Even though he’s been at it for 46 years, Keith Morin still has a passion for wrestling.
You can hear it in his voice, and you can see it in his eyes when he’s giving one of his pupils instruction, tips of knowledge he’s stockpiled from nearly five decades in the sport.
But this weekend’s WIAA State Individual Wrestling Tournament, which begins Thursday and runs through Saturday at the Kohl Center in Madison, marks the end of Morin’s storied career.
After 38 years of coaching, the last nine of which were spent as head of the Greenfield High School varsity program, Morin is retiring.
“I’m 60 years old now,” Morin said. “This job, people don’t realize how demanding coaching is. Not only physically, but there’s a lot of mental too it. You could sit back and collect the paycheck like any other job, but (to be good), it takes a lot of time.”
No one could ever accuse of Morin of resting on his laurels. After wrestling for Greenfield from 1964-68, he did the same at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse for four years.
He immediately got into coaching, and eventually ended up home in Greenfield. He spent 23 years as an assistant in Greenfield before taking over as head coach in 2002.
Of the high school’s 81 state qualifiers, Morin coached 67 of them at some level, including current Whitnall co-head coach Craig Austin. Morin was an assistant to Bob Austin, Craig’s father, from 1978-90 when Bob Austin was Greenfield’s head coach.
“He is a first-class individual, nothing but top-notch person, coach,” said Craig Austin, whose speech about Morin solicited a standing ovation at the Woodland Conference Tournament earlier this month. “I couldn’t have wrestled for two better coaches, one being him and one being my dad.
“He not only cares about the wrestler, he cares about the individual too. He was always someone I looked to, and other coaches and his wrestlers look to. … It’s sad to see him go.”
Morin, who coached boys volleyball at Greenfield for 11 years and won the state championship in 1983, when seniors Andrew Krueger and Taylor Wirtz compete in the state tournament.
Krueger (35-5) was dominant during his sectional run, allowing just one point while earning his 100th and 101st career victories. This marks his first state appearance.
“He’s just peaking at the right time,” Morin said. “He’s got a pretty tough (state) draw, but you’ve got to get there. That’s the first thing, to give yourself a chance.”
Wirtz (32-8) qualified in . Needing a win in a second-place wrestleback against Racine Case’s Tyler Hunter, Wirtz registered a reversal in double overtime to secure his second trip to state. It was his 100th career victory.
Both wrestlers were grateful for Morin.
“He gave me the best four years of my life,” Wirtz said. “It was the greatest sport ever thanks to him.”
Added Krueger, “Coach Morin is 100 percent a wrestling coach. He puts so much time into it. He puts his life into it.”
And as for Morin’s last hurrah, the coach said he couldn’t have written a better script.
“It’s just really neat to be going to state with these two kids,” Morin said. “What a way to finish. I was going to finish last year with my nephew (Steve Fischer) but decided to stick with my seniors and it would have been heartbreaking had they not made it to state.
“It’s a pretty cool way to finish.”