JUNEAU — Former Dodgeland wrestling coach Josh Engel gave a lot to the school’s wrestling program in his four years as coach. He gave his time. He gave his passion for the sport. He gave guidance — both on and off the mat.
On Tuesday night, the program and the community gave back.
Josh and his wife Lora suffered a heartbreaking loss on Dec. 26 when their 4-year-old son Westyn passed away due to complications from Congentital Adrenal Hyperlasia (CAH), a rare hormonal disease that affects the kidneys.
So as a show of support for the Engel family, members of the Trojans wrestling team — players, coaches, family members and administrators alike — organized a special Wrestling for Westyn event during Dodgeland’s 57-18 Trailways South Conference loss to Johnson Creek.
Josh knew something was up when he and his family were asked to be in attendance, but he had no idea how big the event was or that the team had a framed superhero cape — Westyn loved Batman, Spider-Man and other superheroes — with a self-portrait Westyn drew of himself printed on it as a gift to the family.
“I don’t know that I can,” Josh said when asked to put into words what the gesture — the whole event, not just the gift — meant to him. “But it’s certainly overwhelming — overwhelming.
“I don’t know what to say. I really don’t know what to say. It’s remarkable to just see the character from these young men and women across the programs. I don’t have the right words. I wish I did — I wish I had a more eloquent way of putting it — but my wife and I and our family will remember this for a long time.”
Members of nearby Horicon’s wrestling program also were in attendance and Engel made a point to thank not just Dodgeland, but Horicon as well, and Johnson Creek for their participation in the show of support for his family.
Westyn was more than just a member of Dodgeland’s program by proxy — once he started walking and talking, he was one of the guys.
“He would come into tournaments and meets like this and one of his favorite sayings was, “Wanna wrestle?” Josh said. “He would go up and give the guys high fives and unbeknownst to me or his mom, he would give them stickers to put on their shoes or just to put on their warm ups before the matches. That’s something that the athletes brought up throughout this process that we thought was really kind of special.
“It means a lot that he was able to connect with them but also that they took the time to connect with the little guy. It makes you very, very grateful for all those relationships that were made along the way.”
For their part, members of Dodgeland’s wrestling team were happy to stand behind their old coach during this difficult time in any way possible.
“There’s no words. Just show support,” coach Dean Burrow, one of Josh’s former assistants, said. “Josh and Lora had no idea this was happening. He was with us all last week — I was out of state for work so he came up and helped out. He knows the program and he stepped in seamlessly, and the boys did a good job of keeping this from him. They kept it off Facebook.”
Josh, a 1999 Dodgeland graduate who led the Trojans to the Trailways South championship last season for the program’s first conference title since the 2003-04 season, stepped down following the season because of some military obligations he had coming this winter.
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But like Burrow said, Josh helped out last week and then after initially sitting in the stands for the start of Tuesday’s meet made his way down to the bench to lend a hand.
“I was actually doing the crowd a favor because I was yelling so loud,” Josh joked about not being able to stay a fan for long, adding of the fact he’s been helping out a little lately that “it definitely helps being busy. Being around the boys helps keep my mind off of things, and Westyn loved wrestling — he loved the boys and he loved just being part of this team and this family.”
The framed superhero cape — signed by everyone on the team and with the words “OUR SUPER HERO” and “Dream BIG” also printed on it — was one small way the Trojans gave back.
After the meet was over, Josh was asked what his emotions were the moment his family received that gift. He paused for a few seconds looking at it, then said this:
“That that little man, in four and a half years, made a heck of an impact. And it’s a testament that we should live life to the fullest every day and not take it for granted — and try to make as much impact every single day and be happy about it.”
As for the meet, the Trojans struggled due mostly to depth and inexperience. Of their healthy wrestlers — 145-pounder Hayden Kurth, a state qualifier last season, was out Tuesday — three are freshmen and two are sophomores.
Junior Andrew Benzing and sophomore Braxon Kohn both won by forfeit while senior 195-pounder Tye Bader, also a state qualifier last year, pinned Jakob Yoshino in 57 seconds to account for Dodgeland’s 18 points. Meantime, the Trojans conceded 18 points via forfeit.
But Burrow was pleased with the way 120-pounder Gedmon Mikolainis and 220-pounder Louie White competed.
The freshman Mikolainis is out for wrestling for the first time in his life while White made it all 6 minutes in a 6-0 loss to Lukas David after getting pinned in under 30 seconds by David last season.
Of Mikolains, Burrow said, “He never saw a wrestling mat before the season started, so he’s night and day from where he was. He’s learning every day.”
And in fact, that sentiment stands for the roster as a whole.
“They’re improving,” Burrow said.
JOHNSON CREEK 57, DODGELAND 18</&hspag3>
106 pounds — Matthew Gruss, JC, pinned Dylan Kohn, 1:55. 113 — Braxton Kohn, Dodge, won by forfeit. 120 — Mateah Roehl, JC, pinned Gedmon Mikolainis, 4:48. 126* — Ralph Hombsch, JC, pinned Jabin Tew, 4:41. 132 — Caden Heth, JC, won by forfeit. 145 — Alejandro Saldana, JC, won by forfeit. 152 — Isaiah Wollet, JC, won by forfeit. 160 — Andrew Benzing, Dodge, won by forfeit. 170 — Howard Olszewski, JC, pinned Tyce Vande Berg, 0:26. 182 — Double forfeit. 195 — Tye Bader, Dodge, pinned Jakob Yoshino, JC, 0:57. 220 — Lukas David, JC, def. Louie White, 6-0. Hwt — Kevin Morales, JC, pinned Dominic Hilburn, 0:40.
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