By: BY HOD NIELSEN
The saga of the Wallman family still lives on. The March edition of the NFHG (the journal of the National Federation of State High School Associations) sent writer Laura Hundagen on a tour to see what she could find on the present whereabouts of the Wallmans. Her story is called "One of the Great Moments in High School Sports, "and not just in South Dakota, but in the United States.
The story of the most outstanding wrestling family in the history of the popular sport began in Miller in 1961, when Gary Wallman, the sire of the clan, became the first-ever wrestler in this state to win four state championships in his high school career -- 1961-1964. His three sons provide the climax.
Gary went on to have some fine years on the mat as a high-place finisher in the NCAA when he was an Iowa State all-American in his college days. He then went into high school coaching -- and he had three sons who followed his path when he was an outstanding coach for Freeman High School.
His oldest son, Troy, put together an almost unbelievable four high school years when he won four state titles from 1985-1988, running up 138 wins and only two losses in that time.
Then came Kirk, whose 143 straight wins as an undefeated high school student/athlete (1986-1989) and six state championships put his name on the list of one of the 50 top South Dakota Sports Figures, a list made up by Sports Illustrated. Actually, Kirk's six state high school titles was not recognized by the NFHS (although it is by the South Dakota Association), as the first two were earned while he was in seventh and eighth grade. Four is national group's the limit -- and his high school record remains unsurpassed.
The last of Gary's wrestling stars, Cory, carried his four gold medals (1992-1995) to stardom at the University of Wisconsin, where he was a three-year letter-winner and gained all-American status.
Except for Cory, who is currently an assistant wrestling coach for the Wisconsin Badgers, the Wallman's continue to live in their home state.
Dad Gary is, after a few years absence, back in coaching, handling the Harrisburg grapplers. "My retirement lasted for six years, "he said, "but they asked me to do it again. I enjoy it, so we'll take it a year at a time."
Troy, the oldest of Gary's sons, lives in Sioux Falls with his wife Angel and two daughters, Mesa 4 and six-month old Ryah. He is engaged in the automobile business.
Kirk, attended the University of Minnesota for a year, then moved to Iowa State University, where he wrestled for a while. "Wrestling felt more like a job in college, "he said. "I lost interest because I wasn't around my father."
Kirk is presently the general manager of a motorcycle dealership in Sioux Falls. He and his wife, Shelly, have two young sons, Cade, 9, and Tate, 6. Neither of the boys is a wrestler. "They both like baseball, "he said. "Wrestling is too big a hill for them to climb. They'd be compared to their father and that's not fair to them."
Cory, who coaches the middle-weight Badger wrestlers and is in charge of the U of W wrestling recruiting, says that his goal is to "some day be a head wrestling coach at the college level, but it's a tough goal to reach."
The Wallman boys all give credit to their dedicated father for their storied success. "The more you prepare, the less pressure you feel to win, "said Cory, "and we were more prepared that anyone else out there, so there was no pressure."
Dad Gary coached all three of his sons while they lived in Freeman. "I suppose that I was a little tougher on them, "he admitted. "They put in more overtime than other kids. When we had extra practices the other kids could come if they wanted, but they generally didn't. My three put in more time."
That extra time paid off in 18 state wrestling championships, counting Dad's four and Kirk's two while he was a 7th and 8th grader.
That's time well spent.