Coach Minkel’s Lasting Impact

In the middle of the arduous task that is the Big Ten wrestling schedule, it seems like a change of pace would be nice.

Not many people really understand exactly what Tom Minkel has done, or who the man is. Minkel is in his 24th season as head coach of the Michigan State wrestling team. During his time as head coach, Minkel has produced 37 All-Americans, 13 Big Ten Champions and two NCAA champions.

That, is quite the resume for a coach of a Big Ten program.

Coach Minkel has served as head coach of three U.S. World Teams and one U.S. Pan-American team, which led him to be named the head coach of the U.S. team at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. He made the most of this opportunity and also made history. Minkel’s team won a bronze medal, which was the highest finish ever by a U.S. team in Greco-Roman competition.

For all of Minkel’s coaching accomplishments, his career as an individual wrestler is mind-boggling. Minkel, a three-time U.S. National Greco-Roman Champion at 149 pounds, was a member of the 1980 Olympic Team and wrestled for seven international U.S. teams.

In his collegiate career at Central Michigan, Minkel was a three-time All-American, and was the only wrestler in school history to go through an entire career undefeated in dual meets (35-0-1). He was the conference champion in 1969 and 1970 and earned the conference’s Outstanding Wrestler Award in 1970. His overall career record was 73-13-1 and his accomplishments landed him in Central Michigan’s Hall of Fame in 1985.

So, after a career like this, what keeps a man coming back to the fire?

After a November practice, Coach Minkel took some time out of his day to answer the question: What keeps you coming back to the sport?

“Really, the best thing about coaching, and certainly coaching wrestling, is you have an enormous impact on the lives of the young men that you coach,” Minkel said. “Obviously the sport is very tough, and very demanding, and really demands a lot of commitment from young men and really challenges them in ways I don’t think that they fully expect. Also, you know, you have an enormous impact on their lives in terms of their conduct in terms of their academics. Coaching is a great job because it’s not just a job, you affect the lives of young people. And I hear, quite often from guys who have been in the program from many, many, years ago and they’ll call and we’ll talk and they’ll tell me how their experience here changed their lives. Really, honestly, that’s the part that keeps me coming back. And on top of that, I love wrestling, I love working with young people. I wouldn’t change it for anything.”

With an answer like that, we can see a sliver of the soul that defines Coach Minkel. At his core, the man only wants to help the younger generation after him. He has done all that he needs to individually, now it is all about how many lives he can touch and what sort of legacy he leaves behind.

A noble pursuit from a noble man, no doubt about that.

Nick Carver is the host of Pinned Down for Impact Sports

Photo: Jonathan Yales/Impact Sports