By: Ditha Balaji
Athletics Director Tom Thomsen, the esteemed coach of wrestling and physical education teacher, was recently just named Coach of the Season for his exceptional accomplishments. Focusing on wrestling, Coach Thomsen is known for his can-do attitude towards his athletes. The Smoke Signal sat down with him to discuss his recent successes, the season, and sports in general.
Smoke Signal: Did you wrestle in the past?
Tom Thomsen: I wrestled all through [out] high school and college. My dad was a wrestling coach and three of my brothers [also] wrestled. I grew up in a family that was pretty athletic.
SS: Would you say that was what inspired you to wrestle?
T: Just growing up in that atmosphere where everybody played sports [inspired me to wrestle]. Everybody gave as much as they could.
SS: What qualities in your athletes impress you?
T: I think [that] just the day to day determination not to quit [impresses me]. I think it’s easy for kids to say, “This is too hard. I’m not going to do it”. Obviously [for] kids here, at Mission, the academics are so stressful. I think it’s a good way for them to relieve that stress. With the wrestlers, I think [determination] is commendable just because not a lot of people can do it. We have a lot of kids that come out and quit after a couple days because it’s so hard. [The sport is] pretty aggressive.
SS: How do you feel about wrestling this season?
T: I think we had a lot of ups and downs. I think a lot of wrestlers have had situations where they thought that they were going to do a lot better than they expected. We’ve been talking about [how] it’s not really where you start, it’s where you finish. I think they are getting better each week. We’ve actually had a pretty hard schedule. Hopefully, we’ll get some kids to State [to show] that it was a successful season.
SS: How long have you been at Mission San Jose?
T: I have been coaching [wrestling] since 1983-1984. I think my first teaching [PE] year was about 1987, so [roughly] 27 years.
SS: What are your goals for wrestling and MSJ athletics in general?
T: Just to improve in any way that’s satisfying: where [the athletes] become more than what [they] expected. Kids always want to get better. As far as wrestling goes, I think that these kids [that are] coming in are willing to work hard and handle the stress in order to be successful. It’s not really about the coaches, it’s about the kids.
SS: What would you say your chances for your athletes to go State are?
T: Well, [Junior] Corbin Lee went last year, so I’m guessing that [his] chances [to] go again are pretty [high]. Without naming names, I think one more or maybe two other kids could possibly go. If they did [work hard] these next couple weeks, I think it’s [likely] that they could increase their chances at state.
SS: What could you say about the legacy of MSJ’s wrestling program? How has it been to be a part of it?
T: I was lucky because the guy who was here before me, Mike Louis, had an outstanding program. I just took over the program. So the program has always been very strong [and] respected. All I did was made sure that the program stayed one of the more competitive in the league. Obviously the tournament gives a lot of recognition. We have 70 schools from all over the state coming in. You go to the State tournament and see people wearing our t-shirt. You see people talking about the Mission [San Jose] tournament, and how tough it was, and that in itself is reason to keep trying to get better.