On Wednesday night the wrestling team won their sixth straight league match making them at least a League Co-Champion. This is my 18th year of coaching the wrestling team in one form or another. I have coached the youth club, the junior high and the high school teams over the years and sometimes simultaneously. Prior to coaching wrestling I was coaching soccer, baseball, softball, football and Tae Kwan Do going back to 1990.
On Wednesday night I announced my retirement from coaching and officiating wrestling and other sports altogether. It is said that when a wrestler retires he leaves his shoes on the mat which is the reason I took this picture of my shoes. Those shoes have coached national champions, state champions, state qualifiers, master’s champions, section champions in addition to numerous league team and individual champions. Those shoes have seen wrestlers wallow in their own self-pity and agonize in pain. They have seen the wrestlers try to con their way out of doing grass drills or explain why they were tardy. They have seen wrestlers conquer their demons and overcome their weaknesses. They have seen tears and blood. They have seen the ecstasy of being a champion. But the time has come to put the shoes in the corner of the closet only to be pulled out as a reminder of days past, like the high school yearbook.
I have enjoyed these past 18 years and have watched many of the kids in this community grow into fine adults. Some have children of their own who will be wrestling soon. Wrestling imparts a sense of confidence and self-worth in children that goes with them throughout their whole life. Maybe that is what I liked about the sport most, the self-esteem that children obtained even if they only wrestled one year. Rather than dumb down classes in school to make the kids build self-esteem they should just make them all wrestle, bam, done.
As I close this chapter in my life I know that I won’t be far from the sport. I am still going to wrestle in the Veteran’s Nationals in May. I’ll always be available for our local tournaments and someday I think, when I have grandchildren, I can always get back on the mat but only for fun. I will leave with the knowledge of having taught somewhere in the neighborhood of 1000 kids the sport of wrestling. I did so for only the love of the sport and for the kids.
It is time for me to spend a little time on me. I’ll keep busy with crossfit, powerlifting, Olympic lifting, blacksmithing, woodworking, leatherworking and maybe even pursuing another degree in spatial arts, industrial arts or something like that. I’ll never rest because…. It’s not superhuman strength, its old man strength.