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Retiring Radabaugh kept Ellsworth on wrestling map

Jack Radabaugh will retire from teaching physical education and coaching wrestling at Ellsworth High School for 42 years at the end of this school term. Radabaugh had intended to become a college wrestling coach when he was hired for an opening at EHS in 1972. (Herald photo by Bill Kirk)

Jack Radabaugh was out of his element Friday.

The Ellsworth High School physical education teacher and wrestling coach had charge of a food science class at the school. A substitute teacher wasn’t there that day, so he was tapped to take over the class, he explained.

Being “a fish out of water” isn’t normal for the 42-year veteran local educator who’ll retire at the end of this school term, especially someone who also happens to teach fishing rod building and is eagerly awaiting going fishing during his retirement.

No, this career has been almost all about wrestling and phy ed.

“By the time I was a senior in high school, I knew I wanted to be a phy ed teacher and coach wrestling,” he said, adding, “I don’t know why…I just knew it.”

Any influence wasn’t from his family, but likely from their neighbors when he was a youth, he said. In Hastings, Minn., the McNamara boys were wrestlers and he hung around with them, so got focused on the sport. Although sports weren’t really organized when he was young, he played baseball at the middle school level and football as a linebacker on Hastings’ junior varsity team.

He was even a Golden Gloves boxer in the ninth grade, member of a club, Radabaugh said. He won district competition and qualified for state, yet was denied participation due to age (16 was the minimum and he was 15 at the time). Despite his boxing success and some experience with track, particularly as a pole vaulter, wrestling remained the top sport in his sights.

As a high school senior, his wrestling team managed a third place (there was only one division for tournaments back then) and he was predicted to be the state champ that year, he said.

“But I messed up,” he said, acknowledging he’d somehow let a district (the equivalent of sectional in Wisconsin) opponent get the better of him.

For more please read the May 14 print version of the Herald. 

Bill Kirk

Bill Kirk was editor of the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth, from 1988 to February, 2015 and is now on staff as a reporter. He holds a bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He previously worked in the media distribution department at the University of Minnesota's Minneapolis campus and is past editor of The Tri-County News in Osseo, Wisconsin.

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