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Former PHS wrestlers coaching together

Posted 2/16/21

Long before coaching wrestling together at Powell High School, a connection had already been formed between Nick Fulton, Juston Carter and Cody Kalberer. 

When longtime head coach Nate Urbach …

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Students to teachers

Former PHS wrestlers coaching together

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Long before coaching wrestling together at Powell High School, a connection had already been formed between Nick Fulton, Juston Carter and Cody Kalberer. 

When longtime head coach Nate Urbach retired ahead of the 2020-21 school year, Fulton — a former PHS wrestler and assistant under Urbach — was named the replacement. A 2000 graduate of PHS, Fulton enlisted Carter, one of his classmates, and Kalberer, a PHS native who graduated 10 years behind the two, as his assistants.

In addition to being classmates, Fulton and Carter were best friends growing up. They weren’t as close with Kalberer, due to the difference in age, but they were still familiar with him from seeing Kalberer at wrestling events and knowing his family. 

For the three former Panther wrestlers, coaching with one another at their old high school is a dream.

“It’s awesome,” Kalberer said. “We put so much in as athletes when we’re younger, and it’s nice to give back to the kids and the program. People pour a lot of sweat into us when we’re athletes, so to give it back when you’re older is important.”

After their respective graduations from PHS, each of the current assistant coaches continued their wrestling careers in different ways.

Fulton was a wrestler for Jim Zeigler at Northwest College, while Carter competed at University of the Cumberlands in Kentucky. And while Kalberer didn’t wrestle in college, he spent significant time training with the wrestling team while attending University of Wyoming. 

In addition to their experienced backgrounds in the sport, the coaches build credibility with the kids in another way: They’ve all previously been in the kids’ footsteps. 

“They know that we’ve been through this before,” Carter said. “A lot of the kids can respect us because of that.”

Kalberer added, “They know that we’ve dumped as much sweat for the same goal — to be the best you can. They don’t look at us as coaches who are just spouting nonsense. They see us as people who have done it and look where they are now with the work they’ve put in.”

With the trio all hailing from Powell, there is added incentive — and pressure — to lead a strong program, which has won several state championships.

“A lot of people know us, so that carries a lot of weight,” Fulton said. “Being local, we’re not only representing ourselves and our kids, it’s a matter of pride when we go out there. We want to represent them well.”

Due to COVID-19, the group’s first year coaching together has been anything but normal. The team lost all of its summer workouts because of the pandemic.

In such an unconventional time, the coaches’ relationship has helped the program stay afloat. 

“It’s definitely made it easier because we can talk honestly and be open with each other,” Carter said. “We don’t have to worry about hurting someone’s feelings. We can just be honest and open and try to move the team forward as best we can.”

Over the course of the season, the team has shown significant growth. The Panthers struggled in their first couple of duals, winning very few matches early on, but they have steadily improved upon returning from winter break, upending some of the state’s top teams. 

Adjusting to the pandemic hasn’t been easy for anyone in the program. But with the coaching trio’s pre-formed bond, PHS is peaking at the right time as it heads to the postseason. 

“Knowing we’re holding each other accountable, it’s taken a lot of pressure off,” Kalberer said. 

Fulton added, “For all the adversity that we’ve been dealt, we’re still continuing to improve. That’s important. We want to see it pay off at the end.”

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