Wrestling a family tradition for Hickman coach

Wednesday, November 30, 2011 | 9:30 p.m. CST; updated 10:31 p.m. CST, Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Hickman wrestling coach J.D. Coffman demonstrates the next exercise to his team during a practice on Tuesday at Hickman High School.

COLUMBIA — Rock music, thumping and reverberating throughout the wrestling room, is merely background noise when Hickman wrestling coach J.D. Coffman speaks.

"Don't quit!" Coffman yells. "We're almost done." 

Next match

Hickman at Parkway South Tournament

WHEN: 5 p.m., Friday
WHERE: Parkway South High School, Manchester

Practice is almost over and the wrestlers, who are tired and sweating, are hoping the end is near. Coffman knows they're tired. In fact, Coffman knows all about what they are going through. He is more familiar with the sport than most. Coffman's father was a wrestling coach at Truman High School in Independence.

Once Coffman reached high school, he had to wait until his sophomore year to begin wrestling because there was no freshman team. After three years of high school wrestling for his father, his competitive career came to an end.

After high school, he worked as an athletic trainer at MU, then he started student teaching and working as an assistant wrestling coach at Rock Bridge High School. In 2000, Coffman became a physical education teacher and an assistant wrestling coach at Hickman. Just four years later, the job of head wrestling coach at Hickman was his.

This season will be his eighth as head coach.

"He wants to lead you to become a better wrestler, and he is going to show you and do his best to make you better," Kewpies junior J'den Cox said. "All you can ask for from a coach is his best. That's what he gives us."

Coffman's background in wrestling allows him to relate to his wrestlers on a personal level.

"He's definitely a more friendly guy," senior Will Owens said. "He expects a lot from you, but at the end of the day he jokes with you. Coach knows how hard wrestling can be when you have to cut weight and things like that. He's easy to relate to and easy to talk to."

Wrestling definitely runs in Coffman's family. His son, Jake Coffman, is now a freshman at Hickman and has begun his wrestling career. He won his match during the Purple and Gold scrimmage last week, which resulted in booming applause from the audience.

"He has never wrestled before, and he has tough matches to come," Coffman said. "My dad was my coach, and now I'm his coach. There will be growing pain but hopefully many good times as well." 

For Coffman, coaching is all about instilling poise in his wrestlers and making sure each one has faith in themselves.  

"The best part of coaching for me is teaching kids who have never been on a mat some moves and then watching them be successful," Coffman said. "We go live and I see some kids who have never wrestled before be successful with things we just taught them over the last couple of weeks.  It’s building self-confidence for them that will carry over for the rest of their lives."

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