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‘Godfather’ of BHS wrestling enters hall

February 18, 2013

Mary Friedt grips the plaque which signifies the entry into the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame by her late husband, John, at the IHSWCA banquet Sunday at Greenwood. Their children, Dan (far left) and Jenny, along with BHS head mat coach Brent Faurote, were all present to accept the honor. (Photo by Jim Hopkins)

     The late John Friedt graduated from Bellmont High School in 1973, his prep wrestling career over.
    "He could have quit in '73, but John never left the wrestling room," said John's teammate, friend, and coaching buddy, Dave Schirack.
    "No doubt, John was that one person you think of when you look at our program. We all contributed a little bit, but John Friedt was the Godfather of Bellmont wrestling."
    Friedt, who died two years ago yesterday, was inducted into the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame Sunday at the organization's annual banquet. To all those who knew him and were touched by him, it was obvious that the honor was absolutely appropriate.
    "Of all the guys inducted today, John was the only one that everyone in the room stood up for. I was going to stand up if I was the only one," added Schirack.
    John's wife, Mary, who also has also given tirelessly to Bellmont wrestling for four decades, was on hand to accept the Hall of Fame plaque, along with their children, Dan and Jenny, and Bellmont coach Brent Faurote. A large contingent of family and friends was also present.
    Former Adams Central coach Barry Humble made the presentation, and pointed out his long association with John, starting back in the mid-1970s when John and friend Phil Thieme worked hard with area kids in the Decatur Wrestling Club.
    "They opened the club to Adams Central kids and worked with them," pointed out Humble.
     Current and former Bellmont coaches all sang the same praises for the soft-spoken Friedt, who was a master at coaching technique, and added plenty of inspiration to youngsters of all ages in the program.
    "John Friedt is going into the Hall of Fame deservingly. What he did for Bellmont wrestling, for the community, with the youth program, middle school and high school was special. He contributed at all levels," said Faurote.
    "I'm the fifth head coach, but nobody else has been more influential on this program than John Friedt. The same with A.J. (Kalver) and Denny (Hays) before me. When you look at our wall (of fame at BHS), we have 99 guys there (with state places); only Phil Lengerich, our first champ in 1969, was not influenced by John," said Faurote.
    "Even the kids now in middle school, John had an impact on. He wrestled with or coached everyone on that wall somewhere along the line. They all felt his influence," Humble said.
    Assistant coach Tim Myers, a two-time state champ for BHS, spoke fondly of Friedt prior to the banquet. "John was a father, a father who looked out for me and all of his kids, and I'm not talking Dan and Jenny. What he was able to do, and the buttons he was able to push at just the right time ... he was unmatched.
    "How do you replace John Friedt? He is irreplaceable!" offered Myers.
    "Two years ago we lost him, and not a day goes by when we don't think of his smile, his demeanor, his wrestling savvy. John was just always there. He could drive you crazy, but he'd push you to a new level, and he instinctively knew what kids he could do that with. That's the legacy of John Friedt."
    Paul Gunsett, who represented the slate of champions celebrating their Silver Anniversary, accepted his award at the start of the program. Gunsett's clutch 1988 victory in the 135-pound title match sealed the second straight Bellmont championship run.
    "John coached me in seventh and eight grade, then came up with my class and coached the high school kids," offered Gunsett.
    "I spent a lot of time with him and he was a big part of my success, because he was always there and he showed us the right technique. He was great, especially for the younger guys.
    "And when I got older, as an adult, he was there for me then, too. I can remember all the talks we had in the locker room, not just wrestling ideas and technique, but stuff about life. Home stuff. He was literally a father figure. This was a man who could tell us what really was going on and what we needed to do. He was just always there," said Gunsett.
    Gunsett went to Purdue for four years, then returned to teach at BHS. "When I came back, John told me to go for that assistant's job. He's one of the reasons I went into coaching, because of the things he did for me and everyone around me," lauded Gunsett.
    Friedt had his imprint on the Bellmont team titles, and on the individual champs.
    "He wrestled with everybody, (Bill) Schultz and (Chris) Mahlan, and at 170 pounds. He worked with everybody," said former BHS coach A.J. Kalver.
    "His heart was in the right place."
    Gunsett felt that Friedt's insight and extra work paid big dividends for the '88 squad. "One of the guys he picked out to work with was Mike Tricker, now the principal at Crawfordsville. He took Mike under his wing, and he ended up being a two-time state qualifier. Mike won a match his senior year (at state) and almost made it to the final four, losing by a point. He scored points, and every single point was important that year," relived Gunsett.
    "John was there for Mike every step of the way, and really got him motivated. He did that time and again with so many kids."
    "John was a senior, captain of the team and sectional champion on my first Bellmont team," remembered Kalver, who read a tribute to Friedt on the air during his radio broadcast.
    "After he graduated, he stayed in the room. He came back as a volunteer assistant coach. He never left the room and was always there. If I needed someone to demonstrate a move, how to counter a move, how to get out of something, John was my go-to guy. You could never stump John. He always knew what to do," praised Kalver, who even called on Friedt a few times when A.J. returned to coaching at Bishop Luers.
    "He never wanted any attention. He just wanted to be left alone so he could coach wrestling. He was one of a kind."
    "It's amazing just how many kids have been impacted by John and Mary. The two of them worked the wrestling club for almost 40 years. When we lost John Friedt, we lost a lot. Together, they were the heart and soul of our program," praised Kalver.
    "The award putting John into the Hall of Fame is a great honor, and he is more than worthy. But, knowing John, he'd say, 'Aw, come on. What is all this fuss about?' He just wanted to coach wrestling."



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