This team, proudly known as "The Wolfpack", worked diligently over the course of the previous year to improve not only their dart skill, but their relationship and bond with their teammates. The Wolfpack considers itself as more of a brotherhood or family; they win together, they lose together, but more importantly than anything they support each other.
When asked if it was difficult managing a exponentially larger team this year (increasing from it's original four player roster), Coach Steve Garrean Jr. said that "Sure, at first there were a lot of different personalities and kids from different backgrounds, but over the course of 12 months those things begin to fade away and they begin to build friendships that will last for years to come." Coach Matt Winters added, "There were bumps along the way with an extended group of youth players, but in the end they find out that their brothers are there for them when needed most. This type of committed family style environment isn't for everyone, but we feel that is one of the biggest reasons we've seen the success we have thus far. We are not just a team, we are a family and it's nice to know there are a group of people that accept you for you and help in any way they can."
Along with their two other coaches, Gabe Ahlers from Louisville, Nebraska and Wes Babcock from Omaha, Nebraska; Garrean & Winters said the boys had a solid support system that included help with mechanics, personal advice and even coaches attending their school sporting events. The Wolfpack has created a formula that isn't easily duplicated, but you can't deny the success of what they've accomplished as a team...or should we say family.
Although the coaches said that they placed no expectations on this year's Junior National Championships, the Junior players had their own thoughts on the subject and even challenged Coach Matt Winters...if every one of the players won a National Championship, he would quit smoking. They almost fulfilled their side of the deal as the only player to fall short of a National Championship this year was returning 2015 National Champion Kole Gray; who finished with a National Runner-Up and three 4th place finishes this year.
The Wolfpack definitely met and exceeded any expectations they may have had, walking away with 8 National Championships, 3 National Runner-Ups, 1 National 3rd Place and 3 National 4th Place finishes! Here is a list of the individual accomplishments:
Singles Cricket Level 1: National Runner-Up Jeff Martens; Fremont, Nebraska
Singles Cricket Level 4: National Champion Kade Hansen; Plattsmouth, Nebraska
Singles Cricket Level 5: National 3rd Place Trenton Marasco; Plattsmouth, Nebraska
Singles 501 Level 1: National Champion Dallas Winters; Plattsmouth, Nebraska
Singles 501 Level 2: Back to Back National Champion Chance Taylor; Plattsmouth, Nebraska
Singles 501 Level 2: National Runner-Up Jeff Martens; Fremont, Nebraska
Singles 501 Level 4: National Champion Kade Hansen; Plattsmouth, Nebraska
Singles 501 Level 5: National Champion Trenton Marasco; Plattsmouth, Nebraska
Doubles 501 Level 1: National Champions Dallas Winters & Jeff Martens
Doubles 501 Level 3: National Champions Kade Hansen & Dylan Dietl
Doubles 501 Level 4: National Champions Trenton Marasco & Tabor Ahlers (Louisville, NE)
Trios Combo Level 2: National Runner-Up Kole Gray, Chance Taylor & Coach Steve Garrean Jr. (Plattsmouth, Nebraska)
On the night before the final event, Coach Matt Winters and sponsor M&R Darts of Spirit Lake, Iowa surprised the team with custom made jerseys that featured the team's logo and it's 2016 motto "The Strength of the Pack is the Wolf; and The Strength of the Wolf is the Pack". That must have fired up the team as the final day of competition, the Wolfpack walked away with 3 National Championships & a 4th place finish in their four efforts.
With a weekend filled with accolades out of a Hollywood movie, the Wolfpack has some added pressure for next year's 2017 NDA National Championship...not just attempting to defend their National Championships, but with the news that the tournament will be hosted in their hometown area of Omaha, Nebraska. So now they have the comfort of their familiar city, but the added pressure of not being defeated in their own backyard.
We asked Coach Steve Garrean Jr. how this will effect the team, to which he replied "This changes nothing. We will continue to be a family, support each other, work on the things we've always worked on and approach this next National Championship event the same way we have the past two. If it's not broken, why attempt to fix it".
The Wolfpack as a whole seems pretty excited about the 2017 NDA Junior National Championships coming to Omaha. Excited for the Junior players they've met from around the United States to come see their home town and of course for the weekend of fun and competition.
Coaches have already begun discussing the 2017 team and although no decisions have been made, they will be announced within the coming weeks and they are pretty confident in the choices they will make. They are looking for not just promising Junior darters, they say that's never been a deciding factor...they look for young players who they believe will fit the family atmosphere of The Wolfpack.
The 2016 Wolfpack would like to thank not only its endless support system among the dart community and hometowns; but also its sponsors, who all made the past year possible: Greater Omaha Leagues/Central Distributing Co., Alkar Billiards, Keeler & Associates, Eagles FOE #365, Wick'd Smoke BBQ, Vis Major Brewery & Taproom, M&R Darts, HJH Seamless, Ben's Game Zone, Lighthouse for a Change and Plattsmouth State Bank.