It's a good thing that Homestead wrestling coach Ernie Millard is so popular around school.
Because if the gregarious, earnest (no pun intended) and engaging teacher and baseball coach weren't so, there was no way in heck he and an army of volunteers would have been able to pull off what they did last weekend.
For around the eighth or ninth year in a row (Millard forgets exactly how long), the Highlanders held their 18-school varsity scramble tourney on Friday night and then followed that up with their 21-team junior varsity event on Saturday morning.
And they made it work, even though there was a price to pay.
"My wife picked up a movie on Saturday night," he said. "She put it on at about 8:15 p.m. I think I was asleep by 8:16 p.m. She said it was a good movie (laughs)."
His volunteers no doubt found themselves in a similar state.
"We started with the junior varsity kids helping out with the varsity meet on Friday and then the varsity kids helped out with the JV meet on Saturday," Millard said.
But that involved a little training, because even though there are some experienced hands in the school capable of running scoreboards, there are not nearly enough to handle myriad mats going on at any one time over the two-days of wrestling insanity.
"The scorekeepers are the most important thing," Millard said. "So about three weeks ago we took some JV kids aside and worked with them on scorekeeping methods and they got familiar with it. Even working in Track (the most common record-tracking program for wrestling in the country)."
As usual, football gurus Dave Keel and Fritz Rauch worked the head table with Brent Manor for both days. Millard said that the usually low-key head football coach Keel was very colorful in his pronouncements late Friday night during the varsity tourney as he also deftly handled PA duties.
Millard even called in some of his baseball players and other friends to help out.
Invaluable in his aid was Mequon/Thiensville Mustangs Youth Wrestling administrator Tom Price
Price, whose senior son, Zach, is one of Millard's top varsity wrestlers this year, and who is an old wrestling hand himself from his collegiate days at Michigan, was only too glad to lend a hand. He's so into it that he can even laugh at himself a little when he fondly recalls his competitive college weight of 150 pounds.
Working the way he did last weekend might have helped him make weight.
"I think I was there about 24 out of 30 hours," he laughed about the weekend, "and it is fun. It's an opportunity to watch some great wrestling in the gym. I could watch it all day. It's amazing how Ernie is able to do this. Every year he gets a lot of volunteers to come out.
"It's funny, it's like booking an airline flight (speaking of the volunteers). You look at the log sheet beforehand and there are a lot of open spaces and then by the time it's all done, it's filled."
The only bad thing about the weekend for Price is that while he is a true-blue Highlander, he is also still a big time follower of his maize and blue Michigan alma mater. The Wolverines had a huge men's basketball game at arch-rival Michigan State late on the Saturday afternoon of the JV tourney.
He also had to make an appearance at a fundraiser after the wrestling finished at about 5:30 p.m. so he made sure he had the game recorded.
"I was all set to watch it afterwards but then people kept coming up to me and telling me what happened," he chuckled again.
He couldn't be too disappointed as his underdog Wolverines pulled off the upset of the favored host Spartans.
And he was pleased as punch as he, Millard and the rest made the two day wrestling bonanza come off without a hitch.
"The kids did a great job setting things up (in the field house) on Thursday night," Price said. "Everyone was willing to work hard."
"We could not do it without Tom Price," Millard said.
Others appreciated the effort, too.
"I like the set-up and I love scramble formats," Whitefish Bay coach Dale Loebel said. "It's good for his program and a lot of fun, too."
Even if it does fray a few nerves.
"Every year on Friday I'm like 'I don't know if we can do this' and then by Saturday night we're like 'Hey, that went pretty well,'" Millard said.
For full Homestead and Bay results, see online Sports wrapups.
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