Former Coach Provides Lesson In Courage
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is the goal that many strive to achieve. But sometimes, it can become an uphill battle. Take for example former Emmetsburg wrestling coach and current Iowa Lakes Housing Coordinator Bob Roethler. For him, it became a lifelong goal to achieve.
Growing up in Elkader, Roethler had a farm background and his hard work made him physically fit to become a wrestler. There were no youth programs back then and he did not start to wrestle until his freshman year in high school. He was placed on the varsity squad.
At Central Elkader High School he fell in love with wrestling and then continued his career at Loras College in Dubuque where he placed third in the area NAIA Division.
“I fell in love with the sport because it was a contact sport and taught me how to compete individually and as a team member,” said Roethler.
After graduating from Loras he started his coaching career at St. Edmond High School in Fort Dodge in 1967 and led the Gaels to a 37-17-1 mark in five seasons at the school. In 1972, he assumed control of the Emmetsburg program where his teams authored a 77-7-1 recorded, and guided the E-Hawks to four consecutive state titles from 1976-79.
His life suddenly changed while at practice in 1978 when he suffered a brain aneurysm and was rushed to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., where he had nine hours of intense surgery to repair the aneurysm. Following the surgery, he suffered a postoperative stroke.
“I remember about everything that happened, when I was in surgery, I could hear the doctors drilling in my skull even though I could not feel anything,” he mentioned.
Three months of intensive therapy followed, where he regained the use of his left leg, but the effects produced a paralysis in his left arm. Using the lessons he learned and taught on the mat helped him to overcome his physical adversity and made him like his wrestlers a real winner in life.
One of his proudest moments came when he was able to return to wrestling and watched his team win their fourth state championship at Veterans’ Auditorium in Des Moines.
“The 1979 team is the one that stands out the most to me. Winning the championship four years in a row was something special. Winning is an attitude and it also was carried to the football program where Emmetsburg won championships also,” added Roethler.
He’s also become a winner of numerous awards.
Roethler was the Class 2A Coach-of-the-Year in 1977; was inducted in the IHSAA Wrestling Hall-of-Fame in 1991; and, in 1998 was inducted in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Okla.
Last February, Roethler was selected to be a ‘Grand March Escort’ at the Iowa State High School Wrestling Tournament in Des Moines.
Recently, Roethler received the National Wrestling Hall of Fame “Medal of Courage” award, Iowa Chapter in Des Moines on Oct. 30. The Iowa Chapter selected Roethler for the “Medal of Courage” award based on the disciplines he learned from wrestling. That made him a role model to young people by making right decisions as opposed to easy decision making when confronted with difficult life choices.
“Former wrestlers that I coached in the past came back and told me that I had a great influence on them in achieving their life goals and that is what makes me proud that I had something positive to give them in their lives,” said Roethler.
Some of the winners he coached include:
– Jeff Kerber, four state titles
– Rich Stillman, three state championships
– Dan Kauffman, two crowns
– Kevin Kauffman, one championship
In addition, 35 other E-Hawks were state place winners
After retiring from his coaching career, he didn’t give it up completely.
Roethler spent six years at Graettinger as a volunteer coach for Armstrong-Ringsted’s little kids wrestling program. Today, he is still a volunteer assistant in the Emmetsburg/Ruthven-Ayrshire program, teaching the lessons of overcoming adversity, dedication, commitment to setting goals, and having a positive attitude that allows a person to give back to a sport that gives so much.