Official Phil Amstadt signals a two-point takedown for Kaukauna’s Trent Leon in the Division 1, 132-pound third-place match against Menomonee Falls’ Eric Wunsch during the WIAA state wrestling tournament Saturday, Feb. 25 at the Kohl Center in Madison. Amstadt, who was the head wrestling coach at Rhinelander High School for nine years, officiated his second state tournament this past weekend. (Photos by Jeremy Mayo/River News)
The WIAA displays a message featuring referee Phil Amstadt on the videoboard at the Kohl Center to encourage people to become WIAA licensed officials during the WIAA state wrestling meet Saturday, Feb. 25 in Madison. Amstadt said there’s a shortage of referees, especially in the northern half of the state, and his 2016-17 schedule included 16 duals and 11 tournaments.
2/28/2017 7:32:00 AM Amstadt enjoys another year as state wrestling official
MADISON -The members of the Rhinelander High School wrestling team weren't the only Hodags enjoying the WIAA state tournament at the Kohl Center this past weekend.
Former Hodag coach turned official Phil Amstadt was at the center of it all, one of the officials selected to referee the three-day tournament which wrapped up Saturday.
It was the second straight year that Amstadt, 63, has been given the opportunity to officiate at the state meet - something he's now been a part of as a wrestler, a coach and an official.
"That trifecta, that's kind of the frosting on the cake of my wrestling career," Amstadt said Saturday between sessions at the Kohl Center. "Not that I'm retiring this year, but it's something that I'm at peace with in the wrestling world."
Like in other sports, officials go through a vetting process before being selected to the state meet and it took Amstadt quite a while to get the call from the WIAA. Amstadt said it was simply a process of working his way up the officiating ladder since that part of his career began in 1988.
"I've always been up north and you don't get seen as much by a lot of people being up north, but once I got on a bigger venue, I was very fortunate to be able to do it. I got to ref team sectionals, was a head official at sectionals," Amstadt said.
Two officials are assigned to each of six mats during the first four sessions of the state meet, trading off match by match unless there are circumstances that could present a conflict of interest. That was the case Saturday afternoon as Rhinelander's Jacob DeMeyer was set to wrestle for third place in the 145-pound class on the mat Amstadt was working. It was Amstadt's turn to officiate when DeMeyer's match came up, but he stepped aside to let another official take the match.
"Those are matches you stay away from - family and hometowns," he explained. "I definitely didn't want to do DeMeyer's match or any of the Rhinelander kids' matches. Basically the guy stepped in for me. That's why they partner you up. (My partner) was from Green Bay, so I did the Green Bay and Ashwaubenon matches. That's exactly what we do."
There has been a shortage of officials in a number of sports, statewide, over the past several seasons. Amstadt said his regular season this year consisted of 16 dual meets and 11 tournaments. Coincidentally, a picture of Amstadt officiating a match was shown on the video screen at the Kohl Center in a message by the WIAA encouraging fans to "Stay in the game and become a WIAA licensed official." Amstadt says officiating gives him an excuse to still be on the mat and keeps him young at heart, but the biggest reason he keeps going is his love for the sport.
"I still love it. It's my way to give back to the sport," he said. "Being a teacher, I love being with kids and this is just another way of being with kids. I get to see a lot of locker rooms throughout the north and all over the state. I get to talk to a lot of kids on an athletic venue. That's been my thing. I've taken a pride in wrestling."
It also given Amstadt a chance to be on the biggest stage the sport has in the state of Wisconsin as thousands of fans pack the Kohl Center each day of the tournament to cheer on their hometown grapplers. Amstadt said it took him awhile to get over his nervousness in front of large crowds and the atmosphere the state tournament provides.
"People, if they've never seen a state wrestling tournament (don't understand) how the intensity and just the enthusiasm and how the fans (interact). It's just an experience," he said.
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted: Wednesday, March 1, 2017
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Great story about a good guy who gives back to his community...Well done!
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