West Iron Assistant Coach Jim Kralovec runs a drill for linemen during the 15th annual Iron County Football Camp, held on the school’s practice field July 15-17.
IRON RIVER—The heat was on last week for 195 prep football players and 46 coaches who took part in the 15th annual Iron County Football Camp July 15 to 17.
But that didn’t faze anyone in the least. With a few simple precautions, the three-day camp on the West Iron County practice field and Nelson Field gridiron was a great time for everyone involved—and a timely reminder that the new season is just a few weeks away.
“It went real well,” said Camp Director Mike Berutti. “The weather was great—it was hot. It was a good three days.”
The camp focuses on preparing for the new season by drilling the players on skills and techniques to be successful on the field. The difference between success and failure in football is very fine and very subtle, and the camp tries to teach players how to come out on top.
All this is not lost on the players, who want to be successful, and the coaches, who want them to be. From the quarterback who gets all the attention to the linemen who toil in anonymity but are just as vital to team success, it takes everyone doing their job and working their hardest.
Along with the Wykons and Trojans, Players from six schools took part. Wausau West and Wisconsin Rapids again were the biggest teams, and the camp had a big contingent from Iron Mountain and Lake Linden, along with Marion-Tigerton.
Making their first visit to the Iron County Camp was Newberry. The Indians had 13 players and three coaches at the camp, and they stayed at Denise Maloney’s place, filling every possible space in the basement. “They are loving Iron River and really enjoying the camp,” West Iron’s wellness coordinator.
Maloney’s brother, Pete Paramski, who played at Forest Park in the mid 1980s and later at Northern Michigan, is now an assistant coach at Newberry, and his son (Maloney’s nephew), John, is in line to be the team’s starting quarterback—as a freshman—after twice reaching the Michigan finals at Ford Field in Punt, Pass and Kick competition.
Heat and humidity visited the area with all the football players, with temperatures reaching into the low 90s. At times it was cloudy, and at other times a breeze cooled everyone off. But for at least one afternoon, the sun beat down on everyone with nary a breeze to be found.
But organizers know this was coming, and a major priority was keeping everyone hydrated. NorthStar Health System kept an ambulance on-scene all three days of the camp and also donated plenty of Gatorade, hauling it to the practice field in coolers.
Krist Oil Co. donated water, and both Krist Oil and Big Chill Ice donated the ice to keep it cool. “They take real good care of us,” said Maloney, “and we’re so appreciative of that.”
Coaches were on alert and sent several players into the shade to cool down. EMTs also took care of the usual cuts and twists and sprains. “We’re extremely grateful to NorthStar Health Systems,” Maloney said. “They are very community minded and do a great job.”
“It’s outstanding that they do this to help the kids,” said Berutti. “We’re very thankful to them.”
NorthStar, Krist and Big Chill are just a few of the hometown players on the local team that makes the Iron County Football Camp a success each year.
“Everybody in town,” Berutti said. “Like every year --the people in town are so good when all these teams come in. People are asking how they can help. It’s great that our community opens their arms to these kids.”
During the lunch break each day, camp participants listened to several inspiring speakers. On Monday, it was former Wykon Jan Quarless, a former coach in NFL Europe and at Southern Illinois and Kansas. Quarless is now district administrator at Dollar Bay.
Buck Nystrom, legendary line coach and instructor at the camp, spoke on Tuesday, and Brock McMullen from Wausau West spoke on Wednesday. McMullen, who is 23, was an all-state prep basketball player who fought off cancer to be named starting tight end for the UW-LaCrosse football team. He is now heading to the University of Utah, where he will be in the graduate program in adaptive PE.
After the camp and the 7-on-7 competitions that ended each day, the kids enjoyed the parks and lakes around the area—Lake Ottawa, Pentoga Park, Sunset Lake—and fueled up at places like Alice’s and Scott’s Subs. “All over the place.”
It’s a formula that has worked very well for 15 years and a fun week for the Iron River area—even before all those cowboys arrived.