One among the few sportsmen
Out there among the greedy, self-aggrandizing, overgrown children who populate most of today's athletic wasteland there are still a few genuine sportsmen. You just have to look harder to find them nowadays, which makes it more refreshing when you do.Skip to next paragraph
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Tom Hutchinson is a good example. Chances are you never heard of Tom before, and never will again. But in terms of what athletic competition is really all about, he and others like him are infinitely more important than all those preening, prancing instant millionaires who clutter up our TV screens.
Hutchinson is the wrestling coach at Blair Academy in Blairstown, N.J. -- as well as a full-time teacher of math and science and housemaster of a senior dorm. He believes these things all go together.
''We're interested in developing the whole person,'' he told the Monitor in a recent interview. ''A sport doesn't belong in a school if that's not part of it.
''Wrestling and life aren't separate,'' he added. ''If kids don't keep things in the right perspective they just don't do well. You hear stories of choking and getting tight -- that's when people get it out of perspective and it becomes more than a game.
''Also, you have a better chance of doing anything excellently if you're the right kind of person -- if you're honest, and if you love and respect other people.''
There's a widespread school of thought that pooh-poohs such talk, of course, and that prefers the ''nice guys finish last'' philosophy made famous by Leo Durocher. But Hutchinson's record makes a pretty convincing argument that there's more than one way to succeed in the competitive cauldron.
Tom's teams have won the New Jersey state prep school title for nine consecutive years and have gone on to capture the national championship twice ( 1974 and 1981), finish second two other times, and third once. Not surprisingly, in view of such accomplishments, Hutchinson has reaped his share of honors -- topped by his selection as Coach of the Year for 1981 by both Wrestling USA Magazine (a high school award) and the National Wrestling Association (an award that includes both high school and college coaches).
Perhaps an even better indication of a schoolboy wrestling coach's ability than the won-lost standing of his teams is the future success of his charges -- and here, too, Hutchinson has compiled an enviable record.
First there's Mark Lieberman, who won two NCAA championships in the 177-pound class while at Lehigh University, lost to eventual Montreal gold medalist John Peterson in the 1976 Olympic trials, won the 1977 Pan Am championship, and took gold and silver medals the next two years in World Cup competitions among the top wrestlers from the United States, Japan, the Soviet Union, and other countries.
Other Hutchinson proteges who have gone on to fine careers include Kelly Ward , who won one NCAA title and was runner-up twice at Iowa State; Billy Weaver of Lehigh, who was second in the 1979 world championships and made the 1980 US Olympic team; and Eastern champions Randy Miller of Clarion State and Colin Kilrain of Lehigh.
Hutchinson also went to Lehigh, which in addition to its fine academic reputation has one of the nation's top wrestling programs, and he too was successful as a competitor.
''I had done well wrestling in high school, but I had no plans to continue it in college,'' he recalled. ''I kind of had the idea I should outgrow wrestling to get into the real world.