Tanner Francksen-Small didn't know how much of a chance he had to land the Sioux City North head wrestling coach opening.
While he was confident in his credentials, the fact that he wasn't a teacher or an employee for North had him wondering if he would get the job.
But that didn't seem to hinder Francksen-Small's chances. Back in July, Chris Koch informed Francksen-Small that he will be the new wrestling coach at Sioux City North for the 2020-21 season.
"It was pretty exciting. I always wanted to be a high school coach from the time I started wrestling," said Francksen-Small, who is also training to be an addiction recovery counselor. "Growing up in the sport of wrestling, I had the background but growing up, I always thought you had to be in the school system to get a coaching job. For me to not be in the school system and to get the job, it is really an honor."
Francksen-Small takes over for John Torno, who retired after 15 years of leading the Stars' program.
Francksen-Small is a 2015 Le Mars High School graduate and went on to wrestle for two years at Buena Vista. Then he transferred to Briar Cliff and while he didn't wrestle there, he spent time with the program. This past season Francksen-Small was the team's manager. Francksen-Small was also a volunteer assistant coach for Le Mars. Francksen-Small was in the corner for during one of his brother's, Jake Francksen-Small, matches at the state tournament.
The North job will be Francksen-Small's first as a head coach.
"It will be challenging but I am definitely up for the challenge," Francksen-Small said. "I've had obstacles my whole life. The coaching gig, bring on the challenges and that will make the reward so much sweeter in the end. I learned from four great college coaches and learned what it takes to run a program and what it takes to be successful."
Francksen-Small takes over a North program that only sent one wrestler, Nick Walters, to the Class 3A state tournament last season.
Francksen-Small sees potential in the Stars' program, though.
"We are really young. As long as the young guys buy-in and continue that trend with the middle school kids and the club kids, the sky is the limit," Francksen-Small said. "You just have to get the kids to buy-in. At the open mats, we are seeing six to eight guys coming in every day. They are really buying into the program right now which is good to see."
Francksen-Small knows success starts at the youth levels. He plans to also have a hand in the youth and middle school programs.
"The youth program plays a major role in it and it does really happen at the high school level, too. It's gotta be year-round and they have to be willing to put in the work, not just five months of the season, it has to be a year-round commitment," Francksen-Small said. "The youth kids look up to the high school kids and if they see the high school coach around, they will be excited. They will then know what to expect at the high school levels and I am going to try and be at some of their youth tournaments."
Based on last year's roster, Francksen-Small could have four seniors on the roster - Jayce Szalay, Chance Cruz, Jonathan Cruz and Walters. As a junior, Walters had 39 wins while wrestling most of the season at 126 pounds before bumping up to 132 for the district tournament.
Walters qualified for the state tournament but didn't earn a spot on the podium. As a sophomore, Walters finished in eighth place at 3A state at 120 pounds.
Walters is a three-time state qualifier going into his final season and Francksen-Small is looking to his senior-to-be to help him in the wrestling room.
"I am expecting a lot out of Nick to help lead the team. He's got that no-quit attitude and goes 100 miles per hour and I would like to see everyone go like that," Francksen-Small said. "Logan (Williams) is getting like that and it is crunch time for his career in terms of making it to the state tournament. Nick wants to make that podium and gotta button up and start working hard, too.
"Don't count North out. They are a young group of guys but so far at the open mats, they are stepping up and we will be tough this year."
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