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Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of November 21 - 27, 2001


USA wrestling coach Tom Bailey settles in Hailey

Years on the mat pay off for Hoosier

Express Staff Writer

Tom Bailey, the new vice principal at Wood River Middle School in Hailey, loves to compete and loves the sport of wrestling.

"It’s a great sport—individual but with a team aspect," he said. "You learn discipline and some important lessons. If a kid can go through four years of wrestling in high school, he can probably do anything in life."

Tom Bailey, at work as vice principal at Wood River Middle School in Hailey. Express photo by Jeff Cordes

For 40 years, wrestling has been a big part of Bailey’s life. It continues to be. Bailey is currently one of 15 coaches in the national coaches’ pool for USA Wrestling, the governing body of the sport in America.

What it means is that Bailey, 51, is involved coaching young people and adults at the highest levels of national and international wrestling.

One day, he’s busy keeping track of impressionable teenagers at Wood River Middle School. The next day, he’s off to Paris, France for Women’s World Cup wrestling competition.

"The stakes are so much higher in international wrestling," he said. "And representing this country is a big thrill."

Wrestling has taken Tom Bailey down many roads.

A state champion high school wrestler in his native Indiana and a collegiate wrestler at Indiana University, Bailey has spent most of his adult life as a wrestling coach.

It has been a passion and a joy. Bailey said, "When I coached, I never went to work. It was just what I did."

For 15 years, he was head wrestling coach at Wooster High School in Reno, Nev., guiding Wooster to four Nevada AAA state championships in 1994, 1996-98.

His Wooster teams were ranked in the top 10 nationally and he coached a pair of four-time state champions.

The coaching satisfied Bailey’s competitive urges. He said, "When I wrestled, I might wrestle five times during a tournament. As a coach, I wrestle 20 times—but all my work is done before the matches themselves."


Hoosier background

Bailey, born and raised in Indianapolis and one of five children, was a two-time Indiana state wrestling champion (112 and 120 pounds) at the all-boys Cathedral High School in his hometown.

He served three years in the U.S. Army from 1970-72 and coached wrestling at the U.S. Military Academy (West Point) in 1972.

Bailey returned home and went to college at Indiana University, finishing his undergraduate work in just two years and wrestling for the Hoosiers at 118 pounds before cracking vertebrae in his neck.

Picking up his IU Bachelor’s degree in science and physical education in 1976, Bailey added an IU Masters in PE administration and started coaching in earnest—at a high school outside of Indianapolis for five years, then at the University of Houston and San Diego State.

His time at Wooster High School in Reno was very productive. Bailey taught Advanced Placement anatomy and physiology and helped make the wrestling team a dynasty.

Bailey gravitated toward administration at Coeur d’Alene High where he ran the weight room and coached wrestling for three years from 1998-2001. Then he accepted the Hailey vice principal job, replacing the retiring Ray Grosvenor.

Hailey’s dry weather reminds Bailey and his wife Jill of Reno’s cool, dry weather conditions. They prefer it to the wet climate of Coeur d’Alene. Jill teaches English and reading at Wood River High School.

The Baileys feel the Blaine County school system is a good place to raise sons Tommy, 7, and Cooper, 5, first-grade and kindergarten students at Bellevue Elementary.

Meanwhile, Bailey still gets what he calls his coaching fix—without the demands of practices every night.

Four times a year, as part of his national coaching responsibilities, he takes a USA Wrestling squad to an international event. He has been to "17 or 18 countries," over the past 10 years—men, women and Cadets.

The focus of his coaching over the last four years has been on national and Olympic teams. Lately Bailey has been more involved with women’s wrestling, which is still gaining respect in international ranks.

"Women just haven’t developed the same skill levels as men, but they’re very dedicated," said Bailey.

It still hasn’t been determined whether women’s wrestling will be added as an Olympic sport for the Athens Summer Games of 2004, but Bailey said he is on the coaching list for 2004 anyway.

Bailey made a whirlwind trip to France for the Women’s World Cup in Levallois near Paris Nov. 3-4. Joining the U.S. women for the trip was the U.S. men’s Greco squad.

He left Hailey on a Wednesday, Halloween. The women’s team trained Thursday and Friday, and competed Saturday and Sunday in France. They made the 20-hour return Monday and Bailey was back at work at the middle school on Tuesday.

Security was very heavy in Paris because of international tensions and the ongoing war against terrorism, Bailey said. Just to get on the airplane, he had to show his picture identification five separate times.

"All the athletes were in one hotel, surrounded by armed guards and dogs. At every venue we had very heavy security. We felt pretty safe, though. It’s just not a normal situation," Bailey said.

Not normal at all. For instance, the World Championships of Wrestling were originally set for Sept. 26-29 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. They were postponed due to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The Women’s World Championships were rescheduled by FILA (International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles) for Nov. 22-25 in Sofia, Bulgaria. Bailey had originally planned to make the world championship trip, but "it’s too soon," after his trip to France, he said.

So he and his family will spend their first Thanksgiving together in the Wood River Valley.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.