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Paynesville Press - July 13, 2005

Vagle coaches all-star wrestlers at Dream Team Classic

By Michael Jacobson

In April, Virg Vagle - who led the Bulldogs to 17 state tournaments and four state titles in 38 years of wrestling coaching before retiring - coached the U.S. Team at the Dream Team Classic in Texas.

The ninth annual Dream Team Classic pits a team of the best high school wrestlers in the country against a team from the host state. Vagle, as second-winningest retired wrestling coach in the country, was asked in January to coach this year's U.S. Team.

vagle Vagle and his wife Pat, who accompanied him on the trip from April 7-10, stayed with the team in Arlington, a suburb between Dallas and Ft. Worth. In addition to coaching, Vagle chaperoned the team during its four-day stay in Texas. They toured Ameriquest Field, where the Texas Rangers play baseball in Arlington; visited Dealey Plaza in Dallas, where President John F. Kennedy was assassinated; and the stockyards in Ft. Worth, a National Historic District that had 120 acres of pens in its heydey.

Former Paynesville wrestling coach Virg Vagle posed for a picture with Cael Sanderson, the Olympic gold medal winner and four-time NCAA champ who finished his collegiate wrestling career undefeated. Vagle coached Sanderson's brother at the Dream Team Classic in April.

The entire event was "super organized," said Vagle, who only had to coach one practice - mostly to help his team members to make weight - and the match on Saturday, April 9, at South Grand Prairie High School.

Texas actually was chosen as this year's host of the Dream Team Classic because of its strong girls' wrestling program. Its male team was not much of a match for the elite wrestlers on the U.S. Team.

Vagle said it was sort of like having a team of the best Bulldogs wrestlers over the past 40 years, starting with the nine state champions Paynesville has produced. Of the 15 wrestlers on the U.S. Team - using the same weight classes as the Minnesota State High School League with the addition of an 180-pound class - 12 had picked the Division I school where they planned to wrestle and the other three were just undecided about where they planned to go. The team, chosen before the 2005 National High School Senior Championships, nevertheless had seven of the 14 champions, two runners-up, and 11 placewinners at that elite tourney.

The team included a five-time state champion from New York; a four-time, one-class state champion from Indiana; a four-time state champion from Michigan who went 228-0 in high school; and Cyler Sanderson, a three-time state champion in Utah and the younger brother of Olympic gold medalist Cael Sanderson. Cael won four NCAA titles at Iowa State and became the first wrestler to finish his collegiate career unbeaten.

Meeting Cael, who came to watch his brother wrestle, was a highlight for Vagle. At the end of the week, Vagle got autographs from the entire U.S. Team and looks forward to following their wrestling careers in college, all the way, hopefully, to the Olympics, he said.

The U.S. Team beat Texas 63-12, winning three pins, six technical falls, three major decisions, and one decision. The closest match was a 4-1 decision at 180 pounds. The U.S. Team's only two losses were by forfeit (a California wrestler did not make weight) and by injury default (the Indiana wrestler had an injured knee and did not compete).

"It was just impressive to watch the physical skills of these guys," said Vagle.

"This was fantastic," he added. "They call it a 'Dream Team,' and that's exactly what it was."

Vagle wasn't the only one impressed by the Dream Team Classic. "Personally, the experience was especially enriching in getting to meet a legend of the coaching community like Virgil Vagle," said Tim Marzuola, coach of the Texas team. "What a class act and what a phenomenal coaching career."

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