Michael Burckhardt, right, worked out with teammate Jonathan Chmilowsky at Coon Rapids High School, where they are celebrating five decades of wrestling. Photo by KYNDELL HARKNESS • firstname.lastname@example.org
The wrestling room at Coon Rapids High School is dedicated to Robert A. Board, who founded the program in 1962.
One of Board's most intense and successful wrestlers, Bob Adams, later succeeded him as coach. Adams believed in tradition and added trophy cases, photos of wrestling alumni and leader boards to motivate future wrestlers through past glories.
This season marks five decades of Coon Rapids wrestling or as Adams calls it, "50 Years of Building Men."
Bob's son Ryan, a legend in Cardinals annals for coming back from a broken leg to win an individual state title in 2005, said his role as son, wrestler and now assistant coach help him better understand his father's mission.
"The biggest thing is just taking these high school kids and turning them into the men they want to become," Ryan Adams said. "You can just kind of tell how wrestling has affected people's lives. It just gives them that focus to zero in on their goals and that drive to go get what they really want out of life."
Board coached Coon Rapids to six conference titles and the state tournament in 1986. He saw three wrestlers claim individual state titles.
Bob Adams, a 1979 graduate, took over as coach in 1998 and kept the program on course. His teams have won six conference titles, reached state in 2008 and crowned six state champions.
The wrestling room features pictures of all of the school's wrestlers who finished top six in the state, and an all-time individual victories leader board that goes about 15 to 20 wrestlers deep.
"We wanted kids to have something to shoot for," Bob Adams said. "I've seen a lot of kids staring at that board."
Adams family is prominent
Atop the list are three named Adams: Carter (198 wins), who is Bob's nephew, and Bob's sons Jason (191) and Ryan (171).
"I'm definitely proud of the legacy the Adams family has left," Ryan Adams said. "It all starts with my dad. He was the one pushing me and my brother and my cousin."
Bob Board joked about the first time he mentioned coaching to Bob Adams, then a ferocious wrestler.
"I told him, 'I should break your arm so you can coach and not prove how tough you are by beating everyone in the room,' " Board said.
"Bob was a hard worker. Very driven. I knew he would be successful in whatever he tried. He's one of the best coaches around. He goes above and beyond."
Adams keeps the Cardinals' wrestling torch firmly in his hands.
"He lives and breathes it, man," Ryan Adams said. "It's what he does. I couldn't tell you how many times he's gone through the Anoka lineup figuring out every single possibility.
"I wish these guys in here could follow him home and see how much he puts into it. Obsession might be the word for it."
Current wrestlers such as senior Joe Anderson and sophomores Ryan Jones and Josh Bryant said Bob Adams keeps the program's tradition at the forefront of their thoughts.
"There's not a week where you don't hear about the tradition," Anderson said. "He's constantly reminding us how great the 2008 team was and how we can be that great. He makes us realize what everyone in past has done to get where they have been."
The message has gotten through.
Jones regularly seeks additional instruction for up to 45 minutes past scheduled practice time. Wrestling, he said, has resulted in better grades, healthier eating and staying in shape.
"We hear a lot about what people on the wall were like," Jones said. "He encourages us to push it to the next level, to drill like we're out there with the other team."
Despite the emphasis Adams places on tradition, whether or not a wrestler becomes a champion isn't the point. As Board once preached to Adams, "Just being a champion isn't the answer because there is only one of those every year."
David La Vaque • 612-673-7574