WEST ALLIS -- The West Allis Central wrestling coach could be described as "old school," but that's only because he's been in the business of helping student athletes grow for almost six decades! But "Coach Ed" is young in every other way.
Ed Stech wears several hats for the students and staff and West Allis Central High School, but what he is really known for is his long-time association with the Bulldogs wrestling team.
It all began 56 years ago. Mr. Stech, now 82 years young, is still with the team as an assistant coach. Why? "A wrestler is a different type of athlete than most others, because he is out there putting his reputation on the line, and we have had just a string of really super kids, and it is such a pleasure to work with them," Stech said.
As you might imagine, Coach Stech has worked with generations of young men. "Some parents have had four and five kids on the team, but there's a lot of continuity in our program. We've only had five coaches in the whole history of the program here at Central," Stech said.
When Stech was head coach for almost two decades, he was all by himself. There were no assistant coaches, and no first-rate facilities. "When we were over at the old school, we had a room that was 20 feet by 20 feet, and we ran a varsity and JV program out of there with one coach. That put the foundation down, and then from there, we've got the program we have today," Stech said.
He may not be the head coach anymore, but Stech's role as team advisor is every bit as important. "Sometimes when grandpa something, the same thing the coach told them, they didn't believe the coach, but they'll believe me, and then you get kids sometimes that are pretty upset, and they sit down on the bench, and you put your arm around them and talk to them a little bit, and convince them that the world will not come to an end when they've lost a match," Stech said.
Stech says when it comes to wrestlers, the more things change, the more they remain the same. "The kids have changed because there's a whole different world. The ones that don't want to handle the discipline and the necessary work to be a wrestler, they don't last long," Stech said.
One of the reasons Coach Stech stayed around so long is that he's making an impact in the lives of student athletes. "It's very satisfying. Especially when they drop you a Christmas card or something like that. They are good kids, that's all there is to it," Stech said.
Stech says he never plans to retire, as long as they'll allow him in the building! "I just enjoy being with the kids," Stech said.
Everybody knows and loves Stech, including the current co-head coach. "I have been coaching here for 25 years, plus four years of high school, plus a couple years in middle school, and he's been around the whole time. He has been my mentor. It's always a familiar face. You walk into the wrestling room, you come to practice and you see him there, and you are going to do him proud," Jason Stromberg said.
"We respect him a lot," one wrestler said. "He's like the 'Father of Wrestling' here. Can't imagine it without him," another wrestler said.
"I have lots of sons. Very many of them. It is a pleasure, especially on Alumni Night when you see people that you haven't seen for a year, basically, and they will come back, and we just have a good time," Stech said.
Frank Sinatra once sang about having few regrets. Stech says he doesn't have any. "I've always tried to do what is right, now, whether it is or not, I don't know, but there is a tremendous satisfaction with seeing these kids go on and be successful," Stech said.