A silver anniversary
In the early 1990s, an added emphasis on fine-arts education was a trend sweeping Texas. When Richardson ISD Assistant Superintendent Leonard Molotsky saw an impressive dance team at a Portland, Ore., high school, he imagined the program at Lake Highlands High School and unintentionally created a legacy.
Molotsky tapped former Highlandettes coach Katha Black, a lifelong dancer, with developing a dance program at the high school. She began with plans to build a multi-faceted fine-arts program that highlighted several styles of dance, but that concept did not inspire male students to join the ranks. In 1992, working with football coach Mark Pace, she rebranded the effort as a country-western dance team, and the Wildcat Wranglers were born.
High-profile performances always were part of the incentive. Teams soon were dancing at the State Fair of Texas and professional sporting events like Mavericks and Cowboys games. The chance to dance in front of crowds in the thousands quickly attracted students, and the Wranglers became one of the most competitive clubs to join on campus.
These days, students need a teacher recommendation and an essay to apply to be captain, and only juniors and seniors are allowed on the team, which is capped at 46 dancers to keep routines manageable.
“When you perform with the Wranglers, everyone knows who you are,” says Josh Klein, a current senior in his second year with the team. “You become instantly popular.”
Senior dancer Grace Cummins says there’s nothing quite like the roar of the crowd when the dancers flip, lift and twirl their way across a stage. “I like the reactions to our stunts, that’s my favorite part,” she says.
As of late, performing at President Donald Trump’s 2017 inauguration was the pinnacle experience for the current team of Wranglers.
“I peaked in high school right there,” says senior Grayson Orr. “That’s probably the best thing I’ll do in my life.”