Since 2012 the number of students in the Cedar Bluffs Public School district has doubled.
As more children have filtered into the community for schooling, the district has continued to expand its offerings with pre and afterschool programs, as well as a variety of youth athletic programs.
“When I came here in 2012 we were right around 189 students, and we are now close to 400,” Superintendent Harlan Ptomey said. “So we have doubled and a little more, and a lot of that is attributed to our preschool program and our afterschool program.”
Since Ptomey took over as superintendent for the school district, Cedar Bluffs has added a preschool program that brings in kids as young as 3-years-old and also expanded its afterschool programming which runs until 6:30 p.m. every night.
“Our community doesn’t have a YMCA or a recreation center, so our afterschool program is the sports program in our community,” Ptomey said. “And it’s free to all of our kids so we supply coaches, travel, uniforms, practice and really just try to provide as much as we can for them.”
This year Cedar Bluffs also revived its high school wrestling program, and with help from a 21st Century Learning Grant, the community has also started up a youth wrestling program to go along with its other offerings including youth basketball and football.
The new youth wrestling program is head up by Wes Giehler, who was approached by the high school wrestling coach, about getting the younger kids learning the sport.
“We started our varsity program this year, and our head coach wanted to get a little youth program started,” Giehler said. “So he approached me about it, and I was a little hesitant just because of my job, but said what the heck and stepped up and decided to get the program going.”
Giehler garnered the help of Travis Neubert and Zach Roumph to help run the program and, after starting practice for the first time in November of 2017, has been teaching around 20 young people from Cedar Bluffs the ins and outs of the sport.
“We started right after Thanksgiving and we have competed at two meets so far,” Giehler said. “Initially we had 40 kids, but then some of them found out it’s not WWE.”
Giehler and Neubert have taken over the main responsibilities of coaching and managing the program, and have used their previous experiences coaching together in the community’s youth football and basketball programs to improve the learning curve.
“It’s been an adventure,” Giehler said. “Three years ago we started the youth football program and have already learned from a lot of mistakes from there and fixed them when we started this.”
Both men have wrestled throughout their young lives, and Giehler was even a part of the birth of another program during his middle school years at Elkhorn Valley Schools in Tilden.
“We actually, when I was in seventh grade, started our wrestling program too,” he said. “So this is the second time I have been involved with starting a new program.”
Neubert sees the opportunity to coach youth wrestling as a way to give kids now something he didn’t get a chance to do while attending Cedar Bluffs High School, as well as an opportunity to continue to introduce his two sons to the sport a little closer to home.
“I wish when I was in high school here that we would have had it,” he said. “My boys wrestled in Fremont two years ago and they are the only ones who had ever been on a mat up until three months ago.”
The program caters to kids in kindergarten all the way up through eighth grade, and with young students competing in any new activity, the first few weeks of practice were dedicated to learning fundamentals.
“The first few weeks were pretty boring for everybody just learning technique and then they started getting on the mats and they really started having fun,” Neubert said. “You can tell the kids that really enjoy it because they are here ready and listening.”
The team has already competed in two tournaments so far this season, and plans on attending three more competitions including tournaments in North Bend and Fremont in the coming weeks.
“We’ve been winning some matches, which we were really surprised about,” Neubert said. “Our first tournament they competed really well, and the second one we had a lot of growing pains. But these kids won’t ever be able to compete unless we start them at a young age.”
The growth of the school district, and increased availability of funding through 21st Century grants, has allowed the program to flourish so far.
“Another great thing is we have a 21st Century grant through the school, which actually pays for all of the uniforms, headgear, entry fees and we even provide transportation to and from meets for the older kids,” Giehler said. “I know that is something a lot of other programs around the area don’t offer, all of our youth programs basketball, football all offer that.”
According to Giehler, this season will wrap up in March and the program plans to start up earlier next year by beginning practice in November and attending a few meets before Christmas.
Although the new venture has been a learning experience for Giehler, he is excited to continue the program next year and continue to provide another athletic outlet to kids in Cedar Bluffs.
“Things kind of fell apart six or seven years ago when there just wasn’t anybody running the program and these kids weren’t competing,” he said. “So we are a few years behind everybody, but things are really starting to turn around. This year we were really just trying to get everything organized and get everything lined up and get our feet wet, and it has just been great so far.”