CEDAR LAKE | Not that this is common (insert joke here) but on Thursday night I was reaching for some more mashed potatoes when some major news broke. Right in front me when I wasn't even looking.
Love this job, but it's still hard to get 90 minutes off the clock.
I was at the Hanover Central Winter Sports Banquet to honor one kid close to home and a lot of other great ones, too, when Nick Petrov took his turn on the stage. There was something dramatic in the air.
The legendary Wildcats wrestling coach let the full room know he would not be returning after 10 years on the job. His resume is thicker than a plate piled with mashed potatoes.
At a small wrestling school, Hanover was 163-39 in dual meets under his tenure. He sent 24 wrestlers to the state tournament, with 19 earning medalist honors. He had three third-place finishers, two runner-up finishers and seven state champions.
With senior Stevan Micic headed to Northwestern this fall, that will make nine Hanover wrestlers who made a Division I roster, including a couple of NCAA All-Americans.
It don't get much better than this.
Hanover wrestling has always had a great family atmosphere around the program, which has enhanced the excellence. And a deep commitment to family is why Petrov is stepping down.
His son Paul has qualified for the NCAA nationals next week at Bucknell. His son John wrestles at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville.
"I would like to follow them," Petrov said. "There just isn't enough time coaching at the high school level to do that. It makes sense to me and my wife (Bessie)."
Petrov plans on turning in his resignation today. He is surrounded by good assistants. But Greg Larsen, a 1995 Hanover state champ, told Petrov he has no interest in taking over the head coaching position.
The rocking-chair wrestling coach would like to stay on as a volunteer assistant, working with the boys when he's not watching his sons compete at the next level.
This makes sense. Paul McCartney still sings even though the Beatles unplugged their amps a lifetime ago.
If you are a good wrestling coach looking for a new place to lead, Hanover Central is a great potential next stop. Petrov isn't leaving because the cupboard is bare.
"All the pieces of the puzzle are in place, we have a wonderful feeder program," Petrov said. "We've got some hammers in sixth, seventh and eighth grade. If they work hard they're going to be good.
"Hanover wrestling is not going away."
Petrov is president of the Rick Larsen Wildcat Wrestling Club, the feeder program for the high school program. He will continue to work with the lads but will likely give up the top title.
The presents given to him on Thursday night were appropriate and extreme. At one point Petrov quipped, "This is like Christmas morning." He received trophies, plaques and posters. But the best gifts given were words from other humans expressing their love for a small-town legend.
One after another spoke of how Petrov changed their lives for the better. Accurately expressed. Perfectly prosed. Spot on.
Now that Petrov will have a little more free time I'd like to get on the mat with him. I need to drop a weight class. Or two. But until that day, please, pass the potatoes.