Coach Gabrielson's Retirement Speech

Southern Maryland Wrestling Club
March 13, 2000

"Today I leave the world of coaching a sport which I've loved for over 40 years, and which I've spent a great deal of my time, energy, and money on these past 31 years. I've had a long career with many coaching successes in college, high school, the services, at the national level, youth teams, and as an open club coach.

As I leave the mat today for the last time as a coach, I would like to thank the following individuals who have each contributed in their own way to making my coaching career a success. I first would like to thank my family including my parents who were my greatest fans. I also want to thank my uncle Ray, my cousins John, Bud, and Roy, plus my brother Carl, all of whom were successful wrestlers and who gave me the internal support I needed to succeed starting at an early age. I would like to thank my Madison High School coaches Jim Lyons and Jim Smith for teaching me the foundations of wrestling, and my regular high school workout partner Danny Dunn who made sure I learned them well.

I would like to thank my college coaches Bill Boering and Dale Deffner who took me to the highest level, and to my college workout and soul partners John Geyer and Raul Duarte. Dale has actually lasted as a coach longer than me. I would now also like to thank my open club partner and co-coach at Costa Mesa Athletic Association Jim Hodge who first got me interested in coaching, and to my very first students, my brother Carl, Eddy Bond, Katsugi Nerio, and Gabe Ruiz. At a time when I wasn't much more than a student myself, these individuals allowed me to prove to myself that I could teach wrestling to kids who could go on to win the biggest events.

I founded SMWC in the early 1980s at Calvert HS as a spring/summer program for the Kettering wrestlers I was coaching who wanted to continue wrestling off-season. I would like to thank all those coaches, kids, and other wrestlers who have helped and inspired me to stay with the SMWC program through many years of hardships, tremendous verbal abuse and at a considerable financial burden. These individuals include Omar and Kahlil Malik, Earl Norman, Jim Howard, Steve Arslanian, Eric Lewis, Buddy Lee, Mike Sola, Roy Hill and Rick Jones. Each has contributed, and they will all have my continuing gratitude in the years to come. I would like to finally thank my wife Kim, who knew about my wrestling habit long before she married me, and who put up with me, my nerves, and my injuries through much of my coaching career.

And now for all of you, the more recent members of our club, and those who have been around since back in the days when I spent a lot of my time working out as well as coaching. Our many successful members of this club over the years will insure the same for the next generation of wrestlers here as well. Thank you for helping me go out as a winner.

A coach likes to say that there have been moments in his life that he will always remember. It was about wrestling and coaching that Jason and I had our first serious discussion when he was 5 years old. I made promises then and can now say I've delivered on them. My personal thanks to you all, good by and good luck. With these last words of thanks, I take off my shoes."

Note: Coach presented this speech to a somber audience after the first spring practice and annual meeting of the Southern Maryland Wrestling Club which he founded in 1983. He announced in October that due to family problems he was going to retire at the conclusion of the winter youth league program. Following this speech, Coach removed his shoes and left the mat to a resounding ovation. A group picture of current club wrestlers was then taken with the trophies won at the league and state youth tournaments this past weekend.

A reception and party took place immediately after the group picture was taken for the 100+ wrestlers and friends present, including former SMWC youth team coach John Dodge, current youth team coach Rick Jones, the Chairman of Virginia USAW, Roy Hill, The Mat webmaster Joe Lareau, former 3 time US GR Champion Jim Howard, a number of local high school coaches, and several current college wrestlers who came from our youth team. It was a little crowded, but everyone made it into the wrestling room at Gwynn Park HS in Brandywine, Maryland. Coach's two sons Jason and Kevin, plus his wife Kim were also present. Jason Gabrielson was voted in as SMWC's new Head Coach earlier in the evening. Jason was nominated by SMWC Hall-of-Fame Member Jim Howard, and his nomination was seconded by both Roy Hill and SMWC Hall-of-Fame Member Rick Jones.