For Jim LaBrosse, the time has flown by. He must be having some fun.
“A decade of high school wrestling went by extremely fast,” said LaBrosse. “It feels good to be able to coach at Park for these past 10 years. I have been fortunate to be surrounded by many great people at all levels to make it such a positive coaching experience.”
LaBrosse, a former standout wrestler who graduated from Park in 1983, set the Park record for coaching wins back in 2009. Though he’s been a wrestler and coach for Park a total of 14 years he doesn’t see himself as the face of the program.
“I’m just the guy organizing a fun program,” LaBrosse said. “Wins come with time. I think the face of Park wrestling is the product we put out on the mat each year. It feels good to be competitive.”
LaBrosse was coached by Jim Riesselman and Bill Hickman at Park. He was a state entrant wrestler for Park in 1981 and in 1983 before going on to become a three-time All-American wrestler at Adams State College in Colorado from 1986 to 1988.
LaBrosse began his coaching career at Adams State, where the team won a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) national championship. LaBrosse then spent eight seasons with Hudson High School in Wisconsin before ultimately returning to Park.
LaBrosse said being a coach and teacher is a tradition in his family.
“My sister, my mom, and my grandparents all taught,” LaBrosse said. “Sports have always been a part of my life, especially wrestling. I knew at a young age that I would coach. Also, I have been coached by some of the best in this sport.”
Over the past decade, LaBrosse has been a mentor to many young men and has been able to reach a number of wrestlers and teach them the right way to do things.
“I wouldn’t want any other coach than coach LaBrosse,” said Park senior wrestler David Giadyu, who was a two-time state entrant and team captain for the Wolfpack. “He’s one of those people who will tell you how things are and tell you what you need to do to prepare you right.”
Giadyu said LaBrosse’s life lessons extended beyond the wrestling room.
“He really helped me out a lot by making sure I was always on point and doing the right thing, not only on the mat, but off the mat,” Giadyu said. “He treated me like a son. I really appreciate everything he did for me.”
Giadyu said something he felt that stands out about LaBrosse is he truly cares about his athletes and treats them with respect, which in turn makes the athletes respect him.
“He tries to get the pressure off of you and will joke around with you,” Giadyu said. “They treated us like friends, had fun with us and showed us respect and we gave them respect back. That’s why we really got along.”
LaBrosse said the best part of coaching is being on the winning side of upsets that take place individually and as a team, along with being able to be around kids who enjoy the sport of wrestling as much as he does.
A highlight for LaBrosse has been being able to coach his son Collin the past four seasons. Collin, just a sophomore, is already a two-time state entrant and 100-match winner.
“It is extremely special to coach my son,” LaBrosse said. “He has worked so hard for what he gets. Just to see his transformation from his seventh grade year to now is really something. He is so fun to watch and constantly continues to improve. He is a true student of the sport.”
LaBrosse said every state tournament Park has been a part of has been a special memory for him, but one regular season dual stands out as well.
“When we upset White Bear Lake 10 years ago it was like we won the state championship,” he said. “White Bear actually took us so light that they had practice before the match. We had a talented group of freshman that year. It really turned us around.”
Some of Park’s greatest wrestling teams were in the mid-1980s, when LaBrosse was wrestling for the then-Indians.
In 1984 and 1985 Park was a state entrant as a team. In 1984, Park had six state entrants, two all-state wrestlers and one state champion — Perry Fink. In 1985, Park took fourth place as a team. Throughout the years, Park has had 18 all-state wrestlers and five state champions. The school’s last state champion was Steve Duval (155 pounds in 1986).
LaBrosse said honoring the history of the program has been important to him, so the kids know what they are part of. That includes bringing a number of former wrestlers back as assistant coaches over the years.
“Everywhere I have coached I try to do the same thing,” LaBrosse said. “It is a respect thing that the younger wrestlers look up to these guys. It’s great to have alumni continue to come back and give to the program as well as they are familiar of how we run things and what the expectations are.”
This past season Park lost just two matches in the Suburban East Conference and was ranked as high as 15th in Class AAA. The Wolfpack also won the District 833 championship, placed second at the Chisago Lakes Legends Tournament, had four wrestlers ranked in the top 10 in their weight class, and sent three wrestlers to the state tournament.
“It starts with the whole team aspect,” LaBrosse said. “We work hard together, we win together and we lose together. The individual accolades will come when everybody pushes one another. Keep your grades up come to practice on a daily basis ready to learn and improve and have fun doing it.”