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Honoring a leader

The wrestling room at Jamestown High School will be officially dedicated to Wes Sharbono on Friday night. Sharbono was the first coach in program history. John M. Steiner / The Sun

Jamestown High School's wrestling tradition runs deep.

The program has produced numerous state champions, many competitive teams and successful, long-lasting coaches. The first of those was Wes Sharbono, who will be honored Friday night at the Blue Jays' home opening dual against, appropriately, Devils Lake.

When the Jamestown High School wrestling team began in 1959 Sharbono, a Devils Lake native, was the coach and he remained so until 1970. But Sharbono's impact was felt beyond the mat, said one of his former wrestlers.

"He instilled in everybody, in my class and years after, hard work, faith in ourselves and to respect authority," said Marlin Schlager, one of several former wrestlers under Sharbono who went on to successful coaching careers themselves. "He was a great leader and a man of character and that was something many of us tried to carry into our own lives."

Schlager spearheaded an effort to raise funds to dedicate the JHS wrestling room to Sharbono. The dedication will take place before Friday night's match, which begins at 7 p.m. Sharbono passed away on July 7, 2009.

"He taught us those old-fashioned values that I personally don't think are too old fashioned: basic hard work, ethics, toeing the line," Schlager said. "He was a great model, who could inspire young men to go out and give everything they had."

Sharbono's leadership also spawned a generation of accomplished coaches.

Schlager went on to coach wrestling in Belcourt and Minot High where he led the Magicians to a 1971 state title. Schlager coached until 1977.

Two other former pupils—Don Klostreich and Dave Bennett—went on to be honored by the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Sharbono graduated from Devils Lake High School in 1955 and then attended Jamestown College, where he excelled academically and athletically. Despite not wrestling in high school, he became a two-time conference champion for the Jimmies. He was also a co-captain in football and track and field and was inducted into Jamestown College's athletic hall of fame in 1994.

At Jamestown High, he led the 1963 team to a perfect 8-0 dual record and coached the school's first state champion—heavyweight Gary Ulrickson in 1963.

But it was more than the on-mat success that led Schlager and several other of his former wrestlers to undertake the project of honoring their former coach. Raising the necessary funds went smoothly, Schlager said, to where excess funds were donated to the Jamestown Wrestling Association to promote youth wrestling.

"A lot of Wes's former wrestlers and students went on to be pretty successful ... and not just financially," Schlager said. "I think that goes back to his core principles that he passed on to us.

"To be able to honor him, and what he meant to us, I think it's a fitting tribute."

Dave Selvig

Selvig has been a sports writer at The Sun since 1999 and sports editor since 2009.

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