By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
Colleagues said he radiated passion for life, a life that ended prematurely. So others are going to carry on that spirit in his honor.
Jeff Giles, football and wrestling coach at Minneapolis High School for more than 25 years, suffered a stroke and collapsed at a high school wrestling tournament Feb. 8. He died three days later at a Wichita hospital at age 50.
With state wrestling time rapidly approaching, fellow coaches got together to think of a way to honor Giles through the end of the season.
All wrestlers at this weekend's Class 3-2-1A state tournament at Fort Hays State University's Gross Memorial Coliseum will wear a decal honoring Giles on their headgear. The decal has on it a blue lion -- Minneapolis' mascot is a lion, and its school colors are blue and red -- with Giles' initials JG below it.
"We just wanted him represented somehow," said Joe Buresh, head wrestling coach at Phillipsburg High School, where Giles collapsed. "I thought of the decals because everyone wears headgear."
"You spend a lot of time together with other coaches at tournaments, and you get to know a guy fairly well."
So Buresh and fellow wrestling coach Brock Hutchinson from Smith Center contacted Minneapolis school officials to get their approval.
"Of course, we agreed to it, anything to honor Jeff's life," said Minneapolis Principal Jay Macy, who worked with Giles at Minneapolis for the past seven years, and for many years before that when Macy worked at nearby Bennington. "It's a really nice way to honor him."
Buresh had a local printer make several hundred decals that will be distributed to teams when they check in.
"We went through the brackets and saw how many each school qualified and put those in an envelope for each team," he said, adding, "I had extra made in case someone would rip one or lose one."
The 3-2-1A state tourney begins Friday morning and continues through Saturday night.
Giles also will be represented at state in the form of seven wrestlers -- four from Minneapolis and three from Bennington, which participate together in a cooperative program -- who were coached by Giles and qualified for state.
Giles' wife, Dina, and her three daughters will get to witness firsthand what their husband and dad meant to the wrestling community. All four plan to come to the tournament Saturday when Giles will be honored before the finals by both the Kansas State High School Activities Association and the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association.
Throughout the day and night, for two solid days, Giles' spirit will be present on every mat.
But those who knew Giles said he will be remembered long after this weekend.
"He was as good a guy as you're ever going to get, top-notch in everything that he did," Macy said. "Everything he did, he did with passion and integrity, and he made every single kid in our school feel important. He coaxed them into believing in themselves. You just don't find them every day as good as he was."