Mid-State Technical College Board members with the recently installed cougar mascot sculpture on the Wisconsin Rapids Campus. From left: Craig Gerlach, Betty Bruski Mallek, Charles Spargo, Are Vang, Kristin Crass, Scott Groholski, Lynneia Miller and Richard Merdan.

Mid-State unveils employee-made sculpture of cougar mascot on Wisconsin Rapids Campus

November 9, 2021

An impressive site now greets visitors to the Wisconsin Rapids Campus of Mid-State Technical College, thanks to a gleaming steel cougar sculpture installed outside the main entrance. Conceived of and created by Mid-State employees, the sculpture is inspired by the College’s returning cougar mascot, which first debuted as “Grit” during graduation this spring. 

“We are thrilled to be able to introduce Grit as a permanent installation,” said Mid-State President Dr. Shelly Mondeik at the unveiling this fall. “On one hand, Grit’s sculpture simply embodies grit, pride and determination. On the other hand, this sculpture is a testament to our innovative and persistent people who held onto a vision and brought it to fruition even in the midst of challenging times.”

The sculpture is fabricated from hundreds of cut stainless steel geometric shapes and is approximately six feet long from nose to tail and three feet high, emulating the size of a real cougar. It is featured prominently in front of the main entrance the campus, surrounded by large rocks to emulate a cougar in its natural environment.

Plans for a return of the College’s mascot began two years ago when a community survey indicated a preference for bringing back the original cougar. Soon after, Mid-State Welding Instructor Aaron Wulk approached administration with his idea to build a metal fabricated Cougar statue to celebrate the mascot’s return. That idea was ultimately approved by College leadership, and Wulk worked with Mobile Lab Outreach Specialist Ben Joosten to render and scale 3D drawings and create 3D printed prototypes resulting in the final approved piece for installation. 

“When I learned that our mascot would be making a comeback, the idea to create a Grit sculpture just came to me,” said Wulk, who was able to combine his personal interest in welded art with his experience as an instructor helping students prepare for the SkillsUSA® Welding Sculpture competition. “I wanted to create an enduring symbol of the school that would represent our students’ determination and hard work.”

A COVID-induced delay meant that discussions about where and when the sculpture would be installed continued through the 2019–20 school year. Wulk and Joosten persisted throughout that delay and both designed and fabricated the piece within the School of Advanced Manufacturing & Engineering. They also provided input for the installation to Mid-State’s facilities and marketing teams, who began working on the location features. This summer physical work plans were completed for both the metal sculpture and its location as a centerpiece at the main campus in Wisconsin Rapids. 

“It was a lot of hard work to see this sculpture through to completion, but it's a good feeling to be able to bring something you dream about into reality, and it was great to have so much trust from the College to do this ourselves,” Wulk said.

Learn more about Grit at mstc.edu/meet-grit.