The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports Columns

March 5, 2013

Rueda: Longtime NRHEG wrestling coach leaves lasting an imprint

— The high school wrestling season officially ended on Saturday with the crowning of individual champions in all three classes at the state tournament in St. Paul.

It also signaled the end of the 31-year career of New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva head wrestling coach Paul Cyr (pronounced Sear).

You’re not going to find Cyr on any all-time wins lists or state championship lists. Instead he’ll be remembered as a guy who took a struggling program and turned into a perennial contender for the Gopher Conference title.

Cyr, 58, will qualify for the Rule of 90 in May and has decided now is the time to get out. He’s not only giving up his coaching position, he’s also stepping down as the principal of NRHEG — a position he has held for the last 20 years.

“It’s not like I had an epiphany or anything, I still enjoy coaching and being with the kids,” he said. “But I have to admit that the last 20 years, of being both a principle and a coach have worn me down.

“I just have this desire to jump off the treadmill and concentrate on other things. The last time I looked Father Time was undefeated and he’s gaining on me.”

Cyr says he was tired of going into the office from noon to 5 p.m. every Sunday to catch up on the things he wasn’t able to get to the previous week. It’s getting harder and harder to do the things he expects of himself and he doesn’t want to short-change the kids.

Physically, he is wearing down as well. He had a hip replacement in 2003 and last spring he had one of his shoulders replaced. “I really can’t wrestle with the kids any more and that’s hard for me to admit.”

Cyr was born and raised in Oakley up in northwest Minnesota. Upon graduation from high school he attended the University of Morris where he continued his wrestling career.

His career took a number of twists and turns after college. At one point he had tickets to fly to Florida to join the Navy and attend Advanced Officer’s Candidate School. Instead he enrolled for a year-and-a-half at St. John’s seminary.

In 1977, he took a wrestling coaching job at Fertile-Beltrami. After a few years he went back to school and got a math degree from Bemidji State.

In 1986 he interviewed for the position of math teacher/wrestling coach at NRHEG and was offered the job the same day.

“I thought it was only going to be for a few years but one thing leads to another and I ended up staying. I liked the people I worked with so I stuck around.”

He eventually earned an administrators degree from Minnesota State and served 16 years as the principal at Ellendale Middle School. Since then he has served in the same capacity at NRHEG High School, serving as wrestling coach the whole time.

Cyr currently serves as president of the Owatonna Gun Club. He’s an avid trap shooter and loves to hunt.

One of his goals is to hunt ducks from Saskatchewan down to Louisiana one fall. Now that he’s retiring he just might be able to do it.

Cyr believes he has a good nucleus of young wrestlers coming back next year and believes this is the time to move on. He believes whoever follows him will have a pretty good chance to be successful.

Both of his parents are still alive and living in Oakley. He’s considering moving in with them to help them stay in their own home as long as possible.

“We’ll see what the future holds. I’ll miss the people I work with but it’s time.

“I’ve had a lot of former wrestlers come up to me and tell me that I taught them the value of hard work. I guess that’s a pretty good life lesson; I feel good about that.”

Jim Rueda is the Free Press sports editor. To contact him, call 344-6381 or e-mail him at jrueda@ mankatofreepress.com

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