Wadena-Deer Creek wrestling team pays tribute to former coach

The Wadena-Deer Creek Wolverine Wrestling team will pay tribute to their former head coach this season by naming the team’s home invite, “The Dennis Kaatz Wolverine Invitational.” The tournament will be held on Saturday, Nov. 30 at WDC Middle/High School in Wadena, Minn., starting at 10:30 a.m. The invitational will feature nine teams from central and northern Minnesota.

Former Wadena-Deer Creek Coach Dennis Kaatz.
Former Wadena-Deer Creek Coach Dennis Kaatz.

Current head wrestling coach Norm Gallant said Kaatz is being recognized for his 19 years of hard work and dedication with the Wolverine wrestling program.

“I had the opportunity to serve as one of Denny’s assistants for seven years. He is as classy an individual as there is. He built a great program based on hard work and respect. He taught the fundamentals and had a unique way of getting the best out of every kid that wrestled for him,” said Gallant.

“What he was able to build and the way he went about it was truly something special,” Gallant added. “It’s an honor to do something like naming the tournament after Denny so that he can be recognized for the incredible legacy he left here at WDC.”

Coach Kaatz took the helm of the Wadena wrestling program in 1986, following a three-year stretch that saw the program compile a 1-32 record. Following a 5-7 record during the 1986-87 season and 5-6 record in 1987-88, the team reeled off 16 consecutive winning seasons. In 1991, the Wolverines knocked off Staples-Motley in the district tournament, ending the Cardinal run of state tournaments that began in 1976. The Wolverines advanced to the state tournament in 1992, 2000, 2001 and 2002, earning fifth-place finishes in 1991, 2000 and 2001.

Kaatz retired in 2005 with a career record of 256-82. In addition to team success, Kaatz also coached six state champions and 62 state entrants. He was also “Class AA State Coach of the Year” in 2001.

Kaatz was inducted into the Minnesota Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2006, and continued coaching at Concordia College in Moorhead, helping to build the Cobber program into a Division III powerhouse in a short time.

The Wolverines have also honored Kaatz by displaying his name in the WDC Wrestling Room in the middle/high school. He is honored under the list of WDC state entrants, many of whom he had such a tremendous impact.

In addition to being a Hall of Fame wrestling coach, Kaatz is a Hall of Fame baseball coach. He was inducted into the Minnesota Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 2011. He won 355 games while losing only 169 games. He took teams to the state tournament in 1988, 1996 and 1997. Kaatz currently resides in Kenmare, N.D.