POULSBO — Jon Cooke has looked into the crowds at wrestling matches and seen fans leaning one way or the other — mimicking the action on the mat without realizing it.
It’s that intensity that the new head wrestling coach at North Kitsap High School savors.
“It’s a sport where you’re out there on your own. There are no teammates to help you … it’s just six minutes of hard work,” Cooke said.
Cooke officially signed as the head coach Thursday afternoon when the school board approved his hire.
He was an assistant at Central Kitsap High School for a dozen years beginning in the late ‘80s, and was the first head coach at Klahowya Secondary School when it opened in 1997.
Cooke was the Eagles’ wrestling coach for five years before leaving to pursue a teaching job.
North Kitsap athletic coordinator Al Gleich said the Vikings are lucky to get someone with Cooke’s background.
“He’ll be a steadying influence,” Gleich said.
Cooke replaces Larry Maguire, who retired after the conclusion of the 2002-03 season.
He is proud of his technical knowledge — Gleich said he is a dedicated note taker — and hopes to pass that knowledge on to the Vikings.
“A lot of times people show moves that work on guys who aren’t good; they don’t work on good wrestlers,” Cooke said. “We want to teach kids moves that’ll beat the good guys, not just anybody.”
Cooke takes over a program that has produced several good wrestlers under Maguire but suffered from a lack of wrestlers; often, the Vikings would forfeit several weight classes before matches had begun.
That’s why Cooke said his highest priority is recruiting.
“They’ll see the success of their work, and that helps a lot,” Cooke said.
Cooke won’t be the only new addition to the NK wrestling program. Mike Derda, who was an assistant at Shelton High School and is a two-time Indiana champion, has been added as assistant coach.
“I think it’ll be a good mix: the older, experienced coach and the young, enthusiastic coach. We’re looking forward to a good program with those two,” Gleich said.