HOLMEN — Justin Lancaster had no idea a couple of months ago that he was ready for a change, but he quickly came to that realization.
Before he knew it, he was hunting for a home and planning a move from one side of the state to the other to become a physical education teacher and wrestling coach at Holmen High School.
He wore a maroon Holmen wrestling shirt as he and his family approached a local establishment for some time to meet and greet a new wrestling community on Friday.
“It’s starting to feel normal,” Lancaster said with a smile.
“The shirt looks good,” replied Holmen activities director and former wrestling coach Jason Lulloff as he extended his right arm for a handshake.
Lancaster was perfectly happy at Freedom when the summer began, and there is no reason to question that. He established himself — as did his family — in the community during a 14-year stay and spent the past 11 seasons winning 132 dual meets and losing just 41.
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But after learning from Lulloff that an opportunity with one of the top Division 1 programs in the state was coming, Lancaster had to consider it.
“I wasn’t looking to leave,” said Lancaster, whose teams won WIAA Division 2 titles in 2015 and 2019. “It is a great area, and I love everybody there.
“I thought I’d at least apply, and then we saw the community, and it’s a lot like where I grew up in Monroe. It had such a good feel to it.”
The fact that the Vikings have qualified for six straight Division 1 team state tournaments, nine since 2010 and are two-time runner-ups didn’t hurt. Neither did a facilities upgrade that made the wrestling room and weight room two more selling points for candidates.
Lulloff said he had a handful of very good options for a new coach but that Lancaster seemed like the perfect fit. Lancaster was announced as the new Holmen coach on July 26, and that set in motion the process of moving his family of five nearly 200 miles across the state.
“There are already a number of great things here, including the facilities,” Lancaster said during a break at a meet and greet with those involved with the Holmen wrestling community on Friday. “Everything fell into place for us.”
Lancaster wrestled at NCAA Division II Carson-Newman (Tenn.) and UW-Oshkosh before coaching a couple of seasons as an assistant with the Titans. He was hired as an assistant coach at Freedom in 2008 and took that program over prior to the 2011 -2012 season.
The Irish won six Eastern Valley Conference championships during his 11 seasons, and he joins a Holmen program that has won every MVC title since 2016 and 36 consecutive conference dual meets.
The Vikings advanced to the Division 1 team state final with wins over Hartland Arrowhead and Marshfield before dropping a 35-24 dual to Kaukauna at the University of Wisconsin Fieldhouse.
Holmen returns three individual state qualifiers — senior Andrew Weiss, junior Preston Kratochvill and sophomore Turner Campbell — from that team and additional firepower from a youth program that continues to grow.
Lancaster, who has coached for the Wisconsin National Team, also played a big role in a Freedom youth program that topped 200 participants. He is also a former offensive coordinator for Freedom’s football team, but he said coaching on the sideline at Holmen is not yet in the plans.
Lancaster certainly has his own ideas of what to do at Holmen, but a long-time familiarity with Lulloff has led to similarities in their programs.
“Jason and I have been able to work together in the Wisconsin Wrestling Coaches Association, and I feel like we’re both progressive thinkers,” Lancaster said. “We do it differently, though.
“We have the same goals, but how we go about getting there is different. We want to make Wisconsin wrestling better, but it starts with our own programs.”
Todd Sommerfeldt can be reached at [email protected] or via Twitter @SommerfeldtLAX