During a regular practice in the Armory on the week before the state championship wrestling meet in Winnemucca, senior White Pine High School wrestler Drue Ashby was focused on one moment. He had been to the state tournament each of his previous three years on the team but had never experienced that one moment. He said this was the year.
He was right.
“It was the best feeling I’ve ever had. When I won and they raised my hand, it was nothing but joy and happiness,” Ashby said of finally getting to experience that winning moment.
His win in the 138 pound weight class was one of four medals his six-man team earned in the state finals meet, but the only gold. It served as the ultimate victory to what Ashby himself called his best season of wrestling.
But the victory that Ashby had worked so hard for came as bittersweet just moments after the match.
“When I walked over to coach Gamberg, it hit me that this was my last match and then the tears just started flowing. It was good but it also kind of sucked,” Ashby said.
According to coach Mike Gamberg, Ashby fought all season long to get to the top of the podium.
“He was ready to win. You could see an obvious change in his demeanor and the way he approached practice. He kind of grew up this year,” Gamberg said. “To see him win it in his senior year was just fantastic to watch.”
Ashby wasn’t the only one on the team to grow up over the course of the season, including the coach’s own son, Chris. The senior finished third in his final state meet, a standing that was lower than he had hoped for but was plenty for a father to be proud of.
“It is still pretty emotional. All my boys are done and will have graduated, it chokes me up still,” Gamberg said holding back tears.
The coach said that he wrapped his arms around his son after he lost in the semi-finals round.
“I told him that I knew this wasn’t what he wanted but he still had two more matches to wrestle to come back and take third,” Gamberg said.
And that is exactly what happened. The same thing happened with two more Bobcat wrestlers, Monty Moore and Joe Pauley. All three finished third after entering the meet as top seeds in their weight classes. The other two White Pine wrestlers that traveled to the meet, Joey Lyons and Jay Mabson lost in the consultation round and did not medal.
The meet served as more than just an end to the season for coach Gamberg , who is retiring from the position after 23 years of coaching, six of which with White Pine High School.
According to the coach, he thinks it’s time to get some new blood into the program.
“In my six seasons we never earned a state title,” Gamberg said.
Not that his team even had a fair fight for a state title this year. With the way wrestling matches are scored, each weight class needs to be filled to earn the maximum amount of points as a team. Though his teams often stayed competitive and earned individual honors over his years, Gamberg admits he never had enough kids on the team to compete with bigger teams on a points level.
“I always said that if you give me the kids, we will turn them into studs as long as they have the determination and work ethic to stick with it,” the coach said.
But the numbers never came. Now, with his youngest son graduating out of the program, Gamberg said it is finally time for him to walk away from the mat.
“I’m taking a break,” the coach said. “I haven’t taken a brake in a long time but now that my son is done I think it is time.”
Gamberg said that the year to year grind of “chasing kids” and trying to get them to love the sport of wrestling as much as he does is “taxing.”
“I wrestled each and every match with every one of them,” Gamberg said. “When they would lose, it wasn’t always on me, but I would lose along with them.”
Though he regrets not having won a team title during his time as coach, he said he will still help fund raise for the team and maybe someday in the future he will return to coach.
“But right now, it’s time for somebody else to take a shot at it.”