Athletes weren’t the only ones contributing to Johnson County’s memorable Saturday at the IHSAA Wrestling State Finals.
Walking onto the center mat before the first championship match was Tim Welch, a wrestling official who, for a cherished few moments, had the spotlight to himself.
In his 27th year as a teacher and coach at Greenwood Middle School, Welch was honored with the 2014 Interscholastic Athletic Award for excellence in the sport of wrestling.
The award is presented annually by the IHSAA in cooperation with the National Federation of Interscholastic Officials Association.
“It’s kind of hard to believe. It feels like I just started doing it when it’s now been 30 years,” Welch said of his role as an official. “I’ve always just loved the sport, and as a coach the best part is just working with the kids.”
Welch has taught language arts and been in charge of the wrestling program throughout his career at Greenwood Middle School.
Born in Gary, Welch’s family moved to Johnson County, where he was a student in the Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson school system from Grade 1 through Grade 8. During this time, his father, Tom, helped create the Indian Creek High School varsity football program in the late-1960s.
The family relocated to Boonville in the state’s southern reaches in 1975. It’s here where Welch became passionate about wrestling.
“When we moved to Boonville, I started wrestling my junior and senior years, and I got my dad, brothers, and cousins involved in it,” Welch said. “The sport fit me. I was an ornery little kid.”
The fact Welch as a youth resided in the northern, central and southern portions of Indiana proved something of a glimpse into life as an adult.
Having now officiated 29 high school sectionals, 26 regionals and 17 semistates, Welch has seen more than his share of gymnasiums and fieldhouses throughout the state.
On Saturday, he officiated his ninth state finals.
In fact, immediately after being presented the award Saturday, he went straight to work, assisting with the 106-pound title match between Griffith’s Jeremaih
Reitz and Paul Konrath of Mount Vernon (Posey).
Welch’s busy day also included officiating the 152-pound final and lending another set of eyes to the 182-pound championship match.
Welch, 53, has yet to grow weary of the travel involved with a schedule that for the past eight years includes work as a Big Ten Conference wrestling official.
He absolutely loves it.
“Going to our state finals and watching the show they put on,” Welch said, alluding to the impressive crowds and spotlight introductions that go on inside the otherwise darkened interior of Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. “Watching the emotions of the moms and the grandmas when the wrestlers get on the awards podium is pretty amazing.”
Another bonus are the people Welch gets to work alongside every winter sports season.
“The camaraderie between all the wrestling officials is good,” he said. “We all work well together, and that’s another thing that’s special about wrestling. We all wrestled and know the work that goes into it, the sacrifice you put in with weight-cutting, and the conditioning it takes to get to that level.”