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Wrestler for Life Story of the Week: Congratulations Joe Dougherty on your retirement!

By Wrestler for Life/USA Wrestling | June 25, 2020, 9:56 a.m. (ET)

Photo of Joe Dougherty courtesy of Young Lee

USA Wrestling’s “Wrestler for Life” program has started accepting submissions for “The Story of the Week”. It can be about anything wrestling related, whether it’s a particular wrestling match you’ll never forget, or a life lesson that the sport taught you. If your story is chosen, it will be featured on TheMat.com, and winners will receive a pair of USA Wrestling socks.

Send your submissions to: Wrestlerforlife@usawrestling.org

This week's story was submitted by one of Joe Dougherty's former students Young Lee and written by Ken Weingartner.

Looking back at my career as a sports writer, it would be difficult for me to name a coach that I’ve thought of more highly than Joe Dougherty. I always said that if I had children involved in sports, I would want them to be coached by Joe. This has nothing to do with winning, although Joe unquestionably would be deemed a tremendous success by that measure.

But if all Joe did was compile wins (306-182-3), no matter how many, I know he would consider himself a failure. What most impressed me about Joe over the years was his unwavering commitment to the kids on his teams and his striving to developing good people, not just good athletes. Every time we talked, the conversations went far beyond what happened on the wrestling mat and delved into the life lessons that sports, in this case wrestling, could provide. When his kids embraced those lessons, it was worth more than any victory in any gym.

Joe considered himself an educator first and foremost and wrestling was a microcosm of life, with all its challenges and ups and downs. Was he demanding? I’m sure some would say yes, but all he asked was for everyone’s best effort. I truly enjoyed our friendship and conversations – his wisdom, his honesty, his thoughtfulness – and often felt that I came away the better for them.

Of course, if I needed to reach Joe at home for one of these conversations, I had to make sure to time my call so that it didn’t interfere with any of his favorite television shows. Once I learned his viewing habits, it was all good.

Ironically, prior to becoming the wrestling head coach at South Brunswick, Joe was passed over for a job elsewhere because, he was told, he was good dealing with elite wrestlers but not at developing wrestlers. As a misevaluation, this might rank with the movie studio executive who once wrote about Fred Astaire: “Can’t act. Slightly bald. Can dance a little.” Joe proved them wrong, but that was never his goal. He simply wanted the chance to be a positive influence, whether it was in the classroom, in the gym, or in the community. He’s more than made the most of his opportunity.

Congratulations Joe on your Teacher of the Year recognition and here’s wishing you all the best in the years ahead.