If all goes as Jim Smith hopes, the Valparaiso team without a home may actually soon have its own address.
Smith, the Vikings wrestling coach, has come up with a proposal to develop the make-shift practice area on the upper level of the gymnasium into a permanent facility.
Smith has presented the idea to assistant superintendent Jim Doane. He and members of a steering committee that includes parent Erica George will discuss the subject at the February board meeting.
"There's no equality," said George, whose son Riley, a senior, has wrestled since a young age. "To step out and see it from the outside, it breaks your heart. You see all the years of them being shuffled from one practice area to another and every other sport is getting (facilities) updated. As a mom, it frustrates me. I'm baffled. It's long overdue."
When the fieldhouse was built in 1988, an area over the gymnasium was designed to eventually be developed as a wrestling room, but plans were never pursued. As Smith came to the reality that those hopes were a pipe dream, he went to work on a much more economical plan B. His blueprint includes flooring and mats for the current practice area. With the installation of walls and doors, cost would be about $50,000.
"We have some great kids," Smith said. "They're really making strides. They're buying in. This senior group has been unbelievable with their attitude and desire. Now we want to take the next step. We really need the right facility, the right environment. It would put us over the edge."
With a combination of community and school corporation support, Smith believes it can become a reality, bringing the program's days of bouncing around the school and taping hand-cut pieces of mat to the hard-wood floor to a welcomed end.
"We're working to make people aware," George said. "My son's a senior, but I thought about how hard they've all worked and I couldn't quit on them. I love the sport. They're like a family. I want kids who graduate to look back and say, 'I wrestled there,' for young kids to say, 'I want to wrestle there,' for it to be something special. I want them to have pride in it. I want the school to have pride in them."
Freshman Tristan Dembowski has wrestled since he was 4 years old. His family moved to Valpo when he was in sixth grade. He came to his first club practice expecting to see a room with pictures of past Viking standouts and motivational quotes on the walls, only to find the sport shuffled to a corner of the fieldhouse or gym.
"It wasn't treated as nice as other sports," Dembowski said. "Teams think you don't take it seriously. Moving mats around all the time gets old. (Improvements) would make you feel like they want to take it further than it's been, to make better."
Smith isn't asking for the Taj Mahal of wrestling, just a place for his program to call a home, like every other sport has.
"We're trying to build a tradition," he said. "We're at such a disadvantage. We can't even come close to training like everyone else does. In all fairness, the kids deserve it."