FREDERICK -- Gerry Galway has practically grown into a wrestling institution at Frederick High School. Spending more than three decades as the face of a program will do that.
This season marks Galway's 35th as a member of the coaching staff at Frederick High.
Galway has coached two multiple-state-title winners, countless state placers and has attended more state tournaments than most ever will. But the day-to-day interaction on the wrestling mat in Frederick, and not the podium or the bright lights, keeps him coming back year after year.
"To me, wrestling teaches so many life lessons and it's fun to help teach them and to work with kids every day," said Galway, who has been head coach of the Warriors program since 1989. "I've seen great wrestlers and tournaments, stuff like that, but just being here every day makes me feel good."
The 58-year-old Warriors coach always has been a teacher first and a wrestler second.
Galway grew up in Parkville, Mo., just outside of Kansas City and graduated high school in 1972. Wrestling brought him to the University of Northern Colorado, where he met his wife Charlene. He wrestled for the Bears until a 1973 car accident left him with internal injuries and he was forced to give up the sport in order to recover and catch up with school.
The St. Vrain Valley School District hired Galway as a physical education teacher at Frederick High in August of 1978. It was then, somewhat unexpectedly, that Galway also received his first coaching job of any kind.
"As I was walking out, the principal says, 'Oh, by the way, you're also coaching football and wrestling,'" Galway said. "I said, 'OK.' I jumped in with both feet and I've been there ever since."
Since that day, there isn't much in the realm of prep wrestling that Galway has not seen.
"The kids, they'll keep you on your toes, they'll challenge you, they'll push you. It's always something new every day. They're all different, good kids and there's always a different challenge for each of them. When you see that light bulb go on in their head, that makes it fun."
The venerable leader, Galway has left an impression on many young wrestlers and in the Frederick community. His calm, even-keeled demeanor hasn't changed in 35 years.
Rarely does Galway raise his voice and rarely does he stand still during practice. He still paces around the room instructing one group while watching another, simultaneously teaching and planning his next lesson across the mat.
"You couldn't get anything past him even when I was a wrestler for him," assistant coach Bobby Matthews said. "He'll be teaching a kid over here and yelling at a kid over there. And he's down underneath with his head on the mat like, 'Get to work!' You're thinking, 'How did he even see that?'"
Matthews, who graduated from Frederick in 1997, said he is constantly approached by former wrestlers who wish to pass along a greeting to the mainstay coach.
"Everyone -- alumni, wrestlers, students -- thinks very highly of him. I think it's because he does lay the structure down that he wants you to adhere to and it's your job to adhere to it," Matthews said. "He's definitely a fatherly figure to a lot of kids. Even still, he keeps me under control."
Galway started the Frederick Wrestling Club youth program in 2000, when Frederick added an addition to the old building. Before that, wrestling equipment was so spartan and the team was so ignored that Galway considered hanging up his shoes.
The youth program's benefit has been obvious. Over half the current team came up through it. Many men who wrestled for Galway in the 1980s now have sons who are coming through the youth program. Some of them are now coaches themselves but they all still call him Coach Galway.
Current senior Jakob Vargas learned everything he knows from Galway. Starting at age 6, Galway was his first coach.
"He taught me how to wrestle," Vargas said. "He connects with his wrestlers emotionally. He always knows what's going on and he helps them get through it. And he's been around the sport so long, he knows every trick there is. Nobody knows more about wrestling than him."
The Warriors now practice in a pristine 3,500-square-foot wrestling room at the new Frederick High School. Galway sets up for high school practice at 2:30 p.m. each day. After the Warriors, the Frederick Wrestling Club youngsters come in for their practice. Galway doesn't normally leave the wrestling room until 8:30 p.m.
Since he never sees him leave, Vargas said he's started to believe Galway sleeps in the wrestling room.
Respect and dedication, however, don't save Galway from the occasional ribbing from the wrestlers about his age, which tends to be exaggerated as a result of his lengthy tenure. Favorites include how he taught Jesus to wrestle and questions about what it was like to wrestle dinosaurs in a loincloth, or wearing just a leaf.
But, more genuinely, Vargas has also dubbed Galway the "GOAT," for Greatest of All Time.
He's had an impressive run with the Warriors so far, and not even Galway knows his future with the program. But he recently renewed his teaching license for another five years so there's not an immediate end to the legacy in sight.
He may not be going six minutes with the seniors anymore. But for the time being, Galway can't think of anything he'd rather do than coach wrestling.
"The mind and spirit are willing," Galway said. "Time is starting to take its toll on the body a bit. I'm not quite as young as I used to be. You don't retire from something, you retire to something. I just haven't found that 'to' yet."
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