The high school wrestling season is still seven months away, but the landscape will look a whole lot different come November.
The former West Burlington-Notre Dame/Danville program has been reorganized. It will now be Notre Dame-West Burlington/Danville. The team name will switch from Falcons to Nikes and the color of the singlets will change from green and blue to gold and blue.
And the new head coach? Future Hall of Famer Bill Plein, who resigned after 28 seasons at Columbus, where he built that program into a state powerhouse, has accepted the head coaching position at ND-WB/Danville, pending approval by the Notre Dame school board at its May 29 meeting.
And so when the wrestling season gets under way in November, there will be some familiar faces in some new places.
"The program will be moving to Notre Dame and we will be in charge of everything," Notre Dame athletics director Jeremy Swink said Tuesday morning. "Our coach will be Bill Plein, pending school board approval. Everyone is on board, so I don't anticipate any problems there. Some of the details still have to be worked out. We're still in the skeleton process, but it is official. Notre Dame will have its own wrestling program and West Burlington and Danville will share."
"They approached me and said the position was open, so I resigned at Columbus and accepted the position at Notre Dame," Plein said. "It's going to be a young program with a lot of young kids, kind of like Columbus was when I took that job (in 1990). I like working with the young kids and building a program."
West Burlington restarted its wrestling program in 1990 after it was put in moth balls in the mid-1970s. The program was coached by Mike Sayre, then Lee Lundvall and Ryan Phillips. Eric Walechka coached the Falcons last year.
After last season, the three schools decided to go their separate ways. West Burlington was looking into sharing a program with Burlington, Danville was exploring the option of sending its wrestlers to Mount Pleasant while Notre Dame was looking at starting its own program for the first time since the 1980s.
With a little help behind the scenes from Sam West, the Nikes' program took off. The Nikes will practice at the DC Elite facility on West Mount Pleasant Street, home of the old Burlington Basket Factory addition. DC Elite will let the Nikes borrow their yellow mat for home meets, which will be held at Father Minett Gymnasium with the exception of one home dual, which will be competed in the elementary school gym due to a scheduling conflict with basketball on that night.
The West Burlington Duals will continue as the ND-WB/Danville Duals, which will be held on Dec. 20.
The Nikes' first home meet is a quadrangular with New London, Van Buren and West Hancock, scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. on Nov. 29 at Father Minett Gymnasium. It will be the first varsity wrestling meet at Notre Dame since it hosted the SEI Superconference Tournament on Feb. 7, 1998.
Swink said new singlets will be ordered, using the gold and blue colors of Notre Dame with "Nikes" emblazoned across the front.
"The old West Burlington uniforms were up for replacement this year, so that worked out well in that cycle, too," Swink said. "Sam West has been gracious enough to let us use his yellow mat for home meets, and for tournaments we will use a hodge podge of mats. Right now I am in the process of working on the schedule. A lot of the machines and things in the program will come over here for us to use, and we will ask our boosters and parents to help out with running the meets and things like that."
The Nikes are getting one of the best wrestling coaches in state history, a sure-fire Hall of Famer whenever he decides to retire. Plein, who lived in Mediapolis, taught in Wapello and coached in Columbus Junction for 28 years, has resigned his positions at Wapello, pending school board approval.
Plein is 12th in the state's all-time wins list with a career record of 404-86-1. His 82.3 winning percentage is seventh-best all-time. He coached Columbus to five straight state team championships from 1995-99. His 1995 and 1997 teams were the first in state history to win traditional state team titles in different classes.
Plein has coached 13 state champions in his career and sent several wrestlers on to the NCAA Division I level, two of whom became All-Americans.
Plein is looking forward to the next chapter in his coaching career.
"I will get down there and see what kids we have that are interested in wrestling and see what the facilities are like. I will look at the athlete we have and the skill level and start building a youth program and build up from there," Plein said. "It's just wrestling. No matter what gym you are in or what singlet you have on, it's all just wrestling. We are going to go down there and do the best we can."