Embracing the change

By Kevin Eckleberry Sports Editor

December 19, 2013

Archie Dudley was always willing to share his knowledge.

When Dudley was a senior wrestler at LaGrange High School, when he was on his way to a state championship, he recalls having competitors from other schools come up to him and ask for advice.

“I remember my senior year in high school. I was good, and other wrestlers from other teams would come up and ask me how I did what I did, and I would tell them,” Dudley said. “I think wrestling is like a community. Everyone who does wrestling is like a brother.”

Even though Dudley’s days as a wrestler are behind him, he still feels that need to offer a helping hand to those who need it, to be there for his wrestling brothers.

That’s why he’s getting such satisfaction out of being an assistant coach at LaGrange High this season.

Dudley graduated from LaGrange High in 2006, and he spent four seasons wrestling at William Penn University in Iowa.

Dudley is now back in his home-town working for Milliken, and when Scooter Weathers, his former high-school coach, asked him if he wanted to join the LaGrange coaching staff, no arm-twisting was required.

Dudley was thrilled to return to his old school, and he has loved the opportunity to pass along his knowledge to a new generation of LaGrange wrestlers.

“What I like the most about it is, the kids are so pure at heart about wrestling,” Dudley said. “They’re just sponges, and they want to learn. They want to stay after practice and get better.”

Dudley said he feels “natural” wearing the coaching shoes, although he said there has been plenty to learn.

One thing he has learned over the past few months is that, just because something worked for him, doesn’t mean it will work for another wrestler.

“As a wrestler, you have your style, and you want to show everybody your style,” Dudley said. “But not every kid can do your style. It’s a learning experience for me, just to adapt to different people. And learning from the other coaches too, because they have years of experience. I’m the newbie.”

He may be a newbie, but Weathers said it has been so valuable having him in the wrestling room.

During a recent practice session, Weathers was a bit frustrated with his wrestlers, so he used Dudley to show them exactly how it should be done, to give them something to strive for.

“We were in here one day. I was calling out moves. I got mad, started yelling at them,” Weather said. “I said, I want you to watch this. I put Archie in the middle of the room. I said coach, I want you to hit everything I call out. Everything I called, it was like clock work.”

For his part, Dudley enjoys the hands-on aspect of coaching.

He’ll work with a wrestler, try to help him find out what works best for him, and then help him develop and hopefully master that style.

“I told them I’m just here to work with you, to tweak what you already do, and make it a little bit better,” Dudley said.

Dudley said his message is, “you figure out what works for you, and make it better, and be an expert at it.”

Dudley is an encourager, but he also knows the only way for a wrestler to be the best he can be is to push himself to the limit.

Dudley figures his job is to help the wrestlers reach that limit.

“We always say, we never want to hurt anybody, but we want to push them to their limit,” Dudley said. “That’s what we try to teach them.”

And so far, Dudley said the wrestlers understand that, and they welcome it.

“These kids have such a positive attitude. And they stay with it,” Dudley said. “And the parents are doing a good job, because they are all good at heart.”