAA Team State Finals.
"There isn't a time I walk into the arena at the finals I don't flashback to 1991," he added.
The moment has stayed with him throughout the years and ranks as one of the top five moments of his life, behind getting married and the birth of his children.
"As a coach, one can only hope they are able to make a small impact on a young person's life," Strickler mentioned. He added after the reunion, the 1991 staff accomplished the hope.
Still in Clarkston, former grappler Jerry Anderson remembers the bus ride to Battle Creek, listening to the Beastie Boys.
"The whole team was having a blast," he continued. "It carried over onto the mats as our storybook season finished with one of the biggest upsets in wrestling history. We never talked about the outcome of that match before it took place. We just went out there and took care of our business – in other words 'we just did it.'"
Anderson learned discipline, how to set goals, how to be accountable, to reach for the stars and anything is possible.
"I also learned it is good to give back to the sport of wrestling," he added. He is involved with the wrestling program at Rochester Schools.
He and his wife, Heather, have two children, Brooke, 5, and Hunter, 3. He works at Superior Electric.
Miller remembers watching Temperance Bedford walking through the Kellogg Arena, thinking they were disciplined and focused.
"You could have chiseled stone off their faces," he thought back. "After they walked by us, our coach came up into a group and said, 'no one expected you to be here and no one expects you to go out there and upset the number one team in the state of Michigan, but I want you to go out there and have fun, enjoy the moment, and let's see what happens.' I have said a number of times, this accomplishment is a memory that no one can take away, a feeling that never stops, and a story that we can't tell enough."
Miller uses the experience while coaching gridiron gang on the Wolves' Varsity Football team, tell them to relax, go onto the field, and have fun.
"I often tell the kids nothing comes for free in America – you must work harder than anyone else if you want to be the champion," he said. "I often point to all the state championship banners in the gym before we take the field, and I ask our kids to put one more up there."
Miller lives in Clarkston with his wife, Michelle and two sons, Zachariah and Jackson.
Brian Davis also remembers the fun the team had and pride he felt winning for the parents, fans, school and the community.
"We worked extremely hard, but we had fun," he said. "It started with a great group of guys, great coaches and supporters."
Davis learned life is much more about the preparation, the time leading up to the moment, than the actual moment.
"You get what you deserve and we had worked the hardest so we deserved to win," he proudly said.
He has three children with wife Alicen in Clarkston.
Wendi graduated from the University of Michigan-Flint with a degree in communications. She wrote for the Michigan Times college paper and Grand Blanc View before joining The Clarkston News in October 2007.