Several years ago one of my boys decided to take up the sport of wrestling at the high school level. Wrestling, I discovered, is an ugly sport that requires an individual athlete to perform well, under intense pressure, for the benefit of his team. My son wasn't a star or a hero but he did grow from the experience. I learned during those years, too. I learned about leadership and what it takes to achieve excellence in a program.
"You know it's not about winning State Championships, it's about raising boys, yep, it's about raising boys, and the winning will take care of itself." That's what Coach Dennis Pirch said to me one day while we passed in the foyer of Wilson Dome after the kids had just finished a tough practice. I knew Payson High School had several State Championships hanging on the wall of the gym and that Payson was known to have one of the best wrestling programs in the state. There had to be a reason.
Part of my job as dad was to pick my kids up from their practices. Often I would try to get to the gym early to watch a part of the practice. The natural inclination is to think that a winning coach must do a lot of yelling, but that is not what I found at the Payson High School gym. What I observed was young men working hard on their techniques with Coach Pirch and his assistants.
At the end of practice Coach Pirch would have the boys sit on the gym floor in a semi-circle. He would join them on the floor and talk with them about what it would take to be successful, telling them that their opponents were doing the same things they were doing. He told the boys that the real difference between them and other wrestlers is what was in their hearts.
What was apparent to me was that when practice was over, those boys were united as a team because Coach Pirch made every boy feel important.
The old coach was right. It really is about raising boys, and the winning will take care of itself. Those same boys who came through Coach Pirch's wrestling program are doctors, dentist, lawyers, teachers, police officers, contractors, engineers, businessmen and, most importantly, fathers trying to raise boys.
Coach Pirch retired from coaching and teaching a few years ago and has been teaching part time at the high school. I understand that his part-time position is being eliminated next year and he may not be back. His leadership will most certainly be missed.
Gordon H. Gartner, Payson
Editor's note: This letter was cut to fit within the Roundup's 400 word limit for Letters to the Editor.