Apple Valley wrestling coach Jim Jackson retires
Apple Valley has dominated Minnesota high school wrestling like no other program for the past 30 years. In response, fans have not always treated the team kindly.
Eagles wrestlers often get showered with boos, and fans break into thunderous applause when they suffer a rare defeat. Apple Valley has long been accused of recruiting by opposing fans, though no allegations have been substantiated.
The Eagles, in turn, have been taught to win with class and lose with dignity, and they have carried on a tradition that likely will never be duplicated.
"That kind of stuff kind of came with the territory,'' Apple Valley coach Jim Jackson said on Tuesday, May 1, after announcing his retirement after 32 years with the program. "We are a very successful program because of the hard work and dedication we put into our sport.
"You can't change people's minds or perceptions. Does it bother me? No. I worry about the kids, though. I don't have any ill will toward any coach or competitors that said or felt (negative things) about us.''
Jackson stepped down to spend more time with his wife, June, and 12-year-old daughter Taylor, a promising tennis player.
Jackson, 55, the most successful coach in Minnesota prep wrestling history with a 619-26-3 record, said he wants "to be a full-time dad and give my wife and daughter the time they deserve. It is tough walking away, but the program is in good shape. I feel good about what we've done.''
The Iowa native, who took over as head coach in 1995 after 15 seasons as an assistant to coaching pioneer Bill Demaray, led the Eagles to 14 state championships, including 12 in the past 13 seasons. He also led Apple Valley to consecutive national championships in 2010 and '11. This past season, the Eagles finished No. 3 nationally.
Simley coach Will Short, who has led the Spartans to the past Class 2A championships, said Jackson should be remembered for his success, not the negativity.
"Jim Jackson is the most successful coach in Minnesota history,'' Short said. "Minnesota wrestling won't be the same without him. Five years from now, no one will even remember the (negative) things. His legacy and record will stand out. With all of the things that went into his career, five years from now, no one will remember if they were Apple Valley kids or not.''
Former Apple Valley standout Destin McCauley, a five-time Minnesota high school champion currently training at the U.S. Olympic facility in Colorado Springs, Colo., said Jackson was strong in the face of adversity.
"It was always hard on him when fans would get on a kid about recruiting because he never wanted the kid to go through any of that,'' McCauley said in a text message.
"Wrestling for Coach Jackson has been one of the greatest things in my wrestling career. He's an amazing coach who wants nothing but the best for any wrestler.''
Under Jackson, 169 Apple Valley wrestlers qualified for the state tournament. Fifty-six became state champions, and 131 placed in the top six.
"I have been very fortunate to work with great coaching staffs and great kids over the years,'' Jackson said. "The memories of working hard and achieving success will be with me forever.''
Jackson said he will continue to teach physical education at Falcon Ridge Middle School in Apple Valley. He stressed he is not interested in coaching at any other level.
Apple Valley activities director Pete Buesgens called it a "sad day'' when Jackson shared his decision.
"Jim Jackson is one of the true legends of coaching in Minnesota,'' Buesgens said. "He took a state powerhouse, built by Bill Demaray, and put it on the national scene. In a business that is focused on relationships, Jim went out of his way to make every member of the Apple Valley High School wrestling program feel important.
"He never once cut an athlete from the program and welcomed every kid, regardless of skill level. He is a true ambassador of the sport, and he will be missed on the coaching staff of Apple Valley High School. However, I have a feeling that he won't be too far away from the wrestling room.''
Buesgens said he will be accepting applications for Jackson's replacement until May 25.