At the Farmington wrestling tournament on Jan. 4, Vagle set the new record. Since that date, the Paynesville Bulldogs have continued on a roll, winning match after match. Vagle enters the state tournament with a 485-97-4 record.
Vagle entered the 1996-97 season with a 455-96-4 record. RonMalcolm, retired Anoka/Worthington coach, leads the career victory list with a 463-118-5 record. There are eight Minnesota high school coaches who entered the 1996-97 season with 300 or more victories. Close behind Vagle is Bill Sutter of Goodhue. He had a 444-73-5 record at the beginning of the season.
ďI never wrestled in my life,Ē Vagle said of his accomplishment. ďWhen I came out of college, Paynesville was just starting their wrestling program and I was willing to give it a try.Ē Vagle attended wrestling clinics, read books on the subject and learned with and from the wrestlers themselves.
Vagle started coaching in Paynesville as an assistant coach in 1966 and took over the head coach position in 1967. His first year as head coach, the team finished with an 8-4 record. ThePaynesville wrestling program started in 1963. They ended with a 0-4 record and the next year had a 2-12 record.
ďPaynesville was probably a little ahead of the other area schools. Most of the schools added wrestling to their schedule about the same time Paynesville did,Ē Vagle said. ďWe had a strong program from the beginning.Ē
There were very few years that the Paynesville wrestling team was on the losing end. With Vagle at the helm, the team has won 22 of 23 district or sub-region championships from 1973 to 1995. Vagle said 1985 was the only year they did not win the district title, Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa won the title.
Paynesville has had 13 teams compete at the state tournament finishing with a 27-12 record. Paynesville has three state titles: 1987, 1990, and 1991. In 1990, the team was ranked seventh nationally in the polls and in 1991, 13th nationally.
Paynesville had a winning streak in conference dual matches of 113 duals over 17 years. Sauk Centre ended the streak. When the winning streak started, none of the wrestlers on the team had been born yet.
Vagle said he finds wrestling competitive, fun and exciting. ďI like to take kids that are willing to work. They may not always be the most talented but they are dedicated,Ē he said. ďThey put a lot of extra effort into wrestling and find the sport satisfying.
ďOur tradition of winning has helped the kids,Ē Vagle feels. ďThe program starts at the first grade level and they learn early on the rules and what is required of them.Ē The elementary program was started by Vagle 31 years ago when he started coaching.
ďI expect a lot out of the kids. There are no short cuts to success. If you want to succeed, you have to work hard and stick with it,Ē he said. ďEverybody is on the varsity squad. This year there are 33 wrestlers in the high school program and I interchange the wrestlers from match to match.Ē
Vagle said he does loads of homework on every team Paynesville comes up against. He never misses a boxscore in the Willmar, St. Cloud, Guillotine or metro newspaper. He knows which wrestler is winning and losing and who would make the best matchup in a team competition.
Vagle said the biggest part of his job is to motivate kids. ďYou need to make the kids feel they are important to the team and develop a work ethic. The kids realize there is a balance between fun and work,Ē he added. ďI let the assistant coaches work on the wrestling techniques while I instill a work ethic into the kids. We have well organized practices where everybody is involved in every area. There is a lot of one-on-one wrestling taking place.Ē
In his 31 years as Paynesvilleís wrestling coach, Vagle has earned Coach of the Year honors in 1987 and in 1990 was inducted into the Minnesota Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Vagle has had the privilege of coaching five of his sons on the team. Individually, Greg Schwartz won the state title in 1991; Troy Vagle finished third at state; Ryan Schwartz and Jay Vagle each finished fourth at state individually. All of the boys competed on state teams: Shawn Schwartz, Troy Vagle and Greg Schwartz were all on championship teams.
ďPaynesville has a great fan following which makes the sport exciting for the team members,Ē Vagle added.
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