Hoover High School wrestling coach Jacob Gaydosh (bottom) is the son of Hall of Fame wrestling coach Steve Gaydosh (top). Before wrestling, Jacob originally aspired to be an ESPN broadcaster. Photo by Karim Shamsi-Basha.
Steve Gaydosh is the winningest high school wrestling coach in Alabama. In his 33 years as Vestavia Hills coach, he’s won 12 state championships and coached runner-up teams eight times.
He has mentored 84 individual champions, including son Jonathan Gaydosh and son Jacob Gaydosh — who now coaches rival Hoover High.
Yes, it’s a family thing for the Gaydoshes.
Truth be told, the area wrestling community is sort of like family.
“In wrestling, since we compete at tournaments where we’re all in the gym all weekend together all year long, it’s almost like I feel I’ve coached all these guys, since I’ve coached against them since they were kids,” Steve Gaydosh said.
Former Hoover High coach Steve Knutson was one of those Gaydosh was close to.
And that’s how Jacob Gaydosh ended up coaching wrestling at Hoover. Knutson called Steve and asked if Jacob would be interested in joining his staff as an assistant.
“Jacob was right there when I got the call, and I asked him if he was interested and he said yes.”
After two years as an assistant, Jacob took over as head coach when Knutson left to go to graduate school.
The younger Gaydosh, now 36, had gone to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga to wrestle, but his real dream was to be in sports broadcasting — specifically dreaming of ultimately landing at ESPN. But after a period of time interning for the CBS affiliate in Chattanooga and doing Friday night football highlights and working weekends, he came to the realization that having that kind of a career and a family wouldn’t jibe.
“I had no desire to ever coach,” Jacob said. But he helped out at a Chattanooga high school his last semester at UTC. Then he helped his dad some at Vestavia. He liked it enough that he decided to give teaching and coaching a shot.
Though he had enjoyed his internship at the station in Chattanooga, he also saw how much time the sports anchors spent away from home.
“I said if I do that and have a family one day I’d have a really hard time seeing my kids, and seeing them in athletics or band or whatever they did.”
And he has four children now.
“My wife and kids come to most of our matches and stuff.”
Hoover, which has a rich wrestling history with five state championships, is in something of a rebuilding mode. Gaydosh is working on getting the feeder programs — youth leagues and middle schools — into good shape again, since he knows that is the way to continued success. He especially wants to get the youth league numbers up.
“I’m a Cubs fan,” he said, “so I use that as an analogy. Let’s get the farm system going and let’s go from there. For us long term, we’ve got to get the guys at the middle school program recruiting for us and teaching what we want them to teach, same techniques. We’ve got two guys at the middle schools doing a great job with that. We’re getting the youth league going again, so hopefully in the next three, four years, it’ll be like it was 10, 15 years ago. That’s why Vestavia and Thompson are so good.
“Hopefully, we can compete for a state championship in two to three years.”
The elder Gaydosh is justifiably proud of his son.
“He’s doing a great job. It’s a great situation. And that’s one thing I like about him being at Hoover, because my grandkids are around.”
That has its drawbacks, too.
“We competed a couple of years ago against each other, and it was a really close match but we won,” the Rebels coach said. “And my granddaughter came up and said, ‘Congratulations, Pop, but I wanted my daddy to win.’”
What is it about wrestling that has its grip on the Gaydoshes?
“Who you are comes out,” Steve Gaydosh said. “Who you are as a person comes out on the mat. If you’ve got a weakness, it’s going to come out. If you’re going to be really good, you’ve got to do everything right. The best wrestlers are great students too. It’s about character, discipline, habits that you’ve developed in life, that’s what makes the difference between winning and losing a one-point match in overtime.
“Ultimately, what we’re teaching these guys are to develop habits that will make them successful the rest of their lives. Get a good job, be a good father, a good husband.”