Von Haden reaches #300 match milestone
For prep wrestlers it's about reaching the 100 win milestone on the mat over the course of a high school career.
For Tomah Timberwolves wrestling coach Jeff Von Haden the dual wins kept adding up. And after 23 years Von Haden reached the 300 win milestone in the corner of the mat. The Timberwolves helped Von Haden reach that milestone Friday, Jan. 15 at Tomah High School during a quadrangular.
It's likely Von Haden would have rather the win come in more dramatic fashion. The Verona Wildcats had to forfeit eight weight classes in the dual. But that was out of Von Haden's control.
Whether both teams compete with the full complement of 14 wrestlers each or only half a team, a win is a win.
Von Haden took over Tomah head coaching duties for the 1998-99 school year.
He is a 1988 THS graduate where he had a solid career. He graduated from UW-La Crosse in 1993. Along with his head coaching duties on the mat, Von Haden is a fixture in the classroom teaching math. He has also involved coaching football as a varsity assistant and junior varsity head coach.
"This milestone is not necessarily about me but the countless young men that came through the Tomah wrestling program," Von Haden said. "I am honored to be their coach and am grateful for all the friendships and memories created along the way."
His first coaching job was under Bill Tourdot when he was head coach in Tomah.
"I learned a lot from him,." Von Haden said, and the two remain close friends. "I also coached under Dale Stafslein and he helped me along the way. When I was hired, Mike Lyga was my assistant and without him those first years, I don't know if I would have made it this long."
Von Haden also credits former Tomah coaches Bill Spiers and Greg Beaver who provided guidance early in his career.
His first dual win of my career was at the Wausau West dual tournament. Tomah went 4-1 on the day. They beat Sturgeon Bay, Boyceville, Neenah and Oshkosh North. They lost to Wausau West, a program that always seemed to have Tomah's number.
Tomah competed at team state during his tenure in 2006, 2007 and 2008, but they were never able to top Wausau West during that run.
"Wausau West always had our number except for the last five or so years, never beat them until recently, even the teams that went to team state never beat Wausau West," Von Haden said.
Von Haden recalled a close loss to Baraboo two nights before this tournament, his first dual as Tomah head coach.
Von Haden notched 100 career wins at the Neillsville dual tournament Jan 6, 2007. They beat Reedsburg 66-14 and went 5-0 on the day to win the tournament.
Win number 200 came a little more than seven years later, Jan 30, 2014, conference match versus La Crosse Aquinas, 41-23.
Could take another seven years for the next milestone?
Said Von Haden, "400 who the hell knows. Not ready to give it up yet, but 400 is a long way to go."
Von Haden also had the pleasure of coaching two sons, Tyler and Travis, on the mat and football field. That family dynamic could be a little tense Friday night when the La Crosse Central/Logan wrestling team competes in a quadrangular at THS. Tyler Von Haden is co-head coach of La Crosse.
Going into Tomah's next action Friday night his career record is 300-129. Will the climb to a possible 400 wins come at the expense of Tyler?
Wife and mother (Wendy) may have to play the role of silent fan when husband and son sit on opposite sides of the mat.
Despite being a little light on numbers this season, Von Haden has a strong crew of young grapplers that keep him engaged as a coach and on his way to possibly another dual milestone down the road.
Von Haden has been assisted by Dan Finch for 10 years, nine of those as a varsity assistant. Von Haden has been in the corner for two individual champions, Tyler Laudon (1999) and Jordan Reisinger (2014).
And although Tomah has gotten the best of their cross county rival the past few years against the Sparta Spartans. That was not always the case.
Some of those rival matches came with Tourdot at the helm of the Sparta program.
"Sparta is the biggest rival," Von Haden said. "Nothing better than when the gym is packed and people standing at the end of the gyms to watch our battles. Standing room only. Some of the greatest memories I have is when we wrestled Sparta. I always told kids these will be your greatest memories from high school. There were times the ref could not hear the horn to end periods. Many epic duals. Win or lose they usually were exciting."
If only Von Haden would have kept a journal.
"I wish I would have written down the funny and crazy things the wrestlers have done over the years," Von Haden said. "I could have written volumes on all the wrestlers that I have coached and coached against."