SIDNEY – One look at the Sidney High School gymnasium in mid-June and a person might think the calendar says February.
Dozens of wrestlers fill the room, with an intensity present that’s reminiscent of the days before the state tournament. That’s normal, according to longtime Sidney wrestling coach Guy Melby, who is overseeing his 31st consecutive Sidney Eagle Wrestling Camp.
“It’s fun, great for Montana wrestling and it’s great for our teams. We’re excited about this camp, we always bring some really good guys in to be clinicians. We have that Minnesota connection, so if Brandon (Eggum) isn’t here, he sends guys down,” Melby said of the former Sidney standout who now coaches at the Univeristy of Minnesota. “We also have a lot of our alumni that come back. We never forget about those guys who love to give back to our program. That’s what we’re doing.”
Melby’s camp is one of the premier stops on Montana’s summer circuit, offering years of state championship experience – nine to be exact, following last winter’s Class A title. Melby, who earned his 500th career dual win last season, has coached more than 60 individual state champions at Sidney, and will have the Eagles as the favorites to repeat as team champion next February in Billings.
All of the titles, individual champions and overall success can be traced back nearly three decades, when Melby learned one of the most important elements in his coaching career.
“I find that if you don’t give them a chance to work out, they’re probably not going to. It’s like me telling them to go to a camp and me not going myself. It’s not going to work. That’s why I started this camp and it’s worked out good for us,” he said. “Same thing, it would be like me telling them, ‘Go in there and lift,’ and me not going in there and lifting with them. We’ve been doing that at 6 a.m. all summer, too, so it’s a process. Wrestling is a process, something that doesn’t happen in three months. You have to process your way through it, and that includes lifting, going to camps and wrestling in March. We try to do all of those things.”
“It’s really challenging. They tell you that you better come to this in shape, but I don’t think I have yet and I’ve paid the consequences every year. It’s still fun,” said senior-to-be Jace Winter.
For Winter and his teammates, hanging banner No. 9 in the Sidney gym was worth the countless hours and exhausting training. Their summer efforts are about to pay off, as well, when Sidney travels to Orlando, Florida for the Disney Duals, a weeklong trip with four days of wrestling, with around 150 teams from across the nation competing.
Melby and Sidney finished eighth overall at the duals in 2017, and are ranked the same entering this week’s competition.
“It’s amazing. You get to work really hard and get in shape really fast to go down to Florida. You’re battling every day, you get sore, but have to keep pushing through. It’s a lot of fun,” said Winter.
“We sent three or four guys the first year and there were like 15 teams. Now there are 150. I’ve been doing it for 17 or 18 years, where our guys go down there and we can wrestle everybody from the United States. Just about every state is represented,” said Melby.
Stepping onto the mats and grappling with some of the best in the nation is an obvious advantage, but it’s not all work and no play for Melby and his team.
“We wrestle in downtown Disney, so we get serious, wrestle four or five matches per day and then we go play. We’ll go deep sea fishing, we’ll go air boat riding in the swamps, go watch the Tampa Bay Rays play, we’ll do whatever. But we mix a lot of business with a lot of pleasure,” Melby said. “All of the kids stay in 10-man condos where each condo has a pool and a hot tub, they’re really, really nice. It’s just a fun trip for our guys. This year we’re actually bringing two teams from Sidney, so we’re pretty excited about it.”
It may not be the state wrestling tournament in mid-February, but it’s easy to see why it’s circled on the Eagles’ calendar every year.