Former Milbank High School teacher and coach, Bob Hirsch, was inducted into the South Dakota Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame during the State Class A-B combined wrestling tournament February 25, in Sioux Falls. “I had an incredible experience in wrestling, Hirsch expressed, but realize a lot of people helped me along the way. I see this more as a tribute to my former teammates, wrestlers, assistant coaches, and wrestling families.”
Hirsch gained recognition for his work, both in the classroom and on the mat. He was named Milbank School District Teacher of the Year in 1989 and 1994, and Watertown School District Teacher of the Year in 2016. He was also chosen as the SDWCA Coach of the Year in 1990 and 1992, and the National Wrestling Coaches Association Region XI Coach of the Year in 2007, 2010, and 2014. Additionally, he was named NSU Gypsy Day Coach of the Year in 2003 and was inducted into the NSU Hall of Fame in 1999. Throughout his career, Hirsch coached 29 state champions, 198 state place winners, and three All-Americans. He also spent 30 years as a college wrestling official and worked 14 national tournaments.
It all began when Hirsch won the Class A state title at the 126-pound weight class in 1979. His championship helped lead unbeaten Vermillion to the state team title that same year. He went on to become a two-time All-American and four-time All-Northern Intercollegiate Conference selection at Northern State University where he complied a 126-18-1 career record.
Hirsch then spent 32 years coaching the sport. He started in Buffalo at Harding County High School. He relocated to Milbank at the start of the 1984-85 school year to take over as the head wrestling coach and taught US History, Psychology, Sociology. “I wanted to get back East and a job was open in Milbank,” he recalls. “Milbank had a stellar reputation. I was extremely blessed to teach and coach there for 19 years.”
He spent 1985 through 2003 as the head coach of the MHS Bulldogs and compiled a dual coaching record of 310-67-4 – the winningest coach in MHS history. During his time in Milbank, Hirsch led the Bulldogs to 13 Northeast Conference titles and their only state wrestling title in 1990. “I was lucky to have a slew of outstanding wrestlers in Milbank,” he stated. “I am proud of what many of them have accomplished in their adult lives. I had so many kids that reached for excellence every day.”
Hirsch says Milbank will always hold a special place in his heart. “I have so many memories I could turn them into a mini-series. The administration was great and had high expectations for both the students and teachers. The students were awesome and excited to learn. The staff was outstanding. With role models like Mr. Beck, Mr. Bloem, Mr. Hadorn, Mrs. Sinclair, and Mr. Bergan, it was easy to get motivated every day. Milbank is a great community to live in and raise a family. The people are very accepting and friendly.”
From Milbank, Hirsch took over the reins as head coach in Watertown. He stepped down in 2015 after 12 seasons and now teaches and serves as the middle school wrestling coach.