Alumni go to the mat for wrestlers
June 9, 2008 · Updated 7:31 PM
"At first glance, a studio artist, a Bible studies major and a future Marine Corps officer would seem to have little in common.But Matt Pedersen, Danny Pippinger and Chuck Gilmore share a deep bond, honed through countless hours on the mat and off as four-year members of Steve Hohl's wrestling teams - and reinforced as volunteer assistant coaches on this year's Spartan squad.I just can't stay away from wrestling, Pedersen said, and his sentiments speak for the group.Pippinger has spent the past three years working with Hohl and paid assistant coach Britton Johnson. Gilmore's done it for two seasons, and Pedersen joined them this campaign upon returning from a decade spent in the East and Midwest.It's a measure of their love for the sport that compels each to make considerable sacrifices - financial and otherwise - to work with the young athletes. Those sacrifices haven't gone unnoticed or unappreciated.I absolutely couldn't do without them, Hohl said. At my age, I can still explain things to the kids, but I can't get down and do it with them.Pedersen, Pippinger and Gilmore have no trouble whatsoever getting down. The three, state-level competitors in their prep careers, show every day in practice that they've still got the physical gifts necessary to give convincing demonstrations of winning techniques to their charges.Proper technique has multiple meanings for Pedersen, who graduated from BHS in 1989 after a prep career that included letters earned in golf, football and wrestling. At Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., he wrestled all four years while majoring in studio art.You name it, I did it - paint, wire, multi-media, drawing, ceramics, he said.Pedersen worked for two years as a freelance artist in Boston, then taught art and coached wrestling for four years at a private boys' school in Nashville before returning home. Now he works for a contractor friend and hopes to return to a local university to obtain a teaching certificate.He had Hohl had stayed in touch over the years.Wrestling has always been my number-one thing, and i don't know what I would do without it, Pedersen said. I've always respected Steve, so when he asked me to help out, I was glad to.He has sacrificed some wages by cutting his work day, but the real trade-off has been in time - the hours of planning and participating in practices, evening matches and weekend tournaments that could have been spent on his artistic endeavors.But a lot of people gave up their time for me, and that was very influential in my growing up, Pedersen said. What they did has inspired me to come back and help out.Gilmore, a 1997 graduate, is equally emphatic.I hope I can keep wrestling until I'm in a wheelchair, he said. It taught me so much - self-sacrifice, motivation, teamwork, responsibility, everything you need in life. It kept me out of trouble, and was like a family to me.No other sport compares with it.Following two years at a military junior college in Missouri, Gilmore currently works at a Seattle restaurant and works with the team whenever his schedule allows - and often when it doesn't.For instance, when he was recently scheduled to work at the restaurant during the weekend of the Island Invitational Tournament, he simply told his employers he wouldn't be available.Working with the Spartans was just more important.Last year was the first time in 20 years that Bainbridge didn't have someone at state, and I took it personal, Gilmore said. They're a real young team right now. They're rebuilding. I want them to be as strong as some of the great teams of the past.It's unlikely, however, that Gilmore will be around to see the team's turnaround. He plans on returning to school next fall with a wrestling scholarship, possibly at Central Missouri State University.I want to be a Marine Corps officer and major in sports therapy and training, he said.A walking advertisement for physical fitness, Gilmore usually works out for an extra hour after Spartan practices.In high school I never had the best technique, he said, but nobody could ever match my strength and endurance.Though he weighs a rock-solid 197 pounds and bench-presses more than 350 on a less-than-classic lean runner's build, he runs a five-minute, 23-second mile and can knock off 12 miles in just an hour and 23 minutes.Pippinger, a 1993 BHS graduate who's no slouch himself physically, doesn't have Gilmore's time to stay in Gilmore's kind of shape. His staggering set of commitments could give his prep proteges some valuable lessons in time management.After graduating in 1998 from Chicago's Moody Bible Institute, Pippinger entered a master's degree program in marriage and family therapy at Seattle Pacific University. He's carrying two internships in addition to his class time and homework. His first child was born at about the time the wrestling season began last fall. He has a part-time job with a local landscaper.Yet Pippinger finds time to help with practices and attend matches - and does so with no signs of stress.I have a good schedule book, he said. And my wife is very supportive. I really think my goal is to be a servant to these guys. I always felt that wrestling had valuable lessons for me, a combination of excitement and hard work. I try to pass those on.I try to push the kids, because they all have limits in their minds. I want to make them understand that those limits are subjective ... I believe that if they can learn how to push past their limits in wrestling, it carries over into the rest of their lives."