It’s a good thing Ed Fuchs didn’t stay in the Marine Corps where he was an aviation ordinance specialist. His job included handling 500-pound bombs, 2.75- and 5-inch rockets, and servicing the M61 Vulcan Gatling gun on the F-18 Hornet.
If Fuchs had remained in the Marine Corps, he might not have ended up back at his alma mater on Lake County’s Southshore; he might not have landed the job as wrestling coach there; and he wouldn’t have experienced all the success the Trojans enjoyed this past winter on the mats. It’s also a safe bet that Fuchs wouldn’t have been named the Lake County Record-Bee’s Coach of the Year for boys’ sports based on the results of the 2013-14 season. Sure, it might not be the same thrill as handling high explosives or sewing on a third stripe, but Fuchs certainly earned the coaching honor and then some.
One week away from being promoted to sergeant, Fuchs, a 1997 Lower Lake High School graduate, decided to join the civilian ranks after a four-year stint with the Marines.
“I wanted to play football at Mendocino College, but I blew out my knee,” Fuchs said.
Instead, Fuchs went back to school at Yuba College, earning his Associate of Arts degree there, and then to San Jose State, where he secured a Bachelor of Science degree in kinesiology in 2006. After spending time as a substitute teacher in Lake County, Fuchs took time off to help raise his daughter while wife Sarah worked. Fuchs spent six more years substitute teaching before landing a full-time job teaching physical education to students at Burns Valley Elementary, where he works with kindergartners through eighth-graders.
“It is a challenge working with that spread of students, but I enjoy it,” Fuchs said.
One of the things you’ll learn about Fuchs if you spend any appreciable amount of time around him is that challenges don’t frighten him. He embraces them.
A father of two — a daughter now 6 and a son 2 — and with a third child on the way, Fuchs exudes a positive vibe that’s hard to miss.
For the last seven seasons he has spent countless hours rebuilding a once-successful wrestling program that had fallen on hard times.
“I didn’t even have any help (assistant coaches) my first two seasons,” Fuchs said.
As you might guess, that’s not the case now as Fuchs has the assistance of Troy Dahneke, Danny Cuellar and Justin Gaddy. All of them had front-row tickets to watch the Trojans’ rebuilding program reach fruition in 2013-14, a season Fuchs will never forget.
Although the Trojans didn’t win the Coastal Mountain Conference championship — they had a chance to do just that until Fuchs benched some wrestlers for team infractions — they did finish higher at the North Coast Section Championships than either Fort Bragg or Willits, the two teams that finished ahead of Lower Lake in the final CMC standings.
“We finished 17th and scored more points at a section tournament (62.5) than any other Lower Lake team had ever done,” Fuchs said.
The season was remarkable on a handful of other counts:
— Gabe Freeman set the school’s freshman record for most wins (31).
— The team won three medals at the sectional meet, a school first.
— And junior heavyweight William Isaacs made it to the CIF State Championships, the second state qualifier in Fuchs’ tenure as coach.
The funny thing, according to Fuchs, is that the team swung and missed on its two primary goals entering the season.
“We wanted to win the (CMC) title and we wanted to reach the (NCS) team duals,” Fuchs said. “We didn’t do either one, but the kids never backed down, kept working hard and it paid off.”
While he enjoys winning as much as anyone else, Fuchs is not a win-at-all-costs coach. Asked about his coaching philosophy, Fuchs didn’t hesitate for a second.
“Simple, it’s about life,” Fuchs said. “I try to teach life lessons over winning. It’s not about winning. I know it is wrestling, but wrestling relates to life. What you put in, you get out.”
Fuchs has some hard and fast rules as wrestling coach. If you break them, you pay the price, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a superstar or something less.
“Practice or you don’t wrestle,” Fuchs said. “If you’re working a job and don’t show up, you don’t get paid. In wrestling our payday is Saturdays (tournament days) or Wednesdays (dual match days). If you want the payday, you put in the work the rest of the week.”
Fuchs also doesn’t want his wrestlers settling for the minimum.
“The school requires a 2.0 grade point average to remain eligible,” Fuchs said. “You need a 2.25 to wrestle for me. If you fall below that you don’t wrestle again for me unless you’re 2.25.”
Fuchs checks grades every three weeks to make sure his wrestlers’ work in the classroom is getting done.
Spending seven years to build a foundation for a successful wrestling program has been a labor of love for Fuchs, who is looking forward to his eighth season at Lower Lake.
“Now we’re putting up the walls, putting in the windows, the house is going up,” he said of the Lower Lake program. “The foundation is done.”
A student of longtime Lower Lake wrestling coach Dan Pastor, for whom the school’s new wrestling room is named after, Fuchs said he would like to coach as long as Pastor (22 years) or perhaps make it an even quarter-century if possible.
“His wrestlers won nine section medals and I’ve won seven, so I’m getting close to that,” Fuchs said of Pastor. “But he went to state seven times and I’ve only been there twice, so I guess I have some work left to do.”
Sounds like another challenge. If so, don’t bet against Corporal Fuchs, former aviation ordinance specialist with the U.S. Marine Corps. If handling high explosives didn’t make him nervous, a little thing like getting at least five more wrestlers to state won’t either.
LAKE COUNTY RECORD BEE, PUBLISHED: 8/1/14