It would be a dream for a coach to go back to the school you competed for.
Nolan Laux is no different.
The Hastings coach won two Class A state individual titles when he competed for the Tigers in 2013 and 2015.
The Tiger graduate was selected to be the head coach after his dad, Brian, stepped away from it for the second time.
His first season as head coach for Hastings could not have gone any better. In his first season at the helm, Laux guided Hastings to the Class B state title this past season, its first since winning the Class A title in 1988.
Laux said he’s proud to be the guy in charge of helping the Tigers reach their goals of winning the state title.
“It’s great to be a part of this program,” Laux said. “I wanted to be around it as long as I could, even if it wasn’t as head coach. It’s just awesome coming in and help those guys reach their goal.”
For Hastings’ accomplishments last winter, Laux has been named the 2020 Independent Boys Coach of the Year.
It was a smooth transition for Laux in his first season as the Hastings coach. He knew a lot of the wrestlers that were part of a youth wrestling programs called Hastings Force.
He even helped a little bit when he was wrestling at Hastings College.
Senior Damen Pape said he remembers looking up to Laux when he was competing for Hastings and enjoyed wrestling for Laux.
“Nolan was a two-time state champion and he was one of the leaders on those teams,” Pape said. “He brought that into his coaching. He wasn’t very vocal but was a wrestling guru. He just knew stuff and what every individual needed to do to just get better.”
Entering the 2019-20 season, Hastings, which had eight seniors in its varsity lineup, had high goals of winning the Class B state title. The Tigers had teams that were good enough to win the state title in years before, but fell short. They finished fifth in 2017, fourth in 2018 and third in 2019.
Laux said it was their goal to win the state title this past season.
“Everybody was laser focused when the season started. A lot of them had a bad taste in their mouths the past few years, especially last year,” Laux said. “They were motivated to get it done, especially with how many seniors we had. They knew this was their last chance to win one.”
The Tigers got a big boost of confidence two weeks before the state tournament when they captured the state duals title. They defeated Pierce 54-24 in the championship dual at the Buffalo County Fairgrounds in Kearney.
“I think it was more of a relief when we won that,” Laux said. “It took some pressure off even though it wasn’t the main goal we wanted to accomplish. It made the room a lot better environment and made the kids a lot more relaxed the next two weeks.”
The following week, Hastings dominated the Class B, District 2 meet by scoring 271.5 points, while earning 13 state qualifiers.
At the state tournament, Hastings led throughout the whole tournament and never let up. The Tigers won the title with 140 points, 24.5 more than runner-up Omaha Skutt. The Tigers finished with eight medalists, including Pape capturing his second state title during the three days at the CHI Health Center Omaha.
Laux said it was fun coaching this year’s team.
“It was a blast. We knew going into the season that we were going to have a great team if we can put it all together,” he said. “We had some guys take some hits with the injury bug, but that allowed other people to get involved. But we got everybody healthy at the right time and everybody did their part. It was a fun year.”
And Laux said he hopes Hastings can keep a piece of tradition going. Since he won his first state title as a sophomore in 2013, the Tigers have had a state champion every year since then.
“It’s been great that we’ve been keeping a tradition going,” Laux said. “We don’t talk about it a whole lot but it shows where our program is going. I think we have built Hastings as a power in wrestling. Hopefully we can keep it going.”
And lastly, he enjoys his experience as a coach.
“I enjoy helping kids reach their goals. I try to help them enjoy the sport as much as I did, even though there are times when you both love and hate it,” Laux said. “It builds character and important for kids to go through that and experience it as a positive one, even though it’s not for everyone.”