RICK GRAEFE / JOURNAL Whitfield head wrestling coach Charlie Sheretz looks on as one of his wrestlers pins an opponent.

Charlie Sherertz has always been tough. He was tough as a high school wrestler at Columbus High School in Nebraska. Sherertz compiled a 94-2 record, won two state championships, was a first-team prep  All-American and a freestyle national champion in 1985.

His first state championship only added to Sherertz’ toughness resume. He defeated R.J. Nebe in the semifinals of the state tournament as a junior. Nebe was a dominant grappler who would later go on to become a national champion and All-American at University of Nebraska at Omaha. It was a huge win for the 169-pound Sherertz. His reward for the semifinal victory, however, wasn’t so great. He suffered a broken thumb in that win. Sherertz, as expected, toughed it out and won his first state title the following day.

He attended University of Iowa and wrestled for legendary coach Dan Gable. Gable is regarded as America’s greatest wrestling coach and one of its greatest grapplers. Gable went 181-1 while attending Iowa State University. When he took over the University of Iowa program as head wrestling coach in 1976, he guided the Hawkeyes to 15 NCAA titles and nine in a row.

Sherertz spent three years with the Iowa program soaking up lessons like a sponge. The competition was brutal, and there would be long stretches of days, even weeks, where Sherertz didn’t score a point in practice. But he kept learning. After three years at Iowa, Sherertz transferred to Mizzou where he would go on to become an All-American.

For the past 14 years, Sherertz has crafted the young men of the Whitfield wrestling program in this mold. The results are striking. He has coached 24 state champions and more state medalists than you could count with a calculator. He’s been named Coach of the Year three times and is in line for a fourth.

Sherertz has guided Whitfield to three Class 1 state  championships, the latest of which came in impressive fashion last week in Columbia. The Warriors went into the state meet and obliterated the field. They had all but won the tournament after the semifinal round that Friday. On Saturday, Whitfield made itself the talk of the arena.  Rodney Hahn (145 pounds) won his second title. Chris Wilkes (126), Austin Smith (132), Will Hahn (152) and Ethan Sherertz (182), Charlie’s son, all won their first state championships.

The Warriors scored 169.5 points, well ahead of runner-up Blair Oaks’ 123. Whitfield won its first title in 2008 and defended it in 2009 after back-to-back runner up finishes. Whitfield has had so much success because Sherertz and his coaching staff are very specific about what they want out of their  grapplers—complete commitment. Sherertz will welcome any wrestler of  any ability into his wrestling room. All he asks is that they dedicate themselves to being the best they can be. Sherertz has talked to his team in the past about being the ‘warrior class’ in the school, that the wrestling team represents certain qualities, chief among them  toughness and dedication. Not everyone can survive the grueling training regimen. But if you do, you’ll be better for it.

The same goes for the Warriors’ winter schedule. Masochistic might not go far enough when describing it. Sherertz will take his team anywhere if it means getting some good competition. Large or small, if you’ve got a good  team, Whitfield wants to try you on for size. It’s what Charlie Sherertz knows.

It’s one of the many things that make him an outstanding coach. It’s what makes the Warriors so tough.