"There have been five different Head Coaches at Bellmont, but none of us have made a bigger impact on Bellmont Wrestling than John Friedt," noted current Bellmont coach Brent Faurote on a statement he issued on Indianamat.com Thursday.
John Friedt, who coached a numerous levels for the Decatur Wrestling Club and for Bellmont High School and Middle School, passed away Thursday, just three days after suffering a stroke at home, and, ironically, just five days after Bellmont had one of its greatest semistate successes with seven earning state berths.
"There have been 89 state placers in the school’s history and John either wrestled with or coached all but one," Faurote noted Tuesday afternoon, pointing to all the names on the Bellmont Wrestling Wall of Fame.
The "one" was Phil Lengerich, the first Bellmont state champion who went through the school five years before John graduated.
Faurote also noted that the three years that Bellmont won state titles and the four years the Braves were runners-up, John was a key varsity assistant, working first with Denny Hays and then Brent.
Between John's 36-year dedication to helping Decatur young men become better wrestlers and stronger young men and his wife, Mary, working with the Decatur Wrestling Club by organizing tournaments, and performing a whole list of duties .... well, no couple has given as much of themselves to a sport, to a town, and to an extended family as the Friedts. And it's no secret.
Sincere messages of condolences from Bellmont's extended state wrestling family were posted on the prep messageboard at Indianamat.com.
John had this quiet calmness, was very analytical, always was an encourager and had this confidence that was just catchy. He seemed to get his finger right on a deficiency, but he always had a solution, he always had an idea that would help solve the problem, and improve the performance. And he was right!
And John played a key role in the quick development of one of the top high school coaches in Indiana, in any sport, in Brent Faurote.
"He was a mentor, a friend and a role model for me," said Faurote. "When I took over the program 23 years ago, John had already been involved with Bellmont Wrestling for approximately 14 years. He had multiple positions such as club coach, middle school coach and assistant high school coach.
"I was just out of college and not ready to take over, but it was John Friedt who encouraged me to apply. Under his guidance, I grew both as an individual and a coach," declared Faurote.
The combination worked out pretty good as Bellmont, under Faurote, developed into an elite program with amazing consistency.
"Next to my parents, John Friedt was the most important and influential individual in my life," added Brent.
Of course, the State Individual Meet and Team State will go on. The Braves had to push through a very tough week. "We battled through it and worked hard. John would've wanted us to, but we shed a lot of tears. We talked about him every day," admitted the coach, who had a hard time explaining the situation to the team on Monday.
"I have been blessed with some great assistant and volunteer coaches, including Paul Gunsett, an elementary PE teacher; Tim Myers, Assistant Principal at BMS; and Sean Faurote, Guidance Counselor at BHS. It is kind of ironic that we all have teaching degrees, but the best teacher out of all of us was John Friedt," stated Coach Faurote.
"John didn’t have an education degree, but he made an impact on all of us and we are in this field because of his influence. John was magic! He had a gift of working and dealing with children of all ages. When someone was struggling with technique or mental issues, he found a way to get them back on track. His passion for kids and the sport of wrestling was contagious.
"In all my years of coaching, I have made very few decisions without running it by John. John has been with me for every great moment and disappointment I have had as a coach.
"I am a better coach, father and person because of him. Bellmont Wrestling will never be the same!," stated Faurote.
The calls have been coming in all week. "It hit me like a rock in the face," said former Bluffton and Columbia City wrestling coach Randy Kearby Thursday afternoon.
"John was the kind of guy that was always there to help. He was a class guy, a real gentlemen and leader. The sport of wrestling lost a great coach," said Kearby, now the wrestling coach at Mt. Tabor H.S. in Winston-Salem, N. Carolina.
I'm sure a whole lot of former Bellmont wrestlers will have some words to add to Faurote's, and maybe a few stories to tell as they gather to grieve their loss over the next few days.
It's just hard to picture ... Bellmont wrestling without John Friedt. However, his influence will always be felt.