DALLAS — In Walt Markee’s opinion, Dallas consistently has the most successful wrestling program in the state, from youth mat club to the high school program.
It also may have the worst wrestling facilities.
“The first thing, where this whole trail started was at the high school,” said Markee, a longtime wrestling assistant coach for the high school team. “The high school is probably the worst wrestling room in the state of any division, I think. I don’t know. I haven’t seen one worse. We’ve been using it for years, getting by with it.”
The wrestling room is just above the gym at the high school and it has a wall separating it from the bleachers, but it doesn’t extend to the ceiling.
“It’s just really loud up there. The basketball players are bouncing balls, every night,” Markee said. “Whether there’s a practice or a game, it’s just really loud because they are blowing whistles and playing music.”
The Dallas Booster Club wants to solve that problem by building a new wrestling room.
“The booster club is interested in building a new wrestling room, similar to what they did with the turf (field), and they asked me to head that up, Markee said.
Tony Olliff, Dallas' head wrestling coach, said the wrestling room is noisy and doesn't have enough room for a growing program.
"An ideal wrestling room is rectangular in shape, about two and a half competition mats in length, has decent access to a weight room, and has the ability to cut off unnecessary sound," he said. "The wrestling room the Dragons train in lacks sufficient square footage (especially when you factor in the possibility of a growing girl's program), has a 1/2 wall barrier that allows all gym noise to drown out instruction, and has an 'L' shape that is a significant challenge."
Olliff said the noise from basketball and volleyball practices and games changes the way he coaches his wrestlers.
"The constant noise makes communication impossible. If I want to talk to my wrestlers I take them to my classroom," Olliff said. "I rarely speak when I demonstrate a technique. I show, and try to emphasize, without speech. It's a limitation I've grown accustomed to, but I would love to be without it."
Markee has a bigger picture idea, though, and wants to see if the community will support it. He sees the wrestling programs at all levels function as a unit, and wants all to have adequate facilities. His idea may help the middle school physical education program and other sports programs as well: A new gym at Lacreole Middle School.
He presented the idea to the Dallas School Board as a possible booster club or district project.
“Even though the booster club and others recognize that the high school wrestling room is not adequate, the middle school is worse, believe or not,” he said. “They’ve got an old classroom that’s converted into a wrestling room. They actually have to hold practice in three different rooms because they have so many kids out for wrestling.”
Markee said the booster club could embark on a program to build just a new wrestling room, or a new gym or field house that all students and athletes could use.
“If you look at the middle school, they’ve got two gymnasiums, one upstairs and one downstairs. The one upstairs isn’t ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliable. People who need access can’t get up there and it’s really small. It’s completely inadequate for a basketball game, but it would make a great wrestling practice room,” Markee said. “If you moved the wrestlers up there, then you could build another field house or something and have another area for basketball players and other sports.”
Markee said he isn’t suggesting that the new facilities should be paid for with district resources, such a future facilities bond measure, but would like to explore all funding possibilities.
“The plan that I proposed is to look at all of our options,” he said. “That’s really all I want to do, look at all of our options to start with here.”
He said extra space for PE classes at the middle school would be beneficial for students and teachers. The last couple years, he’s taught a wrestling PE class under the supervision of PE teachers.
“I’ve watched the kids come out of the locker room to the gymnasium and there’s over 100 of them,” Markee said. “What those PE teachers are asked to do is completely unreasonable with the space that they have over there.”
He will get a close-up look at all the needs in the district as he has been appointed to the district’s long-range facilities planning committee. The group will look at current and future facility needs throughout the district that could be paid for with a future general obligation bond and make recommendations about what should be done.
“I don’t know if this will fall into that or not,” Markee said. “Right now, I’m just trying to figure out what the options are so we can get people behind it and do it.”