Dukes coach John Sedlick has been ushered into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame with a Lifetime Service to Wrestling Award.
Already inducted last year into the Ohio Wrestling Hall of Fame, Sedlick was bestowed Oct. 22 with the newest honor in Dublin, Ohio, cheered on by a crowd of 400 state members. He was one of eight to be added to the hall’s rolls.
Matt Ghaffari, an Olympic silver medalist wrestler in 1996, served as master of ceremonies and introduced the longtime Wellington coach.
Sedlick has coached six state champions, 31 state placers, and 49 state qualifiers during his tenure at Wellington High School. He also taught biology, health, and physical education for 37 years before retiring eight years ago. He wrestled in high school in New York and in college at Ashland University.
“I sent all of my records and information to the national hall of fame in Oklahoma and the next thing I know, I’m being inducted,” he said. “I just said wow and thought it was incredible. It was quite amazing to stand up there and talk to that packed house. I received a beautiful plaque and a green jacket. It’s a tremendous recognition.”
On what has led to his longevity in a sport characterized by staffing changes after down seasons, Sedlick says it’s all about having fun and forming a bond with kids.
Wellington won the Patriot Athletic Conference during the 2014-2015 school year and placed fourth last season.
“It’s all about my love of the sport,” he said. “I’m doing what I enjoy. I would’ve gotten out a long time ago if I didn’t love it. It keeps me going. It gives me something to think about and plan for during the day. Getting out here and getting the guys working out just feels great. It’s my home.”
Questions of retirement come up for any coach who’s been around for nearly a half century, but Sedlick says that is not yet on the horizon.
“I keep it out of the picture because I don’t want to say anything and then change my mind,” he said. “When I’m sure about it, I will make a decision. I know I can’t go on forever. Physically, I try to stay in shape, but aches and injuries heal much more slowly as you start to get older. I have limitations now. I can still show moves, but I can’t go out there during practices and wrestle full-go like I used to.”
He said despite running into physical limitations, he has not stopped trying to expand his mental capacity as a coach and attends regular clinics to learn about new innovations in wrestling.
“I try to pick up a technique and pass it on,” he said. “Something like that can make a huge difference for a kid.”
Finding it difficult to narrow down a list of his favorite moments as coach, he said anytime he sees a wrestler qualify for state tournaments, it gives him great satisfaction.
“Coaching state champions and getting anyone to a state meet is always an emotional time for me,” he said. “Great athletes do great things but sometimes you have what might be an average athlete and he does great things that many thought he couldn’t do. To see a kid rise above others’ and even their own expectations for themselves really strikes me.”
Sedlick coached his son, Scott, to one state championship in 1992 plus one more state finals appearance. Before that, he helped his other son, David, qualify for state tournaments.
“Coaching your own kids is different,” he said. “It’s impossible for a parent to not feel differently about their own kid out there wrestling as opposed to someone else’s kid. It worked out for me, but I know coaches who haven’t felt comfortable coaching their kids.”
There have been moments of both heartache and triumph throughout his career.
Sedlick said he still thinks about his first state champion, Jason Hartman, quite often. Hartman won state championships in 1990 and 1992 before being diagnosed with a brain tumor in 1995 while wrestling at Hofstra University. He died in 1997.
The Jason Hartman Memorial Scholarship was created in 2002 by the Wellington Wrestling Federation in his honor.
“He was my first champion and I’ll never forget him,” he said. “I still can’t believe we lost him.”
For new coaches trying to lay the foundation for a long tenure, Sedlick says to make the most of the pieces you are given.
“Things aren’t always great and they don’t always go your way,” he said. “Kids can sometimes tend to want to pack it in and quit. That can cause a new coach to move or transfer to another school. Maybe that has to happen for some people, but for me, I’ve never thought about going anywhere. Wellington is a great community with great schools and it’s been great to me.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
Courtesy photo John Sedlick stands between his two sons, David and Scott, after receiving a Lifetime Service to Wrestling award from the Ohio chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. Both sons wrestled under Sedlick at Wellington High School, with Scott winning a state championship in 1992.