Gielczyk: Montney Takes Over Manistee Wrestling Program
After just one season as an assistant coach during Darrell Burchfield’s brief two-year run as the Manistee High School wrestling coach, Bobby Montney takes the helm to lead the program as its fourth head coach in the last five years.
Burchfield left Manistee for a job in Iowa that he didn’t feel he could turn down, after winning a Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 3 district championship.
The coach before him lasted only one season before leaving the area.
One constant through all of the change at the top has been the poor numbers, with the Chippewas seldom fielding more than 10 or 12 wrestlers, and never filling out a complete squad.
So, by necessity, the Chippewas have focused on individual success, and seeing how many wrestlers they can get to the regional tournament as well as state.
Last season, Bryson Jensen reached the 150-win plateau for his career in the same match that assured him of an All-State finish at the state championships.
Only one other Manistee wrestler won 150 matches in his career, Adam Ball in 2014.
He wound up finishing sixth at 160 pounds, with 152 career wins, and signed a National Letter of Intent to continue his wrestling career at Midland University in Nebraska where he hopes to make his mark.
Jensen is gone, but another state qualifier, Keaton Ensley. Wrestling at 152 pounds, Ensley lost two matches and did not make it to the medal round. But, his experience at state should have only served to whet his appetite for more this season.
Montney is excited for the opportunity, while recognizing that getting the numbers to a more respectable level so the Chippewas can start thinking about winning matches and conference titles is a huge challenge.
“I learned a lot from Darrell,” Montney said. “I knew him when I was in high school, actually. He coached at Swan Valley (and Montney wrestled for Caledonia, a school south of Grand Rapids).
“We wrestled Swan Valley a few times when I was in high school. Didn’t personally know him until last year, but just watching him coach his kids was great.”
Montney, 25, moved to Manistee last May and began working as the office manager at Manistee Chevrolet. A good deal of his family lives in Manistee. His father, also named Bob, was born in Wellston and grew up in the area. He works at the Ford dealership, and now lives in Bear Lake.
After graduating from high school, Montney continued his education at Grand Valley State University, where he was a two-time national qualifier in wrestling.
“Unless you win a national championship, no one really feels like they accomplished all of their goals,” Montney added. “And I didn’t. But, looking back I feel that it was a lot of great experiences.
“We were team runnersup for the national championship, so I was close. It was a lot of learning. I had a lot of great practice partners that I went against every single day, which I think is key for any great program.”
Montney said what he liked most about wrestling was it was a one-on-one competition.
“At the end of the day if you lost, it wasn’t because of anyone else, it was because the other wrestler was better than you,” Montney said. “You reviewed the match, and found out what you needed to work on.
“I think it holds you accountable. You can bring that into your life once you’re done with the sport. So, for me it was that, plus it was a way to escape from the stresses and problems. When I was in the wrestling room, I focused on that.”
Montney believes that the Chippewas have some quality wrestlers on the team, and that having two wrestlers reach the state finals will peak more interest among some that might be straddling on the fence.
He also says he’s in it for the long term.
“Definitely,” he said. “I love the sport, and so for me it’s being able to give back, being able to coach. I want to give the kids the experience I had. I’m going to do it as long as I can. I think that’s success itself.
“As long as I can get out on the mat, I’ll be involved in the sport in some way.”
The Chippewas are hoping he is, too.
Greg Gielczyk is an award-winning sports columnist and sportwriter who worked a total 36 years — interrupted for an 18-month period from 1997-99 — at the Manistee News Advocate as sports editor until 2006 and is now retired. He currently is a freelance sportswriter for the Ludington Daily News. Gielczyk can be reached at email@example.com for story ideas.