SHERIDAN — The cost to purchase three new mats for the Sheridan High School wrestling team totaled just under $30,000, but the support the team received to make that purchase was priceless.
The SHS wrestling team will wrestle on softer and better surfaces this winter after the community rallied to pay for new mats.
SHS head wrestling coach Tyson Shatto began exploring options to replace the mats earlier this year. The current mats had lost most of their compression, leading to a hard surface.
This was a safety concern for Shatto.
“Usually, when you walk on (mats), it sort of gives,” Shatto said. “And ours weren’t doing that. That can create safety problems.”
Both the practice mats and the competition mats hardened and started to rip after years of repeated use.
For many years, every time there was a home wrestling meet at the high school or junior high school, the mats were transported between the schools and were exposed to the elements, affecting their surface.
But when school officials looked at purchasing new mats, they ran into a problem — high-quality mats are not cheap.
Shatto and SHS staff examined the option of just purchasing one mat. This way, both the junior high school and the high school could have their own competition mat.
Still, the Broncs would have to wrestle on deteriorating practice mats.
“What we really needed was three mats,” Shatto said.
To get the funding, Shatto approached local organizations. He started with Sheridan’s youth wrestling program — The Sheridan Young Guns Wrestling Club.
“A lot of those guys who were Young Guns wrestlers are wrestling on those same mats in high school,” Shatto said. “You talk about those mats being 18-years old, most of those kids have been wrestling on those mats for their entire life.”
However, the club’s board had a similar idea.
“They really wanted to help with this,” Shatto said. “They didn’t just put a little money to it — they put $12,500 to new mats.”
The offer surprised Shatto. The donation quickly put the Broncs halfway to the goal.
The wrestling team received additional donations from Wyoming Rehab totaling more than $6,000.
In addition, the Sheridan High School Booster Club kicked in funds and the wrestling team received support through the annual Hoop Jam basketball tournament.
Through those donations, the team was able to purchase three brand-new mats for both practice and competition. It covered almost the entire cost of the purchase.
“I didn’t expect it,” Shatto said about the support the program received. “Even when we went to Young Guns Wrestling — when they threw a number out there like $12,500 … that was awesome.
“Just putting that kind of numbers behind it, a guy can’t thank those people enough,” Shatto added. “The idea behind it that they didn’t bat an eye lash knowing that they were going to be helping kids, helping the program was awesome.”
SHS activities director Don Julian told Sheridan County School District 2 board members at a July meeting that this was significant considering difficult financial times for the school district. He said it demonstrates athletic programs and the Booster Club are doing their part to help pay for activities.
Shatto said the support they received from the community is critical in order to continue to develop the wrestling program and other high school programs.
“Especially in budget crunch time like we are in when you think something like this would be on the back burner, we are still able to go full steam ahead.”