It’s been a while since Browning High School wrestler Casey McDonald took the state title at 135 pounds in 2002. Only the fourth Browning wrestler to earn the trophy, McDonald was also ranked 13th in the nation and third worldwide. Now, he has recently learned he has been named Montana Class A Wrestling Coach of the Year.
Upon graduating from BHS, McDonald dove right into bull riding on the pro rodeo circuit. “That’s why I was gone so long,” he said. Returning to Browning for a visit some years later, he watched some wrestling matches and noticed the program had much room for improvement. “I saw so much natural talent on the reservation,” said McDonald, that he volunteered to help out with then-Coach Dan Racine. He liked the transition so well that he volunteered for another season while assisting his brother, Tony Brown, in coaching middle school wrestling at the East Glacier Park School.
“I never thought too much about coaching,” he said, “but I guess people grow up and mature a little more, so I volunteered for another year and it went from there.” McDonald took over head coaching the Browning wrestling Indians in 2015.
“There’s too much talent that shouldn’t go unseen,” McDonald said of the wrestlers he’s coached in Browning. “It’s just giving them the knowledge of how to use that talent. I think Browning is the home of great wrestlers and not just basketball.”
In just a short time, Coach McDonald has seen the numbers improving, not only for high school wrestlers but for wrestlers of all ages in Blackfeet country. “At first there weren’t many participants,” he said, “maybe seven at the high school and 15 at the middle school. But there’s way more people dying to be involved in this, especially the kids with a natural aggression – that’s what we’re looking for. I was born and raised in Browning, and I can relate to them. Being a coach you have to be so much more – a father figure, buddy and cousin. They must trust you to believe in you.”
This year the wrestling program at BHS saw 32 athletes turn out for the 2015-16 season while at BMS some 70 young matmen signed up for the program. “That’s about triple what it’s been the last three years,” McDonald said. In addition, more than 100 youngsters turned out for the Little Guy wrestling program, indicating a pipeline of future wrestling stars on the horizon.
“Every stage of the program has at least doubled,” McDonald said. “Wrestling teaches life lessons like no other sport; it can turn boys into men, and I hope the community realizes it’s not about the coaches or the adults; it’s for the kids.”
Continuity is vital throughout the organization’s teaching, and age groups learning the art of wrestling, according to McDonald. “We all as coaches touch bases with each other to be on the same program with the same moves and techniques,” he said. That way when wrestlers reach the high school level, they already know the basics and the approach Browning coaches take to the sport.
“I’d like to turn Browning into a wrestling town,” McDonald said of his dreams for the future of wrestling in Browning. “I think it’s a powerhouse, but it’s never been recognized. Wrestling should get as much recognition as basketball, but my ultimate goal is for scholarships for our high school wrestling kids.”