Why football coaches covet wrestlers

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If it’s a Friday night, or Saturday morning in the fall, there is one place Jeff Wichern loves to be, other than inside a wrestling room.

And that’s at a football field, watching wrestlers he currently coaches, or has coached in the past. Wichern owns and operates the JJ Trained Wrestling School in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, and is the youth wrestling director for Eden Prairie Youth Wrestling. Eden Prairie High School is a traditional Minnesota football powerhouse. The Eagles, coached by Mike Grant, son of legendary Minnesota Vikings head coach Bud Grant, has won 10 Minnesota large school state titles, with many Eden Prairie wrestlers making an impact on those teams over the years.

“We want all of our wrestlers to play football,” says Wichern. “I love going to a park on a Saturday afternoon to watch my wrestlers play. Football is a great break from wrestling also and the kids have a ton of fun.”

Wichern’s dad was also a wrestling and football coach in Minneapolis.

“I remember as a kid my dad’s best wrestling teams all had football players on it, and vice versa,” said Wichern.

It’s no secret football coaches love wrestlers. It’s been well chronicled at all levels. Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer is a former wrestler, and his dad was a wrestling coach.

“I think you learn more from wrestling than any other sport,” Zimmer said in the USA Wrestling article Going The Extra Mile. “You find out so much more about yourself and about competition. When it gets down to it, it’s you and the guy across from you. When I was wrestling, for the six minutes that you’re out there, it is one of the toughest, most demanding sports that I’ve ever been around. I think guys that can go through that and compete with all the different things going on, it really defines who you are.”

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