Neil Wartnik feeling good vibes at Siuslaw

Siuslaw wrestling coach Neil Wartnik

Siuslaw Vikings wrestling coach Neil Wartnik has known some tough times.

Saturday wasn't one of them.

For the 10th time in as many years, Wartnik and his wrestlers were working the Wings and Wheels Car Show & Fly-in at the Florence Municipal Airport.

"It's our main fundraising service event," Wartnik said. "But we've had kids working all over the place, berry farms, work sites.

"Our young guys need to work. I want them to learn to work for their goals."

Work is a four-letter word worth worshipping for a program that went unfunded for three years, starting with the 2009-10 season.

"I tried to find as many novel fundraising events as I could," Wartnik said. "It was a tough time for the program. I handled a situation probably not as well as I could have.

"There were a lot of hard feelings, and kids disappeared. So I felt it was my responsibility to fix what I had broken."

The fix is in, and the program has bounced back nicely.

The Vikings had six medalists in the 4A Special District 2 tournament and sent four to state. Of those, the only loss is recently graduated Riley Jennings.

Among the top returnees are state qualifiers Matthew Horillo, Ryan Jennings and Elijah LaCosse and district medalists Hector Garcia and Brady Libby.

"I'm feeling good about next year," Wartnik said. "We're picking up our best eighth-grade class in forever, so we'll see. If we can continue to build the team dynamics, and the coaching staff, we have to prepare them.

"If we give them the right preparation, I think we're going to be a pretty solid team. We're in a great league, and that means we're going to get great competition that will challenge us."

Wartnik is especially bullish about the girls wrestling program, and expects four to five athletes this coming season.

"In many states, (girls wrestling) is huge," he said. "In Oregon, it's starting, it's catching on. It's the fastest growing sport in the country right now."

Wartnik enters his 29th year of teaching and coaching this fall, most of it at Siuslaw, and he sees a renewal of spirit in Vikings athletics.

"We've got kids going in a direction I feel really good about going," he said. "I really like what's going on with the football program."

Several Vikings wrestlers will be out for football, with first-year coach Sam Johnson, a 2013 Siuslaw graduate, igniting much of the enthusiasm.

"I'm excited about Sam coming," Wartnik said. "We have kids in the weight room, that's good. The way I look at it, whenever kids are not on the couch, not playing video games, not watching TV, it's a plus.

"We've got some good stuff going on (at Siuslaw), and hopefully we'll keep building."


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