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Tom Mix, Published February 13 2013

Garland, 65, is a coaching fixture for Oakes wrestling

Oakes, N.D. - Several team dual and individual team championships have come Oakes’ way over the years, but one remaining constant the Tornadoes have enjoyed the last 32 years is Rod Garland.

Garland, 65, is the junior high wrestling coach at Oakes. It is a job he started working at in 1980, and since then he has prided himself in teaching technique to young Oakes wrestlers.

“We don’t normally have a lot of numbers at that level, but you can tell when the kids are catching on and progressing,” Garland said. “Then you see them wrestle as freshmen and you can tell they are going to be talented.”

The junior high wrestling season in over, but Garland will be in Fargo today to help assist Oakes head coach Cory Schall and the school’s eight wrestlers who qualified for the Class B individual state tournament that begins at 10 a.m. at the Fargodome.

Oakes is going for its fifth consecutive team individual title this weekend. Only Napoleon has strung together more consecutive titles, winning six straight from 2002 to 2007.

“When the junior high season is over, Rod steps right up and comes up to the varsity,” Schall said. “He doesn’t miss a junior varsity tournament or a varsity tournament. He just loves the sport of wrestling.”

Garland owns a roofing business in Oakes, so the winter months are freed up to hit the mats.

His contribution to Oakes wrestling was recognized last summer when Garland was named the North Dakota High School Coaches Association junior high wrestling coach of the year.

Garland said he enjoyed receiving the award, but was quick to point out he is in the profession for other reasons.

“I have always felt as a coach you don’t need to be patted on the back,” Garland said. “It’s about how well your kids succeed, being good sports and being respected around the state and other states we compete in. That is why you do it.”

Garland’s ties to Oakes wrestling go back to the 1960s. Prior to graduating from Oakes in 1965, Garland was a freshman on the school’s first traveling wrestling team formed in 1961.

His transition into coaching came shortly after watching Oakes wrestle Lisbon in a dual. Garland quickly recognized the more successful varsity teams had solid junior high programs.

Garland mentioned in passing to a few parents that he would like to coach at Oakes. That eventually prompted the school’s superintendent to offer Garland the junior high coaching position under then varsity coach Garry Opp.

When Opp stepped down as head coach, Garland was offered the head coaching position, but declined.

“I told them I wasn’t interested,” Garland said. “I enjoy coaching the younger wrestlers and teaching them the basics of wrestling.”

His longevity and experience has been an asset to every head coach he has worked with at Oakes.

“I have had some coaches when you first get them in they want to jump up to the varsity right away, but he has always stayed with the younger kids,” said Schall, who has been the head coach at Oakes since 2003. “That is something unique that you usually don’t get.

“He knows that the wrestlers need to have the basics taught to them in order to be successful.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562