'A cool man': Larry Eslick coaches last-ever home dual
The Jamestown High School wrestling team faced Mandan on Jan. 27.
JAMESTOWN — By the sounds of it, Larry Eslick has done a pretty darn good job as the fifth Jamestown High School head wrestling coach.
"Coach is a kind person," JHS senior Jackson Walters said. "He cares about us as people. He loves us endlessly — he tells us that all of the time. He just wants the best for us as people. He goes by 'strength and honor' which is a pretty cool motto to live by. He puts that straight into us and we all feed into it. He's a really cool man."
"He shows us how to be leaders," Aden Braun added. "We look up to him for sure. He's always teaching us life stuff not just wrestling stuff and he's always teaching us how we can be closer to God. He's always making us push each other. Like he says, iron sharpens iron."
Walters and Braun's teammate, Pete Rasmussen, nodded along, then took a stab at putting into words what Eslick has meant to him.
"God comes to mind when I think about Coach," Rasmussen said. "His faith is so strong and he brings that into the room with him every single day. He teaches us not only to be a team but how to be a brotherhood. Through the adversity of the room, he always brings us closer together and stronger as a team."
Friday evening marked Eslick's last-ever home dual of his coaching career. The 24-year coach is retiring due to health reasons at the end of the season. Eslick was a longtime assistant coach under former head coach Greg White. He then took over the program in the early 2010s.
"It's been a fun ride and a good group to go out with," Eslick said. "These seniors — I watched them come into the club when they were five or six and it's kind of the group that we've built this program around. The support system here — the parents, the community, the administration — it has just been wonderful. It's been an incredible experience. I've been blessed."
Eslick's first season coaching came in the winter of 1999-2000. The first dual he ever coached took place in the old high school against Fargo South. The Jays wound up defeating the Bruins but it was a strange start to Eslick's career.
"One of our kids got in trouble and literally hit a kid and got ejected right away," Eslick recalled. "It was a crazy start to my career."
Since then the head coach has seen a lot more firsts come to pass.
In 2003, Eslick and the Jays' moved from the old high school to the current building.
In the 2007-08 season, the Jays made the move over to the Western Dakota Association from the Eastern Dakota Conference.
"It was interesting because the second-to-last year we were in the EDC, we hosted the EDC region here and then two years later — our first year in the West we hosted the West Region," Eslick said. "That was kind of a unique situation."
In his 24 seasons, Eslick has coached 14 athletes to state championships and has been privileged to coach nearly 100 state tournament placers. In 2020, Eslick helped to guide the Jays back to the state tournament for the first time in 17 seasons. The return to the state dual tournament was followed by trips in 2021 and 2022.
In 2020 and 2021 the Jays finished third as a team while last season the Blue Jays earned a fourth-place finish.
Last year Jamestown had a program high of five semifinalists at the state level. 2022 marked the Jays' first time being named state-runners up of the individual tournament in 25 years. The Jays also tied the program record of nine state placers.
"I don't think he'll ever really leave the room," Rasmussen said. "I think his legacy will always be there. What he has implemented into the team — I think the future generations will always carry that with them."
The Jays gave Eslick a heckuva farewell Friday night.
"We just wanted to win it tonight," Walters said. "That's what we were focusing on. It was pretty cool that they honored him beforehand and then he ran out with us which was the first time he said he's ever done that so that was pretty cool."
Jamestown topped Mandan 51-25 to earn its sixth conference win of the year. Eslick has helped to lead the Jays to a 6-3 conference and 9-5 overall record so far this season. Final individual results were not available when the Jamestown Sun went to press.
The Jays are scheduled to compete at the Aberdeen Central tournament Saturday. The scheduled start time for the Jays is 9:30 a.m.
Things started off with four pins — two from Jamestown and two from Mandan to knot up the score at 12 points apiece but the forfeit came in clutch for the Jays. began with a pin from the Jays' starting 138-pounder, Sam Schlepuetz, to put the Jays up 6-0 but Mandan countered with a pin of its own to even things up at six apiece through two matches.
Forfeits at 170, 182 and 195 pounds gave the Jays a 30-12 advantage. A takedown from the Jays' 220-pounder, Ethan Gall pretty well sealed Tim Bauer's fate. The Blue Jay senior pinned his opponent at the 1:10 mark of the first period to put another six points on the board.
Dalton Darby and Jack Schauer got two more pins for the Jays to make it 48-12 heading into the final four matches of the night.
Mandan's Kellem Beneke got the best of AJ Matzke, pinning the Jays' 113-pounder to make it a 30-point match. Blaine Hoff cut the Jays' lead to 27, collecting a 5-0 decision over Lucas Schlepuetz but Rasmussen extended the Jays' lead back to 30 with a win by decision over Marquis Richter.
Mandan's Maddox Slater earned a major decision over Levi Trevithick but all the four points did was make it a 26-point win by the Jays, not 30.
"We're still not done — we've got a lot to do yet," Eslick said. "This team is a championship team. We've got one more week, one more important dual in Valley City against Legacy and we've got to get that one and see if we can make it back to the state dual tournament. We're a little banged up so we're working on getting some guys healthy and we'll see what happens from there."
Needless to say, it'll be fun to see how Eslick's career — and the Jays' season — will finish up.
"I told the kids I am retiring but I am not quitting on them," Eslick said. "I'll still be around the program. It's kind of surreal right now. We're still in compete mode, and still got things to do.
"These kids have been fantastic," he said. "They are just an incredible group of kids to go through this with. They are humble, they work hard every day, they are good teammates — I couldn't ask for a better team."