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Vaith to be inducted into state’s wrestling hall of fame

Paul Vaith, second from right, is pictured celebrating a good result during a match at the state tournament in the late 1990s. Vaith recently learned he’d be inducted into the Minnesota Wrestling Hall of Fame. (Star Gazette file photo)

If there was ever a sure-thing when it came to the Minnesota Wrestling Hall of Fame, it had to be Paul Vaith.

First, though, he had to be nominated.

That’s where Josh McLay came into play. McLay, a former standout wrestler at HHS who was coached by Vaith, nominated Vaith for the award over the summer. Recently, Vaith got the good news: He was going to be inducted this spring.

“When the opportunity arose to nominate him, I jumped all over it,” McLay said. “He belongs in it. He’s such a good guy – he makes everyone around him better. That’s just who he is.”

As a high school wrestling coach here, Vaith had a record of 412-99-1, including a 141-7 record in conference action. His teams won 12 conference titles, eight section titles and one state title. They were runner-ups in 1998 and 2007.

McLay prepared a formal letter to support his nomination.

“It was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever written, even though I had so much ammo,” he said. “I’m pretty fortunate to be where I’m at. A lot of my success is directly tied to him. The least I could do was write a good letter of recommendation for him.”

The committee called McLay to tell him the good news, and then it was McLay who got to call Vaith to deliver the good news.

“It was pretty cool – he didn’t even know he was going to be nominated,” McLay said. “He’s such a humble guy. He coaches for all the right reasons. He cares about this community and these kids so much.”

Vaith was the head coach here from 1991 to 2009, then stepped down. He became an assistant coach at the middle school so he could follow his son, Mark, up through the program. When he joined the varsity team a few years ago, Vaith moved back up to the high school as an assistant.

“I get to tell people that my assistant coach is in the hall of fame,” McLay joked.

When McLay called Vaith to deliver the good news, it’s safe to say it was a memorable phone call.

“It’s incredibly humbling,” Vaith said. “It’s a reminder of how blessed I am as a person and a tribute to the people I’ve been able to be in contact with.”

Vaith said he was just happy he was welcomed back into the wrestling room at the high school when Mark joined the team.

“Josh lets me come back into the room,” he joked. “I really appreciate it. It has been fun, too. I’ve been able to enjoy it.”

Vaith said he also enjoyed the time on the middle school coaching staff.

“It was great,” he said. “I got to be in the room and work with kids every day. You get to share your passion for the sport and help them grow.”

Vaith will be inducted this April.

“Just to see him get recognized makes me feel good,” McLay said. “He means so much to this program. He makes not only good wrestlers, but good citizens. He cares about kids and wants to make a good impact. That’s what he’s done. That’s what I’ve tried to live up to now.”

Letter

Here are some excerpts from McLay’s letter nominating Vaith:

“Paul’s record as head coach speaks for itself having over 400 wins and a state title, but what isn’t on his resume are all of the lives Paul has touched. Personally, he turned me from a snot-nosed kid into a good young man and instilled the true values that made me successful on and off the mat. If you have ever known Paul, he believes in two things that will make you successful: positive mental attitude and a good work ethic. Every kid who has ever wrestled for him knows that is the expectation and he doesn’t hesitate to remind you on a daily basis. He has been a positive role model for countless young men and continues to mentor and lead. There are so many of his former wrestlers that stop in the wrestling room just to say hello to him. …

“There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t feel fortunate to have wrestled for Paul and to have him now as a mentor and more importantly a friend! I wholeheartedly recommend Paul for induction into the Wrestling Hall of Fame. I cannot think of an individual more deserving.”

Resume

Here are some of the highlights regarding Vaith’s career, both on the mat as a wrestler and then as a coach.

Blooming Prairie High School

- Record, 84 – 14 – 1

- 4-year letter winner

- 4-time all-conference

- 2-year captain

- State Entrant, 1975

St. Thomas College

- Record, 28 – 7

- Started as a Freshman and Sophomore

- Ended both seasons with knee surgeries.

HEAD COACH

- Hastings High School, 1991 – 2009

Accomplishments as Head Coach

Record: 412 – 99 – 1 overall, 141 – 7 in conference

Conference champions: 12 times

Section champions: 8 times

Section runner-ups: nine times

Eight state team appearances:

- Champions in 1996

- Runner-ups in 1998 & 2007

- Third place in 1999, 2000 & 2001

- Consolation champions in 1997 & 2006

- 144 All-Conference wrestlers

- 64 All-Conference honorable mention wrestlers

- 128 state entrants

- 55 state place winners

- 18 state finalists

- 6 state champions

AAA Coach of the Year in 1996 and 2007

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