MOORHEAD -- Skip Toops announced he will be leaving as Moorhead wrestling coach to be a physical education teacher and head wrestling coach at Pierz High School (Minn.).
“When I was going into my first year, one of the things I remember saying to the kids, being a younger coach, was I wasn’t going to claim to be the best coach in the world or the state of Minnesota, but I promised that I’d do everything in my ability and everything in my power to be the best coach I could be for them and help them reach their goals,” Toops said. “I hope that’s what I did every single day for the last six years.”
When Toops took over Moorhead wrestling six seasons ago, the Spuds had not won a section title since 1981. Toops led the Spuds to three straight Class 3A, Section 8 titles, three fifth-place finishes at state and coached two individual state champions in Chase Morlock and Sam Grove.
“He gave us the best opportunity to create a new culture and attitude within the wrestling program that will stick for years to come,” Morlock said. “He gave us everything he had, and I've learned so much from him about wrestling and life. He truly believed in every single one of us and that gave me a ton of confidence.”
He coached in four individual state title matches, as Morlock and Grove both made it to the state championship mat twice.
“Skip has just been a phenomenal coach for us,” Moorhead athletic director Dean Haugo said. “He’s all about kids and helping them get to their goals. He is an ambassador for all sports. He also coaches baseball for us. He’s just been someone who has been a great advocate, for not only wrestlers, but for all student-athletes.”
Pierz fell in the Class 1A state championship dual this last season and finished third two seasons ago. The Pioneers have made the state tournament as a team seven seasons in a row and won back-to-back state titles in 2004 and 2005. They will be in Class 2A next season.
“If we have good people like Skip there’s always the chance other people are going to want to hire them and have them in their communities as well,” Haugo said. “He is a worker, who sees the whole picture. He relates extremely well with kids and has the ability to get the best out of them. They are also getting someone who has a vision for the overall program. They're getting a true class act.”
Toops said the main part of the decision was giving his four kids, who are 8 years old and younger, a chance to grow up in a small town like he and his wife did.
“There’s a lot that excited me from an athletic standpoint, but that wasn’t the final thing or the decision maker,” Toops said. “The decision maker was when we looked at our family and our kids, we love the city of Moorhead and everything, but my wife and I just both had an opportunity to grow up in a small town and as our kids get older, we’d like them to have that too.”
Toops sent out this email to the Moorhead wrestling program:
“Dear Moorhead Wrestling Family,
As I start this email I want to let all of you know what a privilege it has been to coach all of your wrestlers and be the head wrestling coach at Moorhead High School. Over the past six years I have had the opportunity to build (lifelong) friendships and create amazing memories that I will talk about for the rest of my life. What you are going to read next is one of the toughest decisions I have ever had to make in my life. It is with a heavy heart (but also with excited expectation of the journey ahead for my family and I) that I have chosen to step down as the Head Wrestling Coach at Moorhead High School. Before I write about my (family’s) future I want all of you to know that I never expected, nor planned to move on from the Moorhead wrestling program. I love this program & the Moorhead wrestling family. For the past six years I have ate, drank & breathed Moorhead wrestling. We have accomplished so much in the past six years and the program is set up to be successful for decades to come.
“Over the past few weeks an opportunity arose for my family that I had to consider and ultimately my wife and I chose to pursue it. Both my wife and I had the opportunity to grow up in a small community and love the feeling of a small town, but never expected to live in one again. With all that being said I have accepted a job opportunity in a small community in central Minnesota. Next school year I will be 7-12 grade physical education and health education teacher along with serving as the head wrestling coach at Pierz High School.
“I want you to know that I am going to do everything I can to pass the program off well. I could write pages about what I am thankful for and grateful about when it comes to my time and my (family’s) time at Moorhead. But I want to leave you with something I have been telling people the past six years. ‘When you have good kids, with good attitudes, who are willing to work hard, you can accomplish a lot.’ Keep encouraging your kids to be those types of kids and keep being supportive positive parents. There are great things going on at Moorhead, keep it going. I will be watching and I will be rooting for you.”