A system of support

The success of a sports program isn’t always measured by wins and losses. Those familiar with the Marshall/Lakeview wrestling team can attest to that.

The wrestling community has tirelessly come together as a team to support each other, on and off the court, through the good times and the bad.

The team recently rallied together to provide support when senior wrestler Matt Facile lost his mother, Leah, to leukemia.

“It’s tough to lose your mom,” Tiger head coach Justin Bouwman said. “The whole team rallied around Matt, though. The wrestling family is always a close-knit bunch. So the team did a lot of stuff together and involved Matt in a lot of things.”

When Leah Facile was still battling the disease, the team supported her fight by wearing special T-shirts in her honor.

“Leah had actually started doing really well, so they made the shirts,” Bouwman said. “I think they first revealed them at a home match last year.”

At the end-of-the-season banquet, Leah Facile approached Val Breczinski about giving out recognition plaques the following year to some of the team’s top supporters.

“It all started last March at our banquet,” Breczinski said. “Leah came up to me with the idea for the two boys (this year’s seniors Matt Facile and Brent Breczinski) to give plaques out.”

Cal Jeremiason, former Marshall wrestling coach, Bouwman, current head wrestling coach, and Al Roth, an all-around wrestling supporter, were going to be the recipients of the plaques.

“Coach Cal and Coach Justin had coached them both in third and fourth grade and now to varsity,” Val Breczinski said. “These are the final two kids of a decade for Coach Cal. And it’s a new age for Coach Justin.”

Breczinski also praised Roth, whose son Riley was among the six graduating seniors last year who made up a solid core group of wrestlers.

“Al has done everything,” she said. “When parents couldn’t be a match or tournament, he filled in. He’s a very dedicated parent. He’s also a teacher. He’s helped to instill confidence in kids and has just filled in wherever.”

Leah Facile would eventually take a turn for the worst, and she lost her battle with leukemia on May 9 last year, which nearly devastated the Marshall/Lakeview wrestling community.

“Like everything else, the news spread like wildfire,” Bouwman said. “So we met with the team and talked to them about what we were going to do. We all went to the wake, and the majority went to the funeral, too. It’s a tough thing. I don’t know if there’s anything tougher than losing your mom that young.”

Bouwman said he’s proud of the way Matt Facile and the other wrestlers have handled the difficult loss and continue to deal with life’s challenges.

“Everybody rallied around Matt, not just one person,” Bouwman said. “And he had a lot of extra support from the guys who graduated last year. But for Matt to overcome that and be able to do what he’s done is amazing. He’s wrestled really well for us through the year.”

While the Tiger squad finished the regular season 7-15 overall, Facile worked his way to a winning record as an individual. He and his teammates are currently in the process of preparing for the individual section tournament this upcoming week.

“It’s hard without my mom here, but I think she’s here in spirit,” Facile said.

Bouwman said that parent’s night was difficult for Facile, but noted that Facile’s dad, Brad, had been a great source of support for his son.

“Matt’s dad has been around a lot,” Bouwman said. “He’s been around wrestling, so he knows what it entails. He’s been very supportive.”

This past week, Brad Facile was there to support his son for senior night, which marked the final home meet in the senior wrestlers’ careers.

“It’s going to be tough to see them go,” Bouwman said to the crowd on senior night. “They’ve been around for a long time. They’ve been fun to watch and fun to be around.”

At the conclusion of the competition, which resulted in a loss to the Windom Area/Mountain Lake Cobras, Val Breczinski addressed the crowd, while her son Brent handed out the three plaques.

“All three of them have been with Matt and I since we were in the third grade,” Brent Breczinski said. “They’ve been supporting us all the way through. So we have to show them some credit.”

Bouwman was nearly overwhelmed by the recognition.

“It’s pretty awesome,” he said. “These two guys, Matt and Brent, have put in a lot of time for us. I appreciate those guys a lot.”

Matt Facile was also quick to note his support for the three honored recipients.

“They’ve been there since the beginning,” he said. “Justin has been my coach for five years, and Cal was my coach for one (seventh-grade season). And I’m good friends with Al’s son Riley. We’ve been wrestling together since we were little kids. It’s going to be hard to have it come to an end.”

Jeremiason was instrumental in building up the wrestling program at Marshall, coaching for 21 years, six of which were at the varsity level.

“I’ll always remember those years,” he said. “They were fun ones.”

Jeremiason said he hadn’t expected to receive a recognition of thanks but that he was appreciative of the gesture.

“It’s surprising,” Jeremiason said. “They always seem to keep surprising me. These guys were seventh-graders when I quit. So this is the last of my coaching. They’re good kids. They still work hard, so that’s all you can ask.”

Jeremiason said he enjoys keeping the official book at home matches and still being part of the wrestling community, though on a small scale.

“I still enjoy it,” he said. “I like to stay somewhat involved, but at a distance.”

For Val Breczinski, honoring the three dedicated supporters was bittersweet. Since Leah Facile was not able to complete the mission herself, Breczinski said following through for her was the least she could do. And she made sure that each of the plaques included the inscription “In Memory of Leah.”

“It was Leah’s idea, and I just followed through,” Breczinski said. “It’s a great honor. She’s our angel watching over us.”