CARSON CITY — Carson City-Crystal coach Kacy Datema had one goal when he took over the Eagles wrestling program three years ago… start winning again.
The former Eagles wrestler was part of a winning tradition that had gone awry in the few seasons before becoming head coach. Datema was a two-time individual state champion for the Eagles and had the opportunity to compete at the team state finals in 1988.
“We were a good team. We made it to the quarterfinals my sophomore year and the regional finals my junior and senior years,” Datema said.
The four-time state qualifier placed first as a sophomore (98 pounds) and as senior (130). He was sixth as a junior (119).
As a team, the Eagles were Division 4 state runner-ups in 2000 and 2001. The Eagles fell to Whittemore-Prescott (45-22) in ’00 and Dundee (47-13) in ’01. Current assistant coach Trent Ward was head coach of the Eagles at the time.
Datema was an assistant for Carson City in 2002-2004, but never envisioned being head coach for the team. Unfortunately, a down turn in the program’s success prompted a conversation with Ward about returning to the Eagles program.
“I don’t know if it is something I’ve always wanted to do, but I certainly had a passion for the sport,” Datema said. “Carson had a few year’s where they struggled. Trent (Ward) and I got together, we talked about righting this program and figured we would have to invest some time and be around for a period of time.”
After more discussions, Datema decided to take over as head coach, with Ward helping as an assistant.
“We wanted to get Carson back to being a top 10 team in the state and competing at a level we thought they should be and have been in the past,” Datema said.
The first step for Datema and Ward was to field a full lineup.
“When we started we had seven kids in the lineup, so we knew we needed to get numbers up,” Datema said. “From there we tried to pick kids up and develop them into wrestlers. We’ve been fortunate to have a good group of kids. We got a little bit of success and it brought some spotlight back to the sport at Carson. Kenny Dittenber is a two-time state champion and people see success and I think they are drawn to that.”
Datema said it is a good feeling to get the Eagles back to being a winning program.
“It’s a good feeling to get them back to where they needed to be,” Datema said. “When our time is up we hope to transition off the program a little better than the past.”
Six seed vs. New Lothrop
Carson City-Crystal (26-6) will have its hands full against New Lothrop (31-4) in today’s quarterfinals match at 5:30 p.m.
It will be a match between the experienced Hornets. New Lothrop has been to the state finals the past 12 years. They have won 12 state titles (most recently in 2004) and have four runner-up finishes.
“They certainly have the history and the experience factor,” Datema said. “We are going to go in there and do our best. We are going to hopefully give kids a chance to do something they may not otherwise get to. Hopefully, we can make some things happen.”
The Eagles were hoping for a fifth seed in the tournament, but drew the sixth seed and a matchup with the Hornets.
“I don’t have any idea. I definitely think it was between us and Sand Creek, unfortunately I’m not on the committee,” Datema said. “We got seeded where we got seeded and that just means you have to wrestle.”
The two teams met in a dual this season and both teams competed at the same individual districts and regionals.
The Eagles qualified seven wrestlers for the individual state finals (Feb. 28 to March 2), while the Hornets qualified 11 wrestlers.
“We dualed them once and lost by 27 or so,” Datema said. “We saw them at individual districts and regionals. We think we can close that gap between us, but they are a good squad through and through.”
Win or lose, reaching the state finals is all part of rebuilding a program and keeping the program a success.
“The big thing is we are competing at a level we need to be at. I’m proud of our kids for learning how to wrestle as a team. compete as a team and make sacrifices as a team,” he added.
The winner of this match will face the winner between No. 2 Hesperia (33-2) and No. 7 Kent City (35-4) in the semifinals on Saturday. The state finals for all divisions are at 4 p.m. on Saturday.