Hinsdale wrestler still involved in sport after 38 years
Purdue University wrestling captains Tommy Churchard and Braden Atwood wait with honorary captain Jeffrey Tolbert as officials flip a coin to start a match between Purdue and University of Wisconsin at Hinsdale Central. | Jon Langham —Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 8, 2013 2:02AM
HINSDALE — Jeff Tolbert started wrestling in the seventh grade. Thirty-eight years later, he still is involved with the sport he loves.
When Tolbert was a boy, Hinsdale had a youth wrestling club, and that’s how he was introduced to the sport.
“I did that for two years, and then joined the (Hinsdale Central) high school team,” he said.
He finished fifth in the state his senior year.
“Purdue (University) gave me a partial scholarship, so I wrestled there for four years,” he said.
He was the most valuable player on the wrestling team three of those years and captain his junior and senior year.
When Tolbert got married and returned to Hinsdale, the youth wrestling club no longer existed. There was no one to coach it, he learned. So he took on the job, starting a local branch of the Illinois Kids Wrestling Federation. That was in 1983. Today, the club draws 80 boys from Hinsdale-Clarendon Hills Elementary District 181 and Tolbert still coaches the fifth- through eighth-graders.
“He has done so much for wrestling, so much for IKWF and so much for Hinsdale Central athletics,” said Jason Hayes, head coach of the Red Devils wrestling team. “He’s like the backbone of our program. He helps develop all the youngsters.”
Tolbert was recognized for his contribution to the sport before the meet between the University of Wisconsin and Purdue wrestling teams held Jan. 28 in the Hinsdale Central gym. Tolbert was the honorary captain of the Purdue team.
Tolbert said he loves wrestling because it is one-on-one competition.
“There’s nobody to blame for your loss. You can’t blame a loss on a teammate missing a block. You can’t say the guy threw the ball over my head. It’s all you,” he said. “But you get the glory of the win, too, when you do everything right.”
At the end of each match, the opponents shake hands.
“So you learn to win right and lose properly, (because) you are going to lose at some point,” Tolbert said. “Hopefully, you win most of the time.”