Bro is Inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame

 

Bro and Autumn after the ceremonies

by Jodi Wojciechowski

Jeff "Bro" Olsen, 80, has been inducted into two Wrestling Halls of Fame - The Dave Bartelma Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2012 and the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, Minnesota Chapter in Stillwater, Oklahoma, for the LifeTime Service Award last Saturday in Austin, Minnesota.

We have worked together for more than 30 years at the Times-Region, and this interview was conducted on Monday morning.

What would you like to say about your successful coaching career that ended in 1999?

"I stepped into the head coaching position in 1979 as a novice. It was like pulling a bum off the street to teach quantum physics. I knew how to wrestle but knew nothing about coaching.

"That's when the success began. Steve Furuseth had been the head coach when I took over the position and I began on-the-job training with him. He was then a man of a thousand moves and was a definite character during the seeding meetings.

"Every assistant a head coach has is the key to his/her success. I owe these honors to Furuseth and every coach who coached with me for 20 years.

"Any head coach in any sport who thinks he does it all or knows it all won't be successful or respected. Assistant coaches oftentimes know a helluva lot more than the head coach. So, utilize their talents and share the successes."

What were your strong suits over the years?

"Maybe it was the con artist and motivator in me. Wrestling is as much a mental game as a physical one. Take Jeradan Otto, who was a freshman, I believe, when he reached the blood round where if you lose, you're done. He had to defeat a senior, who was one match short of 100 wins and who had beaten Jeradan three straight times on the year.

"It looks like this is the end of your season," I said to Jeradan, mentioning that the Crookston cheerleaders would shortly be rolling out a banner celebrating his victory and the Crookston kid would be presented his 100th win plaque.

"You don't think I can win, Bro?" Well, I told him, I didn't buy the plaque. They think he's got it in the bag. Jeradan stormed out on the mat and defeated the other lad on a major decision. He came off the mat and laughed, "He can throw that plaque in the trash." As a junior and senior, Mr. Jeradan "Powder" Otto qualified to the state wrestling tournament."

What else makes for a successful coach in your book?

"Publicity for all your athletes - the stars and the strugglers - and those in a slump work even harder to get better because the head coach, which I was, gave them good coverage and some praise even when they were getting their butts kicked.

"Locally, with our small-town paper, coaches should be writing up their athletes every week in the Roseau Times-Region.

"Coaches shouldn't be lazy or complain that they don't have time to write about their players. Make time! Who knows their players better than the coaches. And you shouldn't expect to get paid for it. I never charged a single dime for covering our wrestlers when I was the coach and for many years after I retired. You do it for the love of the sport."

How was the induction ceremony?

"It was impressive being around legends in wrestling like Ron Malcolm, 91, who was inducted years ago and coached at Anoka and had wrestled for the Golden Gophers.

"These eight other individuals I was inducted with have been just unbelievably successful. It was a honor to be included.

"It was also really special because many family members and relatives went out of their way to attend. In 2012, I was happy to travel to Benson with my former wrestlers, who also were or had been Roseau coaches - all great guys and they're my wrestling family.

"Last weekend in Austin, it was a family reunion with my siblings, our children, grandchildren, and great-grandson, Forrest Olsen.

"There were more photos taken than when Autumn and I got married. Plus, there were other attendees to keep me in check like Josh "Foo" Jaenicke, the state runner-up in 1999 for the Rams.

Any special individuals you'd also want to thank?

"If I could, I'd like to thank Bill Schmidt, who did the bio on me for the printed program, and I also want to thank his wife, Jill, for her efforts during the induction ceremony.

"There are so many to thank. Steve Ricard, a former Fertile-Beltrami wrestler and coach, has taken me under his wing over the years. He's one of the members of the MN Chapter of the NWHOF Committee who championed my selection.

"No matter what, I'm the luckiest guy in the world, in my book, and it has nothing to do with state or national recognition.

"I worked with the best coaches - from Steve Furuseth to Dale Jaenicke (who missed the event because of back problems) Robert Hedlund (deceased), Deano Housker (later head coach), and Brad Wiberg.

"Then after I retired, Gary Przekwas, Oliver Ullman, Tanner Hovda (head coach), Tony Jenson, and Aaron Rose (head coach) carried on the winning tradition.

Do you feel honored to be inducted for the LifeTime Service Award?

"Do I feel I honored? Oh, definitely yes, and not because they presented me with a green jacket like in the Masters and a nifty plaque. It's that I share this honor with everyone whoever wrestled and/or coached Roseau wrestling from elementary to high school.

"They are the ones who got me here, and they can rightly claim this honor, too. Thank you guys and also every cheerleader who yelled their hearts out and traveled on long cold bus trips. And a special hug to Donna Rose, the cheerleader advisor who out-cheered everyone. She's a hall of famer, too!"

 

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