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Murtaugh Inductee to N.D. Wrestling Hall of Fame

By Staff | Feb 12, 2016

If you were a Rugby Wrestler between 1973 and 1990, wrestling may have a lot of different memories and meanings to you. Pete Murtaugh coach of the Rugby Panthers wrestling team received one of the highest honors in North Dakota wrestling an induction into the North Dakota Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Murtaugh began his wrestling coaching career in 1973 starting with junior high. He was the junior high coach until 79′ when he then became the head wrestling coach thru 1990. Murtaugh coached 22 state place winners in those years and in 1985 the Panthers finished 4th as a team in the State “A” Tournament.

“I first met Pete Murtaugh in the fall of 1973. It was his first year of teaching 6th grade in Rugby. Later that fall, he introduced me and many other boys to junior high wrestling. As fate would have it, he woud become Rugby High school head wrestling coach my senior year. We were an easy-going, jolly bunch (not really). We challenged him in the classroom and in the wrestling room. Likewise he challenged us to work hard, to become disciplined, work as a team, and learn from our losses and victories. There were fun times and tough times. Mix about 30 young men in the over-heated south room of the armory, with many of us a little cantankerous from trying to make weight, add in a good amount of competitiveness, and there was bound to be some conflict. But Pete and assistant coach Charlie Hanneman worked us through it,” remembers Tom Solberg a former Rugby Wrestler. “I remember getting to the team bus at 5 a.m. for a wrestling tournament in Langdon in early January. It was frigid ouside; the bus was always cold; many of us couldn’t eat or drink; and the bus driver always drank many cans of Mountain Dew. Coach Murtaugh had some early success and more came later in Pete’s coaching career. As someone in their mid-50s, I have come to realize one of the responsibilies for parents, teachers, and coaches is to prepare young men and women for the journey of life. Growing up in Rugby, I had the opportunity to receive this guidance from many and Pete was one of them.”

When asked to be interviewed, Murtaugh humbly said, “This award isn’t about one person, but it’s an award that refers to many people!” Murtaugh shares this award with his family, assistant coaches, wrestlers, statisticians, the Rugby wrestling club, parents, fans and Rugby school administrators.

Murtaugh wanted to recognize former Rugby coaches Phil Ramstack, Roger Hilzendager, Charlie Hanneman and Brian Lenzmeier. Along with that, his family played a signifcant roll as his wife Mary organized the household by taking care of their four young children, all of which became involved in the Rugby Wrestling Program Kristina and Janelle Cheerlead; Jeff wrestled and Jill was a statistican.

During Murtaugh’s coaching years of 1986 -1989, the wrestling club sponsored the banners of State Champions in the Rugby high school gynasium and the Mr. Wrestler Award for Class “A” Wrestling. The club also provided assistane to wrestlers for camps and meals on their wrestling trips. The Rugby Club through the parents, fans, cheerleaders, statisticans and wrestlers earned to win four NDHSAA Class “A” State Spirit Awards in 1982, 1985, 1986 and 1987!

“He (Murtaugh) got our full potential out of us,” stated Andy Fedje a former Rugby wrestler. “He made us believe in ourselves.”

Murtaugh served on the NDHSAA Wrestling Advisory Board and is a past president of the Class “A” wrestling coaches. He also served on the state seeding committee for two years. In Rugby, Murtaugh organized the Rugby Wrestling Club and with the assistance of the parents and the fans the Rugby Pee Wee Wrestling for the elementary students. He worked with the Rugby Eagles club to secure uniforms for the pee wee wrestlers. The elementary program produced 39 state class “A” and “B” place winners.

“Lessons learned in the practice room are still relevant in life today, commented Curt Berg former Rugby wrestler. “I have the upmost respect for him and it’s great he is still active in the club.”

Murtaugh is retired with his wife Mary and still reside in Rugby. They can be seen often at Rugby sporting events.

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