Manhattan High wrestling coach retires after 44 years of coaching


MANHATTAN, Kan. (KSNT)– Manhattan High School’s head wrestling coach Robert Gonzales is retiring after coaching wrestling for 44 years.

“Working with Coach Gonzales is like with a living legend,” Damian Ilalio said, Manhattan senior and 285-pound state champion.

Coach Robert Gonzales has a resume that is extensive. Gonzales made stops at Topeka West, Shawnee Heights and Manhattan High where he lead three teams to state titles.

“Anything that’s something to do with wrestling there’s a good chance that coach has ties to it somehow,” Shawn Bammes said, the assistant coach.

“Teaching and coaching for 44 years and it’s never been a day of work,” Gonzales said. “It’s just a love of the profession.”

Coach Gonzales, or ‘Gonzo’ as his friends call him, doesn’t just teach his athletes about wrestling.

“He’s really instilled it in my head that, yes it is very important to wrestle to the best of your ability and put all of your work ethic out there,” Blaisen Bammes said, junior wrestler. “And just work your hardest from every aspect, but he’s also taught me to have fun with it.”

“We’re grooming young athletes, but the big picture is we’re grooming young men for life,” Gonzales said.

He often shows off one other skill at practice that most people don’t know about, coach can dance.

“Bruno Mars is lucky he doesn’t have a contest against me because I’d probably beat Bruno Mars,” Gonzales said.

Beyond coaching, Gonzales has been an ambassador for the sport. He served on the Kansas State High Schools Activities Association (KSHSAA) Board of Directors, served on the USA Wrestling Kansas Executive Board, helped bring the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) National Tournament to Kansas and the list goes on.

If you’re wondering what you can expect when Gonzales looks back on his long career in the sport, well, “How about a big smile?” Gonzales said.

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