Stockert steps aside as Fruita’s head wrestling coach
Jim Stockert swears he isn’t leaving the sport of wrestling.
“I’m not going away,” he vowed Tuesday after his announcement that he was retiring as head wrestling coach at Fruita Monument High School.
In an era when the tenure of a high school coach is becoming shorter and shorter, Stockert is an anomaly.
For 30 years, he pushed his athletes hard in practice, paced the sidelines and shouted instructions to his charges when they were in a match.
The decision was not an abrupt one.
“I’ve been pondering it for a couple of years,” Stockert said. “It’s not that I’m tired of it, because I’m not. But it’s time for someone younger to take over.”
One of Stockert’s former wrestlers, Lucas Archuleta, has been a longtime assistant and Stockert’s son, Brook, has been an assistant coach for the past two seasons.
“It was my intention that someone with a vested interest take it over,” Stockert said.
He hopes to keep his hand in the program by being an assistant coach.
“I’ll still have my hand in it if (the new head coach) will let me,” Stockert said.
Fruita Monument Athletic Director Pat Noland will open the coaching position to applicants over the next few weeks.
“We have a few people who are interest in applying,” Noland said.
Stockert retired his math teaching position four years ago but has returned three times to the classroom. Two days before teachers were to report last month, the school rehired him full time again for this school year.
Noland not only knew Stockert in their capacity as teachers in the school but also from an adult education class that Noland taught in which Stockert was a student.
“He’s a good man, he’s a good teacher,” Noland said.
Fruita Monument won the state team title in 1982, Stockert’s third year as a head coach, and finished second by one-half point the next year. The Wildcats have had numerous top-10 finishes in Stockert’s 30 years and he has produced 14 state champions, including one two-time champion, current Palisade High School coach Brian Rush.
“He’s proud of the program he’s built,” Noland said.
Tyler Ryan, a 2005 Fruita Monument graduate and four-year varsity wrestler, appreciated Stockert’s dedication.
“You could tell he cared about us and was always wrestling with us,” Ryan said.
More than just their won-loss record, “He cared about us off the mat,” Ryan said.
In fact, in Ryan’s first year of college, when he attended Mesa State, he did not wrestle but still went to Fruita’s wrestling gym to work out with Stockert.
“He was the only person who’d wrestle with me,” said Ryan, who went on to wrestle at Liberty University and the University of Northern Colorado.
Stockert is one of only three head wrestling coaches in Fruita Monument history. Jack Pollock began the program and coached for 25 years (Stockert was one of his athletes) before giving way to Gene Williams, who coached for two seasons.
Stockert stayed in it for so long because he enjoyed working with the kids.
“You just become another parent,” he said of coaching. “I tell the kids at the (season-end) banquet, I hope you’ve learned more in your four years than just wrestling.”
Noland knows Stockert’s shoes won’t be easy to fill.
“He’s an institution here,” Noland said. “It’s tough to replace him. We’re certainly going to miss him.”
If Stockert has his way, they won’t really miss him. They’ll still see him prowling the wrestling gym and the sidelines during matches. As he said, he’s not going away.