Gone but not forgotten: Park wrestling team dedicates season to Matt Van Horn
Matt Van Horn may be gone, but the Park wrestling team wants to ensure he won’t soon be forgotten.
The Park wrestling team has dedicated the 2013-14 season to Van Horn.
“It’s just a sad, sad situation,” said longtime Park head coach Jim LaBrosse. “Losing a young man like that is just devastating to his family and friends. It’s a sad loss. We just want to do anything we can.”
The Park wrestling team held a memorial for Van Horn at its first home match of the season. There, the team presented a plaque to Matt’s mom Denise, his dad Greg and brother Brian. Also, this year, the Wolfpack are wearing green socks with “MVH 2013” stitched on the side.
“It means a lot to us,” Denise Van Horn said. “The wrestling family has always been very close and we’ve always been part of it. For them to dedicate the season to Matt makes us very grateful and very happy. He’d be very, very pleased to know they dedicated this season to him.”
At Park, Matt Van Horn was a two-time state entrant and finished his high school wrestling career with 104 wins — Park’s third-highest all-time victory total at the time of his graduation.
After high school, Van Horn served as a youth wrestling coach and an assistant varsity coach at Park for three years, helping train a number of Park’s current varsity wrestlers.
“Matt meant a lot to Park wrestling,” said LaBrosse, who also wrestled at Park before becoming head coach. “He was obviously a great and accomplished wrestler, but more than that he was a good friend to a lot of people. He was a big part of Park wrestling and will surely be missed. We really appreciate everything he did and we just feel for his family and friends.”
Denise Van Horn said her son also ran cross country at Park, but it was mainly just to keep in shape for wrestling, which was his true passion.
“Wrestling was just a big part of his life and of our lives, and it still is,” Denise Van Horn said. “We try to come to as many matches as we can. Wrestling was his sport and he loved it.”
Park is currently 6-0 in the Suburban East Conference, including winning a historic match over Forest Lake – a team the Wolfpack hadn’t beaten in 16 years.
“This season has more of a purpose to it,” said Park junior captain Cory Flaata, “because we can dedicate it to another wrestler that put in the time and effort and blood, sweat and tears to get our team and school where it needs to be.”
Van Horn wrestled alongside Flaata’s older brother Jared at Park.
Cory Flaata said, when he was in middle school, Van Horn worked with him on a regular basis as a wrestling partner and was helpful in getting him to the high school level.
“He made me tremendously better in middle school and was one of the reasons why I was able to get up to the high school at a young age,” Cory Flaata said. “He was a good guy. Every time I’d see him in wrestling room he’d have something good to say and have some good advice.”
Van Horn began wrestling in third grade. As a senior he was 32-9, a team captain and voted Most Valuable Wrestler by his coaches. He capped his career at the 2008 state tournament at the Xcel Energy Center, representing the Wolfpack at the 140-pound weight class. Van Horn, who was also an all-conference honorable mention award winner, suffered a loss in the opening round of state Class AAA action that year. However, his mom Denise looked back on the experiences fondly.
“We have so many memories of him wrestling ever since he was a third grader,” she said. “His drive continued on. His big goal was to make it to state and he was so happy to do that two years in a row. He just loved the sport.”
Denise Van Horn said wrestling taught her son responsibility, teamwork and to respect others. She said he remained friends with almost of his former teammates until he passed.
“It’s hard to talk about, but he loved it,” Denise Van Horn said. “He loved his coaches and being with all his wrestling friends. Almost that whole senior group stayed together and he hung around with all of them. They were a good group of guys.”