Tonganoxie teacher-coach leaves Saturday for active duty with Army National Guard
It's been Jeremy Goebel's position the last three months to oversee the Tonganoxie High wrestling program.
In the coming weeks, he could have a different duty overseas.
Goebel, 24, is a member of the 137th Transportation Company, Olathe, in the Army National Guard. He learned last Saturday -- after returning from a wrestling tournament -- that he would have to report for duty this Saturday.
The first-year coach would have been finished with his military service in just about three weeks, a duty that started in college at the University of Nebraska-Kearney. But, with the impending struggle with Iraq, that has changed.
He and his fiancee, Lisa Borg, had plans for an elaborate June wedding. Now, the couple will be wed Friday in Hiawatha. Borg is from nearby Falls City, Neb., where a later wedding eventually will take place.
"Something we wanted to do before he leaves is to get married so he knows I'm here waiting when he gets back," Borg said.
A registered nurse at Shawnee Mission Medical Center, Borg said the last week has been stressful, but she has received support from her family.
Her future husband originally joined the guard because he wanted a challenge -- and some extra income.
With the demands of wrestling, he really didn't have time for a job, so he signed on with the guard.
Goebel spent basic training at Fort Leonardwood, Mo., and after serving with a Nebraska unit, Goebel was reassigned to an Olathe unit when he came to Tonganoxie. The first-year wrestling coach also started his teaching career in the fall as a physical education instructor.
For three months to a year, Goebel could be away from students and wrestlers he refers to as his kids.
"There are 360 kids and he knows them by name," said TES principal Jerry Daskoski about the elementary students. "Truly every one of them.
"He's a role model-and-a-half for these young people."
THS baseball coach Sean Randall possibly will take Goebel's spot at the elementary school until he returns. As for the high school, Scott Underwood will remain an assistant and Dean Moss, the junior high wrestling coach, will be the interim coach.
"Coach Moss is going to be a great help to me," Underwood said. "It will be hard to refill Jeremy's shoes."
Actually, the wrestlers will do their best.
Goebel called a special meeting to break the news to his wrestlers Sunday. In the process, he gave the team all of the grappling shoes he's worn throughout his career -- including some he wore during the NCAA Division II nationals.
"They're a little bit smaller, but I plan to wear them," said Ross Starcher, a state qualifier last year.
After last season, wrestlers had to adjust to a new coach when Bill DeWitt went to Eudora. This year, the team has to adjust again.
"I think we bonded more with this coach than we did with Coach DeWitt," Starcher said. "I think everybody took it pretty hard. Everybody's going to miss him."
While some wrestlers received shoes, Goebel gave others some sports bags from various competitions.
"He gave me a USA wrestling bag with a stick of deodorant inside of it," senior Andrew Miller said with a laugh.
Miller agreed that the news was difficult to take, but Goebel explained the situation.
"He said he has to fight for our country and we have to give everything for our team," Miller said. "His team is the Army. Our team is Tonganoxie."
Goebel, who had an expanded collection of shoes, said he wanted to leave a symbol with his wrestlers.
"I told them 'I'm there with you,'" he said. "Look down at your shoes every time and know I'm with you.
"Let me come back. I'm still your coach, remember that."
After reporting to local posts throughout the week, Goebel will report Saturday to a fort on the East Coast. At some point during the next year, he hopes to be back.
He's sorry he has to leave at this time.
"I wished it would happened four week later," Goebel said. "I got them this far and I can't even see the finished product."