The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports

March 20, 2013

Rueda column: Gene Hildebrandt leaves a legacy on and off the mat at St. James

ST. JAMES — After 27 years as head coach of the St. James wrestling program, Gene Hildebrandt has decided to step down.

And his legacy extends far beyond the wrestling mat.

The 56-year-old leaves behind an impressive record, including 471 career victories (ninth on Minnesota’s all-time list), two state team titles, nine section team championships and 21 South Central Conference team titles.

“I’ve thought about this for the last several years,” Hildebrandt said. “Other coaches have told me I would know when it was time, and I know this is the right decision.”

Hildebrandt has two grown daughters and a son, Ethan, who will be a senior at Southwest Minnesota State this fall. The coach said one of the reasons he made the decision now is because he wants to be sure nothing will get in the way of going to watch his son wrestle his final season with the Mustangs.

In addition to all of his team accomplishments, Hildebrandt has coached seven individual state champions, 66 section champions and 91 conference champions. He is a member of both the St. James and Minnesota’s Dave Bartlema Wrestling Halls of Fame.

Beyond the wins and accolades, however, Hildebrandt may be best remembered for something more important. For more than 20 years he has made a concerted effort to get Latino students involved in athletics at St. James.

Many of them have ended up in the wrestling room and have helped keep the team competitive while other programs have declined. While the coach knew the Latino population was a potential boost to his program, that was never the main reason he tried to get them involved.

“My grandfather came over here as an immigrant orphan from Germany and I can imagine how alone he must have felt,” said Hildebrandt, who has also been the dean of students at St. James since 1995. “I just felt it was the right thing to do to reach out to these kids.”

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Sports
Outdoors

Latest auto racing news
Featured Ads
Live Moondogs coverage
Shane Frederick's Twitter updates
Chad Courrier's Sports Report
Latest NCAA basketball news
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
NDN Video
World Cup Hero Mario Gotze -- HALF-NAKED MUD BATH ... With Hot Model GF RG3 answers critics, grateful for coaches' support Diamond Stone, Malik Newman, Josh Jackson and others showcase talent First impressions of Giants' new up-tempo offense Athletic Gaines: Where LeSean McCoy, Kenjon Barner, and more prepare for NFL season Denver Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen Resigns Control Sterling says he's not trying to block Clippers sale Jack White's Cub Face Shirtless Super Mario Balotelli Dances While Ironing - @TheBuzzeronFOX Eli, Giants learning new offense How Emmanuel Mudiay Ended Up in China Selig: MLB 'more popular today than ever' Boy With Life-Threatening Tumor Gets Wish To Visit PNC Park, Meet Cutch Longhorns Coach Disses Texas With Compliment - @TheBuzzeronFOX James Rodriguez Joins Real Madrid Kluwe: How can Tony Dungy advocate felons, not Michael Sam Tony Dungy Weighs in on Michael Sam Bowlsby talks cheating in NCAA Clay Travis On Mettenberger Punch & "Dumbest Fanbase" - @TheBuzzeronFOX Morosi: Lee could be a tough sell