MISSOULA, Mont. - The Florence Carlton wrestling team has been in the B-C wrestling division for years, but something is different this season. For the first time ever the squad has a brand new practice facility.
"This is a place where I actually every day drive past this building and I call it home. Make sure to point to my little sister and say hey that's my home," said Keenan Hendricksen. "You know place we can call home. We can come in here drill what we want when we want," added Torren Lawson. "Having a home is what it's all about. Being able to put pictures on the wall and they can say that was my dad you know 20-30 years down the road," explained James Muir.
Since coach James Muir has taken over the head coaching job, the team has been fundraising and getting local support to help get their own wrestling room. The addition has been huge for the team. For years they had to practice in the gymnasium and that consisted of 30 minutes down time each day to roll out the mats.
"I can't even tell you what it's like to not have to roll up the mats. I've been wrestling since third grade and every single day every single season," said Hendricksen.
"You would think that somewhere along the line we would have had something to practice in besides the gym," added Lawson.
The team shares their new area with the Bitterroot Bucs baseball team to help on costs. The new facility is the first step to a permanent wrestling facility for Florence wrestling on the high school campus. They currently have a four-month lease for the facility.
"This facility is more than just a wrestling room. To me it's my last year, my last few months as a Florence Falcons wrestler and the day we got this was pretty emotional day," said Hendricksen. "It's super important to me that this whole situation continues because if we go back to wrestling in the gym again we're going back on cruise control, this is a step forward," explained Muir.
This year's team only has eight wrestlers. With the new space, expectations are for more kids to join from their large little guy wrestling program.
"Florence has got the most little guy participants in the whole valley. Even in Missoula, last year I think there was 85," said Muir. "Man over the years I've had three coaches in four years of high school, this was every single one of their dreams. It's just excellent to finally have that dream come true for so many different people in this small wrestling community of Florence," added Hendricksen.
This year's falcon team has no freshman, but hopes are high when it comes to growth now that things are working in their favor. Wrestling is important to the community and the support is huge for the sport.