Alzada rancher builds wrestling power
February 19, 2021
Riding horseback on his sprawling ranch to check livestock, Charlie Williams' thoughts will wander toward his wrestling team.
"I'll be out there thinking about strategies, different philosophies," said the Alzada rancher who doubles as the head wrestling coach for Moorcroft High School across the state line in Wyoming.
Same when he's climbing into his rig in the early afternoon for the 70-plus mile drive to Moorcroft. Williams makes the drive at least five days a week from November to the end of February.
"I'll be thinking about practice," he said. And it's the same for the return trip. "I'll be thinking about practice and what needs to be done at the next practice," Williams added.
"I'm pretty passionate about wrestling."
That passion has paid big dividends.
Williams has guided Moorcroft to eight consecutive 2A Wyoming state championships. The program goes for its ninth straight, Feb. 25-27, at the Casper Events Center.
"It will be tougher, but we've got a chance," he said. "We usually have around 45 kids out for wrestling, this year we have 20. That's the life cycle of a small school."
A native of Moorcroft, Williams has been with the wrestling program 18 years, the last 11 as the head coach.
He and his wife Erin moved to a place three miles east of Alzada three years ago.
"Alzada is a wonderful place to live," said Williams. Williams and his wife also have a young daughter, Blue.
A graduate of Dickinson State where he wrestled and competed for the rodeo program (saddle bronc, team roping), Williams was a long-time science teacher at Moorcroft. During that time, he started purchasing land.
"I grew up on a ranch and always wanted one," Williams said. He tried to balance ranching, teaching and coaching but found it becoming more difficult to give each the proper attention.
"I got to the point where it was now or never," he said of ranching full time. "Teaching, coaching and ranching ... I kept two of the three. Giving up the teaching was a real hard decision."
He and his wife run approximately 25,000 acres (which includes leased land) that are in both Montana and Wyoming, "The state line goes right through our property," said Williams. The place goes under the banner of Williams Wanner (his wife's maiden name) Family Livestock.
"I know, WWF," said Williams with a chuckle about sharing initials with the World Wrestling Federation.
And he is not the only champion in the family. Erin Williams won the Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit Finals barrel racing title in January in Kalispell. She qualified for the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo, April 9-10 in Kissimmee, Florida.
"When we started, winter would be the focus on my season and summer would be the focus for my wife. Now barrel racing is year-round, a whole season," said her husband. "It's awesome."
Along with the wrestling room, Moorcroft athletes can be found at Williams' place during branding and haying seasons.
"We pay 'em," said the coach. "They do a great job. It's a lot of fun. They like being together."
Williams said he gets calls from other ranches around Wyoming and Nebraska wanting his athletes to work their brandings.
"They have a great work ethic," he said. "We have great kids at Moorcroft and great support from the community. We're a wrestling town. And we have outstanding coaches. We have great continuity in the program from youth through the high school.
"It's a step-by-step process getting the guys to the finish line. Coaching is very rewarding. It's getting to know the young athletes and helping them accomplish their goals."
It's what has Williams starting his day at 6 a.m. each day for ranch work. He leaves home at 2 p.m. for Moorcroft and rolls back home between 7:30 and 8 p.m.
The drive one way takes him approximately an hour and 45 minutes depending on weather conditions.
"I've made that 70 mile trip at 30 miles an hour multiple times," said Williams.
Fighting traffic is not one of the problems. "One night driving home I was thinking, 'If I break down, I might be out here for a while," he added.
And occasionally, his thoughts drift into the future for a third generation Williams wrestler.
Williams wrestled and both his father Dennis and younger brother Chancey were two-time high school state champions. Chancey Williams fronts the Chancey Williams and the Younger Brothers Band that will open four shows for Toby Keith, including Bismarck (May 21) and Billings (May 22).
The next potential Williams wrestler sits in her father's lap at home in Alzada.
"Absolutely," says the proud father. "Montana added girls wrestling this year."
Joe Kusek is an award-winning writer based in Billings. He has been writing about Montana and Wyoming sports since 1987.