Leading with passionAfter succeeding on the mat for the Park wrestling program, current head wrestling coach Jim LaBrosse has now also set a new high-water mark for coaches at his alma mater.
By: Patrick Johnson, Staff Writer, South Washington County Bulletin
After succeeding on the mat for the Park wrestling program, current head wrestling coach Jim LaBrosse has now also set a new high-water mark for coaches at his alma mater.
LaBrosse, a Park graduate in his seventh season as head coach, broke the school record for career wins as a wrestling head coach with 79 as the Wolfpack defeated Cretin-Derham Hall on Tuesday, Dec. 15, in St. Paul.
Currently 79-51, LaBrosse — who graduated from Park in 1983 — surpassed the win total of John Haines, who coached wrestling at Park from 1990 to 1998 compiling a record of 78-85.
LaBrosse said he never thought about the wins record until he starting looking at the stats.
“Park has had great coaches,” LaBrosse said. “It’s great to be mentioned with some of those greats we’ve had in the past. It’s nice to be in that same caliber. I’m thankful that I’ve had great kids to work with — that’s what it comes down to.”
LaBrosse, who was coached by Jim Riesselman and Bill Hickman at Park, 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 then coached at Adams State, where the team won a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) national championship, before spending eight seasons with Hudson High School in Wisconsin prior to returning to Park.
Park Activities Director Phil Kuemmel said it’s great to have someone who bleeds green at the reins of the wrestling program.
“What definitely makes it more special is that he’s come up through this Park wrestling program and he puts a lot of emphasis on pride and tradition,” Kuemmel said. “That link to the past is very important to him.”
LaBrosse said it’s very special to be back at Park and doesn’t foresee going elsewhere in the near future.
“I just want to give back to the community what I got from it,” LaBrosse said. “Hopefully, we can have many more years. It’s my passion.”
Along with winning the national championship at Adams State, LaBrosse said among his career highlights was beating River Falls, Wis. in his second year at Hudson. Hudson hadn’t beaten River Falls in 28 years and the team was ranked No. 2 in the state when it fell to LaBrosse’s team.
LaBrosse said he wanted Hudson to grow to be a powerful program like River Falls. When he was hired to coach Park, he made it a goal to become as strong of a program as neighboring Hastings.
“He knew Hastings was obviously a very strong program,” Kuemmel said. “He wants to be up there with the Hastings and the Simleys — that’s the level of program he wants to have and he’s done everything he can to make that happen.”
LaBrosse said he still believes his program can get there.
“They’ve been the best team in our conference for many, many years,” LaBrosse said. “They have a great program and a great tradition. They’ve set the bar high, but that’s what we need to get to. We’re getting close. We think we’re heading in the right direction.”
LaBrosse wants to bring a team to the state tournament some day. Park, which is currently in the same section as the No. 1 team in the nation — Apple Valley — along with Hastings, which is ranked No. 2 in Minnesota, has been to state twice, in 1984 and in 1985.
“Hopefully we can do it,” LaBrosse said. “It’s all about getting good kids, getting the kids involved and understanding the importance of what wrestling does for them in the future — the conditioning, the hard work, the discipline and how that pays off in the future. We want kids that are happy to be involved with Park wrestling.”
Kuemmel said LaBrosse has been very involved at the youth level.
“Numbers are a big part of wrestling,” Kuemmel said. “I know our numbers are great at the high school level and at the youth level. A big part of it is promoting the sport in the community, reaching out to the youth, so when they’re older they have an opportunity to compete at the high school level. Jim’s done that.”
Kuemmel said LaBrosse always wants what is best for his wrestlers and what’s best for the wrestling program and is a great mentor to the students at Park.
“Once in a while kids will have certain concerns and issues, but the kids know they can turn to Jim,” Kuemmel said. “There’s a level of respect — he expects a lot out of the kids. But, the kids know they can turn to him if they ever need anything.”
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 16 all-state wrestlers and five state champions. The school’s last state champion was Steve Duval (155 pounds in 1986).
LaBrosse, who is already undoubtedly part of the Park wrestling tradition, believes it’s important to remember the history of the program, so the kids know what they are a part of.
“That’s stuff that needs to be highlighted that hasn’t been in the past,” LaBrosse said. “As a coach who has come up through the program I think that it’s very important to recognize the success we’ve had in the past in order to build on it for the future.”
Park wrestling coaching careers
— Nyles Tolzman, 1959-1967, 43-43-7
— Chuck Shultz, 1967-76, 48-97-2
— Jim Gehrke, 1976-77, 13-6
— Jim Riesselman, 1977-1983, 48-35-4
— Bill Hickman, 1983-1989, 61-45
— Gary Fehrman/Perry Fink, 1989-1990, 10-10-1
— John Haines, 1990-98, 78-85
— Dave Bunn, 1998-04, 49-88-2
— Jim LaBrosse, 2004 – Present, 79-51