Collinsville's Blaha will be a Hall of Famer
Collinsville legendary wrestling coach Tom Blaha is slated to be inducted into the Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Hall of Fame soon after the New Year.
“Congratulations Coach Blaha,” school officials posted on the school’s website Dec. 18 in response to the news Blaha is set to be feted during the Illinois High School Association individual state tournament from Feb. 14 to 16 in Champaign.
Since taking over the Collinsville program around the turn of the new millennium, Blaha has been the mastermind behind 17 winning seasons that have included more than his fair share of state tournament qualifiers and medal winners.
“Khris Whelan and Dennis Ragan are on the Hall of Fame committee, and they called me and told me. I am so honored,” Blaha told the Belleville News-Democrat. “It’s so rewarding to be recognized by your peers. Wrestling is a great sport. It teaches you so much about life, discipline, hard work and dedication. I feel like I’m living my dream every day.’’
A former two-time All-American at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, the 49-year-old Blaha is a graduate of Tinley Park High, where he was a two-time Class 2A state tournament finalist. He entered this season with 254 career wins, though he told the Belleville News-Democrat none of those wins rate as his proudest memories.
“What I really enjoy seeing is these kids who spend four years in the program, go on to attend college, get good jobs and become successful with wonderful families,” he said. “Very few go on to wrestle at the college level and even fewer go on to wrestle in the Olympics. For me to see these kids be successful and know that I played a part in their development as young adults, there is no better feeling in the world.’’