The Fun of Creating a Wrestling School

Joe Puncochar and Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted Wrestling

By Brian Jerzak

When Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted head wrestling coach Joe Puncochar looked into the Xcel Energy Center stands early during the program’s first state tournament appearance, he couldn’t help but reflect on how far the Lakers’ wrestling program had come.

“The biggest thing that hit me and helped push us was that we had so many people there,” Puncochar said. “When I took over, there were meets where we didn’t have fans. I remember a tri in Holdingford my first year. We only had twelve kids on the team, and one or two were varsity-level kids. When we were about to start wrestling, I looked up into the bleachers, and we didn’t have anyone there. Then looking up into the stands in the Xcel Energy Center and seeing a couple of sections with your team colors cheering you on meant a lot to me.”

Seven years after that night in Holdingford, Puncochar no longer sees empty bleachers. The road to the state tournament had its share of ups and downs, but Puncochar ensured the road was paved with one thing in particular – fun.

The future Lakers’ head coach is a third-generation wrestler.

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