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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Memories keep coach energized

Friday, November 9, 2012

Kyle Mines, 82, of Oberlin, Kansas, holds the recognition plaque he received from the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association this year and still recalls the outstanding athletes he's coached through the years.
(Lorri Sughroue/McCook Daily Gazette)
OBERLIN, Kansas -- The memory of a dogged high school wrestler who didn't give up can still bring tears to the eyes of his former coach.

Where that wrestler is now, Kyle Mines can only guess. But it's memories like those that keeps Mines, 82, energized.

Mines has coached hundreds of wrestlers through his career and still pitches in occasionally at local coaching clinics, he said. Recently awarded the 2012 Appreciation Award from the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association, his passion for wrestling -- and all sports -- hasn't waned.

When asked what makes a good coach, he doesn't answer directly. Instead, he brings up a wrestler he coached in the 1960s, an athlete who he still thinks about now and then.

It was at South Mountain High School in Phoenix, Arizona, when he came across David Reid. Reid lived with his seven brothers and sisters in a house with a dirt floor, Mines remembered. The family would drizzle oil on the floor, then sprinkle water and tamp it down.

Reid was one of his best wrestlers that year, but a doctor's son beat him at every match, Mines said. The doctor's son always did a certain maneuver that caught Reid off guard, so Mines worked with him anticipating and countering that move.

At state finals that year, Reid steadily won all his matches and finally met up with the doctor's son in the last round. And he won the championship.

Afterward, Reid hugged his coach in the locker room and Mines told him he was proud of him.

"I'm proud of me, too, coach," Reid answered.

The doctor detained Mines after the match and asked why, of all times, did Reid finally beat his son.

As Mines tells it, "I asked him if his son owned his own clothes. 'Yes." Does your son have his own room? 'Yes.' Own his own car? 'Yes.' Going to college? 'Yes.'"

Mines continued, "I told him, "Tonight, when David and your son went to the center of the mat, they were equal. David needed it -- your son didn't."

Mines said he lost track of Reid after he graduated, that he maybe moved to California, that he didn't go to college. But the coaches' eyes still watered as he told the story of the athlete who wanted it more than others.

A former high school wrestler standout himself, Mines has plenty of stories to tell of the athletes he coached in Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado and Arizona.

And Mines loved them all. "They were all like sons to me," he said. "I always had strong bonds with my athletes."

As the stories tumble out, a little of his own history is revealed as well. He was seven or eight when his dad first taught him and his brother how to wrestle, on a linoleum floor just west of Cedar Bluffs, Kansas.

His father, who had to quit school in the eighth grade to work as a hired hand, taught his sons some basic moves.

"I wasn't really sure what I was doing," Mines laughed. But something must have clicked, as he later became a championship wrestler at Decatur Community High School in Oberlin, graduating in 1948.

After attending McCook Junior College for a year and coaching a baseball team in McCook, Nebraska, he graduated from Kansas State University in 1958. At Colby (Kansas) High School, he had four wrestling state champions. He became head wresting coach at South Mountain High School in Phoenix, Arizona, with three state champions; two state champions at Johnstown, Colorado; 14 state champions at Sidney, Nebraska, and nine state champions and two grand state champions in St. Francis, Kansas.

Although he retired more than 35 years ago, that doesn't stop him from pursuing his love of sports. He still goes to as many high school sporting competitions he can, cheering on the athletes. He especially enjoys track, he said, because like wrestling, it's based more on individual performance.

"You can't blame or rely on any of your teammates -- it's all on you," he said.

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