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And now for the rest of the story

By Staff | May 7, 2017

It was fun for me to learn all about former Blue Earth High School wrestling coach Gene Lybbert.

To be perfectly honest, I had never heard of him.

Sure, I had heard about his wrestling team and their amazing amount of success at the State Wrestling Tournament 60 years ago.

Some of that wrestling history I had learned about from Dave Sohn, A. B. Russ, Randy Wirtjes and Jack Eustice among others.

I even did some research about Blue Earth wrestling history when I wrote an ‘Our Heroes’ story about Richard Krumm, who was killed in Vietnam, and had an annual wrestling award named after him.

But, I knew little to nothing about coach Gene Lybbert.

Now I do.

His story is intriguing, to say the least. His entire wrestling career was here at Blue Earth, and yet it barely lasted four years.

But, boy, oh boy, he crammed a lot into those four years from 1954 to 1958. Four conference championships, three region championships and one region runnerup trophy, three state team championships and one state runnerup trophy, 14 individual state wrestling champions and nine more kids who placed at state.

Wow. That’s almost unbelievable. And what is more amazing is that it was all done in a one-class system with small schools competing right up there with the big city schools.

Now, with three other Blue Earth wrestling coaches in the hall of fame (Ken Bergstedt, Jack Eustice and Dick Maher), one might wonder why it took 60 years for Lybbert to be inducted.

Dave Sohn, who was at the induction ceremony on April 29 in Benson, says there is a reason for that.

It seems, Dave explained to me, that in order for a Minnesota high school wrestling coach to be inducted into the hall of fame, he has to have coached for 10 years or more.

Coach Lybbert, as you recall, just coached four years all four in Blue Earth.

But let’s face it, Lybbert accomplished more in those four years than most coaches do in 10 or more years of coaching, I?said.

Dave agreed, and explained that he has been trying to get the rule changed or at least made less strict, just so coach Lybbert could get inducted.

But, to no avail.

Dave adds there were at least seven other deserving coaches who also were never inducted into the hall of fame for the same reason they had coached less than 10 years.

So, since he could not get the rule of 10 years changed, Dave did the next best thing.

He talked them into creating a new category in the hall of fame called the “Pioneer Hall of Fame Award.” It is designed to honor those who have made a significant impact on wrestling in Minnesota, no matter how many years they coached.

There were three Pioneer Awards given out on Saturday, April 29. And, they were all well-deserved.

Especially that one given to Blue Earth coach Gene Lybbert.

The other rather special part of this story is how so many of those 23 (or so) young men he coached for those four years back in the 1950s have gone on to teach and coach wrestling as well.

The programs they have been at have produced a dozen or more state wrestling team championships in Minnesota and Iowa, many individual state champions and state place winners, NCAA college wrestling All-Americans, and even an Olympics athlete.

That is quite a legacy.

Our congratulations and best wishes to a very deserving coach Lybbert.