GREAT FALLS -- When Providence wrestling coach Caleb Schaeffer was placed on administrative leave after his name appeared in court records related to a human trafficking case, the Argo program faced an uncertain future.
But the school brought in a familiar name in the interim who instantly brought stability and a proven track record of success.
Longtime Great Falls High wrestling coach Steve Komac was officially named the Argos mentor this week and started on Wednesday. Leaving the Bison after 20 successful seasons was no easy decision for Komac, but with two sons and several former GFH wrestlers on the Argos, the opportunity to step in and help the program was the deciding factor.
"Sometimes in life we ask people to help where they can, and this is a place and with the skill set I have I thought I could help out in that regard," Komac said. "It obviously came with a large range of emotions. Leaving something behind at Great Falls High that I'd fallen in love with the past 20 years was a tough decision. But a good decision."
Komac only felt comfortable leaving if the right pieces were in place to lead the Bison. His top assistant, Luis Carranza, a former Argo wrestler, will take over the GFH program that finished second in Class AA last year, and Komac couldn't be more confident in his successor.
"He's shown every sign at every step of the way that he could be a guy to run the program," Komac said. "The guy is just with me 24/7, everything we do he's involved in, so that stands out right away as a guy who has the right commitment level and understanding. He's what I call a kid magnet. Kids love him, so it will be a super easy transition. He's a person I have the utmost respect for and I truly believe in him and the job he will do."
The Argos met as a team on Wednesday, and Komac called the conversation positive.
"We're moving forward, that's all any of us can do in this situation, is move forward," he said. "And it's a great program to step into, a great academic place for our kids to be and we focused on those things (Wednesday). I'm going to ask them to work their tails off and I'm going to work my tail off along with them and I think it will be good."
It helps that Komac is already familiar and connected to the program. In addition to his sons Jordan and Jarren, several former Bison wrestlers dot the roster. And the Montana wrestling community is one of the more tight-knit in the state.
"Once you make connections with people I don't think they ever go away," Komac said. "It's real easy to see that I've got support here too. Over 50 percent of this roster is Montana kids, and those are kids that if they've wrestled in Montana I've seen them somewhere. So over 50 percent of the roster I feel comfortable that I already know. And obviously as a fan in the stands the past couple of years, I've gotten to know a couple of the out-of-state kids. In that room, I have relationships with about 80 percent of the roster and I feel pretty good about that."
Of course, transitioning from high school to college comes with its own set of challenges. Komac is taking this week to familiarize himself with his administrative and office duties before the Argos hit the mats for their first official practice next Monday. But at the end of the day, wrestling is wrestling and Komac has a vast wealth of experience to draw from.
"I trust that I know the sport of wrestling and I'm comfortable knowing the expectations of kids to compete and to be student-athletes, as well," Komac said. "So I guess I'm going to fall back on a lot of experience and say that I trust that I know enough to move us forward and keep us progressing. And I trust that what I don't know, I will learn."
Since Komac is just the interim head coach, he didn't resign his position at Great Falls High but rather took a one-year leave and could potentially return to the Bison in 2020. Though his future with the Argos isn't guaranteed, he plans to make the most of it to help the program in any way he can.
"I'm looking forward to those two hours a day when I get to walk in the wrestling room, that's my comfort zone and that will start next week and that will be really good," Komac said. "Right now it's just catching up on the office and learning the tricks of the trade at the college level."
The Argos open the wrestling season Nov. 2 at the Cowboy Open in Laramie.
A University of Providence spokesperson declined to comment on Schaeffer's employment status, but Cascade County Attorney Josh Rackie says he has not been charged in connection to the August case but that an investigation is still ongoing.