Bad Dawgs split from youth wrestling

It took two hours, thousands of words and some tears, but in the end, two youth wrestling organizations in Craig finished the way they started five years ago -- separate.

On Thursday, the Moffat County Youth Wrestling board held a public meeting to discuss disagreements between it and the Bad Dawgs, a traveling team that was part of the youth wrestling group.

At issue for the wrestling board was that its members, President Ben Crippen, Vice President Joe Hefton and Secretary/Treasurer Lori Hefton, decided to shorten the Bad Dawgs season before it started in October. Parents and coaches of the Bad Dawgs said they were upset because no public meeting was held to make the decision.

Crippen called this public meeting to try to mend the situation.

"I completely agree that it was my fault for not bringing the decision to a public vote," he said. "I'm here tonight to apologize and see what we can do from here."

What Crippen didn't know was that an hour before the meeting the Bad Dawgs had held a practice under a new name, the Moffat County Bad Dogs. Parents and coaches of the wrestling team formerly known as the Bad Dawgs had already held their own meetings and voted to part with Moffat County Youth Wrestling.

"We felt there was no other choice," coach Shad Peters said. "You put us in this situation."

On paper, the team change is only a difference of two letters, but those two letters represent several months, maybe even years of drama.

At the beginning of the school year, the Bad Dawgs were under the umbrella of Moffat County Youth Wrestling, the governing body for the Pee Wee program, the Freestyle program and the Bad Dawgs.

The Bad Dawgs became part of Moffat County Youth Wrestling five years ago at a similar public meeting so all the youth wrestling programs would operate separately, but with pooled financial resources.

In December of 2005, the Bad Dawgs coaching staff said it was told there would be no more practices for the team. It was the staff's understanding that the Moffat County Youth Wrestling board had decided to disband the team.

At the meeting Thursday, board members said that was never the case. What they had decided to do was shorten the season that normally ran from October to April, to run until January. There would be a break in January and the season would resume in February.

Crippen said he regretted the decision.

"I'm of the opinion that nine months is too long to wrestle," he said. "But that's my opinion and if you or your children want to wrestle for that much, that's your decision to make and I never should have made it for you."

The meeting included former youth wrestling board members John Mann and Deb Tomlin, three current board members, and Bad Dogs coaches and parents. The board and Tomlin sat on one side and Bad Dogs representatives sat on the other side of room 110 at Moffat County High School.

For an hour, the discussion focused on the miscommunications and where the trouble started. Those ranged from previous bylaw questions, wrestling burnout, where wrestling started in Moffat County, what should have happened when officers changed last year and a myriad of other issues that never were agreed upon.

Shortly after the first hour, Peters told Crippen of the Bad Dogs decision.

"You'll only have two clubs to manage now," he said. "We've done the work to become separate."

Crippen said he was sad about the separation and wanted to see whether there was a way to reconcile. Then J.D. Adams, a wrestling parent spoke.

"I love wrestling but this is ridiculous," he said. "My boys are starting to like basketball and I never thought I'd say this, but I hope they stick with it."

Twenty-five minutes later, an emotional Lorraine Garcia, grandmother of some wrestlers, spoke.

"Look at how you're sitting in this room," she said. "Bad Dogs on one side, others on the other side. You know who's in the middle here? The kids.

"This is sick, because if you don't work together both programs are going to go down."

The Bad Dogs didn't come to the meeting to attempt to mend and return to Moffat County Youth Wrestling. Peters said they came to learn what happened to the $75 dues they paid.

Crippen motioned to give the parents their money back, minus the fee for a wrestling card. That motion passed.

There was no vote about the Bad Dogs becoming the Bad Dawgs again.

Mann, one of the founders of the Bad Dawgs said he didn't think the timing was right for two separate organizations.

"I told (coach) Billy (Bingham) that this wasn't the time to split," he said. "There might be a time for it, but right now is a mistake."

Tomlin, who was also there from the beginning of the Bad Dawgs, said the best way would be to work out a solution to stay together.

"We're all adults here," she said. "Why can't we work a way to keep together?"

Peters said it wasn't possible.

"We're not going to excommunicate ourselves from the other wrestling programs," he said. "We just want to simplify and go back to the way things use to be. With the parents making the decisions together without any board."

Crippen said he had no idea that the meeting would end with one less program under the name of Moffat County Youth Wrestling.

"I really thought we'd be able to work it out," he said. "But we go on from here with registration for Pee Wees in February and we hope to join the Northwestern Conference with some of our committed Pee Wees after our two tournaments here. We'll have a public meeting in February to decide that. I promise."

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