Published 1/24/2013 in None : GCHS
Editor's note: The following story is reprinted, with permission, from the Abilene Reflector-Chronicle in 2012.
ABILENE — During his tenure as wrestling coach his teams won nine team state titles, three at Goodland High School and six at Garden City High School.
His programs produced an amazing 30 state champions. Welton put together an incredible dual record of 200-50-4.
On his Kansas Coaches Association's hall of fame plaque it reads, "One of the secrets to Welton 's success was his concern for not only his wrestlers, but any student he came into contact with. Many times, Welton and his wife Phyllis put a kid up for the night until a family problem could be quietly resolved and the child returned home. Many times he challenged a student to take his grades more seriously."
Yet when he was called Buddy, instead of Rocky, Wallace Welton was going to be a football player. He went on to play for Kansas Wesleyan University were he was named all-conference. The Reflector-Chronicle had an opportunity to asked Rocky a few questions about his career.
R-C: Nine state titles, 30 champions, that's very impressive. What is your best advice to wrestlers?
Welton : Thank you. The best advice is to keep a positive attitude. You can win and you can be beat. When you get beat you have to work hard to win later.
R-C: Along those same lines, what is the most common mistake made by wrestlers?
Welton : The major thing is to be fundamentally sound. If you don't have the fundamentals you aren't able to react correctly to your opponent.
R-C: How did you become a wrestling coach?
Welton : I started in 1959 as an assistant coach at Liberal High School. In the 1960-61 season the head coach had a heart attack and I became the head coach that year. I was a football player in high school and in college. I wrestled my senior year of high school at Salina High School, now known as Salina Central. I had moved up from Arkansas and went out for wresting because I wasn't very good at basketball. Bill Lundy was my coach. He was one of the top wrestling coaches in the state of Kansas. Throughout my coaching career, I would ask myself what coach Lundy and coach Bissell (my college football coach at KWU, Gene Bissell) would do and that was what I did.
R-C: How did you get the name Rocky ?
Welton : I don't know if I should tell this story. It was in Fort Smith, Ark., back when there was segregation. We had rock fights with some of my buddies and some of the black kids. We got along; we just had rock fights in an old quarry. The black kids didn't know what my name was. I was called Buddy back then instead of Wallace. Once when I didn't show up one of the guys asked 'Where is that other guy, that Rocky guy.' I always had a decent arm for rocks. They started calling me Rocky . It just caught on.
R-C: Western Kansas has always had a reputation for producing good wrestlers and good wrestling teams. How did that start and does the west still dominate?
Welton : Northwest Kansas became organized quicker when high schools were starting programs. It was the place to go for wrestling. Now it has leveled off throughout the state.
R-C: In just about all other sports, changes in rules, equipment, etc., have made significant differences. What have been the changes in wrestling in 39 years? Along those same lines do you like or dislike the new weight classes this season which adds a weight over 160 pounds and takes one under away?
Welton : Technique has improved. Kids are learning things earlier through kids wrestling programs. I understand why the upper weight was added, but I'm not sure losing the lower weight is good.
R-C: Tell me about your grandkids Kolby, Kane and Keil. You watched them grow up in the wrestling room. When did you first think Kane could be something special on the wrestling mat?
Welton : When Kane was wrestling as a kid he enjoyed it more than his brothers. They all liked to play and roll around in the wrestling room. They learned basic moves and it was a transforming time to figure out if it was their sport or not. I was pleased to see them try different things in middle school and high school. Kolby went to theatre, Kane wrestling and Keil basketball. That way they cheer for each other and never compete against each one another. They found what they do well. I think it's great. My other grandsons have just started wrestling and they are finding out if they like it. Miller Unruh wrestles for the Abilene Kid's Club and Hogan Thompson wrestles for Pratt's kids club. They are only third graders and one more is only three years old, so they really haven't found their sport yet.
R-C: Do you recall your first state championship at Goodland? Can you give me some details? Of the nine titles does one stand out over the others and why?
Welton : That's like picking a favorite child. Every time we won a state title I felt blessed. We had good kids and they were dedicated.
R-C: You had 30 state champions, is there a wrestler that stands out, and he, or she, doesn't have to necessarily be a state champion, and what is it that makes that person special?
Welton : Doug Duell, from Goodland, was the first four time state champion in Kansas. That was pretty exciting. I had a lot of kids wrestle for me. Some of those kids turned out to be good wrestlers and some not so good, but they all worked hard and did their best. I believe that the idea on the team was that everyone was important. They worked harder, fought harder and took care of each other. They are a family that is connected through wrestling.
R-C: When did you retire and when did you move back to Abilene? Do you go back to the Garden City tournament every year and will this be special since Abilene is invited? Welton : I retired in 1999. We moved to Abilene to be closer to our daughters that had moved into the area. I look forward to going this year because of Kane participating and it's the last year the tourney will be held in that building. Garden City just built a new high school.
R-C: Is there something you would like to add?
Welton : I was lucky to able to work at the job I always wanted to do. I loved coaching and feel privileged to have been able to coach. I also had some pretty good kids. The first day I coached at Garden City I came home and told Phyllis, 'If I can't win with these kids, I might as well quit.'
Found 1 comment(s)!
I knew of Mr. & Mrs Welton from the Northwest part of the state, long before I moved to Garden City. They are both a class act. It is the people who have been around you both that are privileged!
Posted by: Tom Dinkel on 1/24/2013