LONGMONT — Last season was a successful one for the Silver Creek High School wrestling program, which appeared to be on its way up the ranks in Colorado's Class 4A.
But head coach Michael Silva accepting a head football coaching position at city rival Skyline High School left Silver Creek athletic director Martin Tonjes in desperate need of a competent replacement to continue the wrestling program's recent upswing.
Enter John Finkbiner.
"I'm excited," Finkbiner said. "They've proven themselves to be good athletes at that school and hopefully I can help get them to where they're competing for state titles every year."
On Tuesday, Finkbiner, a 25-year-old product of nearby Fort Lupton High School, accepted the head wrestling job at Silver Creek High School. A 2007 graduate of Fort Lupton, Finkbiner wrestled at Western State Colorado University and coached as an assistant at Dodge City High School before working as a volunteer assistant at Fort Lupton High School the past two seasons.
A local product and coach, Finkbiner said he had noticed Silver Creek's recent success from a distance. In his first head coaching job, Finkbiner said he is looking forward to taking over a program where a lot of crucial pieces are already in place.
"They've got some tough, solid kids right now," Finkbiner said. "The current state of the program is great and hopefully I can bring something extra to the table to get more kids out and build on last year's state success."
Finkbiner also said he doesn't expect it to be easy to replace Silva, who coached the Silver Creek wrestling program for 14 years. During Silva's last year in 2014-15, Silver Creek qualified three wrestlers for the state tournament. Only 220-pounder Mitch Webster graduated in the spring.
Knowing the wrestling program had reached a critical point where it faced the risk of a regression, Tonjes said he put together a selection committee that included the principal, the athletic secretary, one parent, several current wrestlers and himself in order to make sure the school was getting the right coach to keep the program moving in the right direction.
In the end, Tonjes said it was Finkbiner's undeniable energy and excitement that earned him the position.
"He was aware of the recent success of our program and he wanted to continue to grow the program after the success we had with coach Silva this past year," Tonjes said. "Right when he walked into the room, the committee could feel his energy and passion. He just really wants to coach."
With Finkbiner as an assistant coach, Fort Lupton High School finished sixth in the Class 3A team scoring at last season's state championships. The program also produced two individual state champions.
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