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Wrestling is family affair for the Owens

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With a combined total of 79 years coaching the Polson Pirates wrestling team, brothers Bob and Bill Owen have built a wrestling powerhouse respected across the state of Montana. In 1975, Bob Owen became the head coach of the Pirates wrestling squad, and a year later in 1976, Bill Owen became the assistant. The two brothers were honored in front of their family, friends, former athletes, and a home crowd at the Thursday, Jan. 14, match against Columbia Falls. Throughout their career, they have had two state championships, seven divisional championships, multiple top five finishers at the state tournament, 35 individual state champions, 195 individual state placers, and more than 300 team dual victories. In 1976, Wes Knutson became Bob and Bill’s first individual state champion. Knutson went on to become a coach and teacher at Columbia Falls High School and was later inducted into the Columbia Falls coaching hall of fame. Twenty-three of Bob and Bill’s former athletes have gone on to wrestle at the collegiate level, along with 17 former athletes becoming wrestling coaches. Without a doubt, both of these coaches have a lot to be smiling about when they look back on their years of coaching. “It’s been a joy to see all this come together over the years,” Bill Owen said. “There have been so many great memories.” Some of these great memories include being able to coach and now work with their sons Matt and Brett (Bill’s sons) and Kevin (Bob’s son). Wrestling has become a family affair with five Owens on the Polson coaching roster. “I think we both can agree that coaching our sons was one of the highlights,” Bill Owen said. “Now that they are coaching with us, it is just plain old fun.” “You can’t get any better than working with family,” Bob Owen said. Kevin Owen, who wrestled for the University of North Carolina, has been surrounded by this positive family environment for his entire life and it really made an impact on what he wanted his future to look like. “I had such a positive experience with my dad and uncle growing up, which was one of the biggest reasons I wanted to go into teaching and coaching,” Kevin Owen said. Both coaches mentioned that when they decide to take a backseat style to coaching, they get the chance to hand the program over to their sons. “We get to turn our program over to family who has the same philosophy,” Bob Owen said. “That is ideal.” Not only have these two accomplished coaches been able to build a competitive wrestling house, they have also had the opportunity to have a positive impact on many athletes and students. “The thrill of coaching is different. You get a chance to really connect and make a change in a kid’s life,” Bob Owen said. “We get to really help a kid do something with their life.” Behind this wrestling family are Bob’s wife Sandi and Bill’s wife Pam. With their husbands and sons constantly coaching, Sandi and Pam could very well be the glue that holds the family together. “It has been fun to see them all work together,” Sandi Owen said. “There has been many early mornings and late nights for all of us.” Along with having a successful high school wrestling program, the two brothers started Little Guy Wrestling, a program for younger kids to start learning the basics of wrestling. By starting to coach these children at a young age, Bob and Bill get the chance to work longer with their soon-to-be high school athletes. They start teaching the kids their Owen wrestling philosophy at a young age. “Bob and Bill started Little Guy wrestling so they could get kids in the gym and moving around,” Sandi Owen said. “It was a way for them to make an impact with the younger wrestlers in the community.” By coaching for so many years and making an impact on many kids, every now and then they will get reminded of just how long they have been doing this. “A kid once told Bob, ‘you coached my Grandpa, Mr. Owen,’” Sandi Owen said. “Those are the moments when I get a good laugh watching Bob’s face.” These two coaches, along with their family, have left a legacy for future Owens to be proud of. With their sons learning their coaching tricks, the Polson Pirate Wrestling program will always be in good hands. “Our family is close and this community is an extension of my family,” Kevin Owen said. “The three of us wanted to be together and help progress the amazing tradition our fathers have established.”

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