Interim coach guiding wrestlers
Pat Wakeman is back surveying the wrestling mats at Tonganoxie High.
An instructor at THS since 1969, Wakeman has taught science and biology for more than 30 years. Many of those school years included time coaching wrestling. Wakeman helped coach the first Chieftain wrestling team in 1969 and was an assistant throughout the '70s before becoming the head coach in the early '80s.
"I've been an assistant for eight coaches," Wakeman recalled Monday.
Now, Wakeman has returned to oversee the team again, but it's on an interim basis. With coach Jeremy Goebel still serving in the Army Reserves in North Carolina, the Chieftains were without a head coach and THS athletics director Brandon Parker wanted a faculty member monitoring the team.
"He's a former wrestling coach so he understands wrestling," Parker said. "And being a staff member it makes it nice for supervision."
Wakeman said he's just filling in until Goebel returns, which could be next month.
"We're just trying to keep the Goebel program going," Wakeman said. "It's hard to keep his enthusiasm, but we're just keeping the program going."
Assistant coach Scott Underwood also isn't a stranger to Tonganoxie wrestling. A 1997 THS graduate, Underwood said he has wrestled since he was 8. After overseeing the youth wrestling program for many years and helping out in the high school ranks, Underwood made his high school coaching debut last year under Goebel. With more than 20 wrestlers competing this winter, Underwood said practice has been upbeat.
"I think we're actually doing a better job at this point than I had expected," Underwood said.
The Chieftains' first varsity meet will be Saturday in Atchison. That will provide a flashback for Wakeman, who said coaching has been an adjustment.
"I don't see how coaches do it these days," Wakeman said. "That first week I was starting at 6 in the morning and didn't finish until 6 at night."