Summertime work makes winter champs: Q&A with Moffat County wrestling coach Dusty Vaughn
With a background in rural Colorado and many years in the sport, the new head coach for Moffat County High School wrestling hopes to keep Bulldog grapplers on the path to glory.
Dusty Vaughn recently started as the head of the MCHS grappling program. Vaughn is originally from Colorado, wrestling for the Montrose Indians at the high school level before attending Lassen Community College in Susanville, California and later Adams State University with a degree in physical education and a minor in history, staying with the sport at both colleges.
Vaughn, who has coaching experience at both high school and college levels, replaces Dennis Fredrickson in the role of head coach and will also teach physical education at Craig Middle School starting this fall, as well as serving as an assistant coach for CMS football.
Vaughn will offer summer sessions at 5 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays in the MCHS wrestling room for athletes who want to prepare for the season later this year.
Craig Press: You grew up competing in wrestling along the Western Slope?
Vaughn: I went to high school in Montrose, and I graduated in 2002. The guy I wrestled twice in the state finals was a kid from Moffat County named Ty Weber. He beat me my junior year, and I beat him my senior year, so we went back and forth, wrestled a whole bunch with him. Always a tough kid, and this has always been a tough program, especially in those days, almost historical. They had some incredible athletes, the Linsacum brothers, Mark Hastings, the Kosturs, the Fredricksons, the Duartes, the Webers. From the bottom up, they were solid.
I went to Lassen Community College in California, and that’s where the Linsacum twins went as well. When I finished there, I transferred to Adams State and wound up coaching for Alamosa High School for a year. I did my PE and history degree, went back out to California to see my wife who was my girlfriend at the time. She was finishing her graduate degree, and we were both offered jobs out there, I was the high school coach and she was the school psychologist for the district. I coached there for three years, and my third year I was the head coach at the high school and the college. We were five-time defending national champions. I did that for one year, but I stopped coaching because we had our first kid, and then my dad got cancer and had to battle there. Then with the tough economic times, I kept getting laid off from the school district as a teacher since I was the last one hired, but I got a job with the state within an education department. There was a lot going on, but I wanted to take some time off, be with family. My last year with Lassen College, I was named Big 8 Conference Coach of the Year, and we finished 13th in the championships and were ranked as high as third throughout the year.
What interested you in coming to Moffat County High School?
My wife and I, we were looking for specific areas, a blue-collar town because folks like that have tough kids, solid kids. They’re workers. In order to be in the sport of wrestling, you have to be a worker. That’s one of the thing that translates. We wanted a small town, a single-high school town. We weren’t interested in being in a big city and competing with other schools. It’s the kind of lifestyle where we want to raise our two kids. We moved right from Susanville straight over here, and we’re so excited and grateful to be here, to coach this program and be involved with the school district. It’s an honor really, to me, as a wrestler and wrestling fan, to coach a program like Moffat County.
What have you seen from athletes so far?
I think it’ll take a while to get to know them, and I have to take some time to develop relationships with the kids and the parents. We all need to get on the same page and go the same direction, but I can see there are kids that like to work. Some of the kids who have shown up with their parents, you see Dad over here with his boots and his dirty jeans, and he’s been out driving fence posts or something like that, and they’re workers. It’s amazing how much of what you do as a parent translates to the kids.
I think we had about 14 kids at our first practice. I wasn’t sure what to expect because I haven’t been here that long in order to organize, and I thought it would be nice to ease into it, get some word of mouth out there. They’ll start trickling in. High school is the place where things can kind of change, because kids might wrestle in middle school and not want to do it after that. Hopefully, we’ve got a good class coming in. I know we graduated a lot of experience last year, so we’ll have a young team and kind of inexperienced.
As their third head coach in three years, do you think the rate of turnover will impact juniors and seniors this winter?
When I was a senior, our head coach went over to Monarch High School, and having a new coach coming in affected some of us. It was just a different style, different terminology, and it just takes time to build those relationships with the kids and get your influence out there and for them to trust you and to latch onto what you’re trying to run in your program. It takes a while. I hope the transition is smooth, I really do. We’re gonna work hard on it.
How vital will off-season preparation be?
Summertime wrestling makes wintertime champions. I’ve spent three or four days getting the majority of my house unpacked, then I immediately started in on what I need to get done for the season. All of my work that I do during the summer is going to determine my success, at least at my level, and I’m going to do everything I can. Put in the work, the extra that nobody else is putting in. A little bit here, a little bit there adds up. We do that over the course of summer when everybody else is floating down the river in a tube with their buddies, and that’s ultimately going to end up as wintertime champions. Those are the guys that are going to have those higher levels of success at state. It’s a proven method, and hopefully we have kids that are onboard to compete to win those championships. Teams like Alamosa that was first place at state are already putting in the work, they’ve done their wrestling camps, they’re putting in their mat time.
Everything leading up to state is all practice, preparation. Get those mistakes out of the way early on, make the adjustments, wins and losses don’t matter during the season. We get to regionals, we get to state, and everyone’s at 0-0. You wrestle that state tournament like that, compete hard, that’s the only thing that matters. You walk into that big arena, you’re confident, you’re focused, you’re ready to go.
What do you hope to instill in all your wrestlers from the onset?
Unity. Team. Athletes and parents. One direction, not two. Start there, get good at that, and then we can get good at other things.