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Turner steps down after leading SVE wrestling to 26 years of success

Spring Valley/Elmwood head wrestling coach Carter Turner (standing) was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame – Wisconsin Chapter for lifetime service to the sport of wrestling along with Paul Cudd of River Falls and Walt Anderson of Ellsworth. File photo1 / 3
SVE Statistician Lauren Trealoff and Coaches Frank Thompson and Carter Turner during a past wrestling event. Turner began as an assistant coach in 1984. File photo2 / 3
Carter Turner3 / 3

When talking to former Spring Valley Elmwood wrestling coach Carter Turner, it's evident that he's very passionate about two things: wrestling and his family.

If you step into his agriculture classroom at Spring Valley Middle/High School, you'll see a trophy case packed with awards that Turner and his wrestlers have won just in the last six years.

If you stay long enough, Turner may even show you a video of his soon-to-be granddaughter who his son and daughter-in-law are adopting from South Africa this month.

For 26 years Turner has been trying to find a balance between being a family man, a teacher and a wrestling coach, but recently decided to step down as SVE's head wrestling coach in order to dedicate more time to being at home and in his classroom.

"Frankly, I was just really tired," Turner said. "It's a grind."

Turner began assistant coaching in Spring Valley, his hometown, in 1984 under the direction of Bob Thomas, his former high school football coach. He took over as head coach in 1990, and has since recorded a 175-134 dual record, made his way into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, coached all four of his sons, and has led his team to five WIAA Division 3 state tournament appearances.

Turner said that when he was younger, he always assumed he'd become a football coach, because he was more of a football standout than a wrestling star in high school. However, the two-sport high school athlete said he had always liked wrestling, and that he kind of gravitated toward the winter sport.

Turner also noted that schools often have a harder time recruiting wrestling coaches than football coaches.

"A lot of people don't want to give up all of their Saturdays all winter for wrestling," Turner said. "When the bus leaves at 7 a.m. you have to be here at 6 a.m. so the kids can check their weight and all of those kinds of things," Turner explained. "It just gets to be long. Unless you've done it you don't really understand how much time it takes. I'm not complaining at all, it's just time for somebody else to do it."

Turner and his family were able to make his six-day work weeks work when his sons were young and could tag along with dad or were wrestling in the weekend tournaments themselves, but that's no longer the case for Turner and his family.

"Wrestling and all high school sports seem like they're getting to be year-round now, and the expectations are high and parents want successful programs," Turner explained. "So, you have to deliver a good program, and that means countless hours outside the season that you work with the kids in the weight room and in camps. It was getting to be hard."

Turner announced that he would be stepping down at last season's end-of-the-year banquet, and had been talking to his assistant coaches about his plans throughout the season. Outside of the coaching staff, Turner believes most of the community had an idea that he was planning on retiring and that they understood his decision.

"I think people understand. It's going to happen sooner than later," Turner said. "I need a little mental break, too, and I think people understand that. In this day in age everyone needs a mental break sometime."

Along with the support of his staff and the community, Turner said his decision was also made easier because of the recent success of the SVE wrestling program.

"I thought that we had one of the best middle school teams in the area, so we have some good kids coming up," Turner said. "We have good assistants, and there's nobody new really coming in who doesn't understand what we've been trying to do."

Bill Hofacker, who's been Turner's assistant for the past five years, will take over as head coach upon Turner's retirement. The five-year assistant is a former Spring Valley wrestling state champion who has what Turner calls a "good background in wrestling."

"[Bill] has been involved with the program at some level for many years," Turner said. "He's ready to take over."

Hofacker said he knew Turner had been considering retiring for some time once his kids and grandkids grew older, but that he was surprised when the man who "lives and breathes wrestling" finally made the decision to end his time as head coach.

The new coach knows he'll be able to rely on his predecessor for advice and support as he takes on his new role, and said he's excited to take on his new role as head coach.

"We have great staff members and kids," Hofacker said. "I've been in the sport for many years, and I've coached most of these kids since grade school."

Hofacker's wrestlers are also confident in his ability to lead the wrestling team to success just as Turner did.

"I don't think there was anyone better to take the job as head coach than Bill," senior Nick Hofacker said. "He has watched Turner coach for years and has learned how to run a team from him."

Nick Hofacker added, "Turner was a great coach, and he had one heck of a run! I'm very lucky to have been coached by one of the best coaches there is."

Carter Merth echoed Nick Hofacker's thoughts: "I believe that our team will still do great things with or without Turner. He was a great coach for us, but Bill has been there for everything right along with Turner and will do just as good. Turner had to be done sometime, and just because he stepped down from head coach doesn't mean he is gone for good."

Nick Hofacker and Merth both qualified for the WIAA Division 3 individual state wrestling tournament in the 2016-2017 season behind the coaching of Turner and Hofacker.

And Merth is right, just because Turner no longer holds the "head coach" title doesn't mean he'll be hard for his former team to reach.

When asked if he'll still attend duals and tournaments, Turner quickly responded with, "Of course."

"It'll just be nice to go there at 11 a.m. and leave at 3 p.m. instead of coming in at 6 a.m. and getting home at 8 p.m.," Turner said.

The former coach will also continue to try and recruit students at the Middle/High School by introducing them to the wrestling team.

"I still talk to the kids all the time about [wrestling] and encourage kids to go out," Turner said. "Numbers is the name of the game, so I try to help out that way."

Turner is looking forward to the spare time he'll have with his lesser role, but said, "I'll certainly miss it."

The former coach said he'll miss bantering back-and-forth with the respected coaches in the region and the wrestling moms who've always supported their sons and the program as a whole.

"I always say that the moms are the important ones. The moms are the ones that drive the kids, they take them every place, they have to encourage them — if the kid wants to quit it's the mom that makes them stay in it," Turner said. "Moms are the key. I'll miss that."

But first and foremost, Turner will miss working with his wrestlers.

"I'll miss working with the kids every day. The kids that are in wrestling are a pretty committed group," Turner said. "You work with them all the way through the program and you get to know the parents really well, and I'll miss that. And taking a kid that's pretty average and making him a state champion, that's very special for a coach to be able to do that."

Although he's taking at least one year off, Turner still said that he's not 100 percent sure whether he's done coaching for good or not.

"I kind of left the door open a little bit," Turner said. "I could come back, but it'd be because I want to, not because I have to."

Turner knows he's leaving his wrestling program in good hands, and can rest easy knowing that SVE's wrestling success will carry on behind competent coaches, talented athletes and a supportive, wrestling-enthused community.

"Spring Valley is a great place to coach. The community is very supportive, and it's always fun to see kids in elementary school wearing their wrestling shirts," Turner said. "It's a great region for wrestling, and it's fun to be a part of that.

"I really have enjoyed the experience of coaching in a small town, my hometown."