Search for Helias wrestling coach should start with one name

Sports Commentary

There is only one person to call first.

When Travis Reinsch stepped down as Helias wrestling coach to take a position in the school’s administration last week, I took a couple of minutes to run potential candidates as his replacement through my mind.

I came up with a few. And then an odd one struck me. Look to the past to go to the future.

Mike Jeffries. Why not ask the best before looking to the rest?

photo

Mike Jeffries

It’s been 10 years since Jeffries gave up his wrestling coaching duties with the Crusaders. He built the program from scratch and turned it into a model for the rest of the state.

Jeffries finished with more than 600 dual victories and led Helias to 12 state championships, the last coming in 2003 in his final year at the helm.

It’s no secret the program has experienced a downturn since he left. But that shouldn’t have been unexpected. And I think Reinsch has received a little too much of the blame for what has happened.

Would you want to be the one to follow a legend? If you’re a success, then you just rode the coattails of your predecessor. If you struggle, then you’re the worst coach in the history of mankind. It was a no-win situation.

The numbers in the Helias wrestling room are down, but the program is definitely still an influence on other programs on the area. There are former Helias wrestlers on coaching staffs, there are wrestlers who came up through the Tri-Cap program and sons of former Crusader wrestlers in starting lineups not wearing the pinstripes.

And if you want numbers to go back up, just think about Jeffries walking the Helias hallways, “encouraging” able-bodied youngsters to give wrestling a try. Or in some cases, another try.

What are the chances Jeffries would say yes if the offer was made? I spent 15-plus years covering the Crusaders under Jeffries and I would figure between slim and none, with slim being as thin as a Kleenex.

He’s out of teaching and spending quality time with his grandchildren and his various outdoors activities. Logic says he needs to do this like the Kardashians need another television show.

I’ll see Mike next Sunday when the Helias wrestling program is inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame during a ceremony at the Capitol Plaza Hotel. And I’m sure he’ll have a choice word — or more likely, a couple of hundred — for me about even suggesting this.

But it doesn’t hurt to ask. The worst thing you’ll hear is no.

Accompanying photo: Mike Jeffries

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