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.

View exclusive subscriber content with The Guillotine Subscription. Current subscribers log in.

Lakers capture first section title in program history with dominant performance

HOWARD LAKE – When Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted wrestling coach Joe Puncochar took over the program eight years ago, his biggest challenge was trying to fill weight classes. Fast forward to 2023 and his biggest challenge was deciding which guys to put into the lineup.

The Lakers have been working on building a program over the years and it came to its pinnacle Friday night, capturing their first section title in program history with three convincing wins at the Section 4A Team Wrestling Tournament.

“They’ve wanted to do this for a really long time,” Puncochar said. “We’ve fallen short the last couple of years. All those things you tell someone and they keep doing it that it will pay off, it’s so nice as a coach when that comes true. Sometimes it might not pay off and you might never get to that point, but it feels really good for these kids to get that opportunity to wrestle in the big show.”

It’s a huge step for the Lakers as a program as they’ve continued to get better and better over the years. What started as a dream for Puncochar when he took the job became a reality in front of their home crowd. Continue reading at →