Written By: Matt Oonk
There have been a lot of amazing coaches at Hamilton through the years, but there is one that stands out above all others as the best coach in Hamilton. That coach is boys and girls varsity swim coach Eric Talsma. In the short nine years he has been coaching a varsity sport at Hamilton, he’s put up some pretty amazing accomplishments. He has captured 4 conference championships, in what may be the toughest swimming conference in the state, with powerhouse swimming programs like Holland and Zeeland. The Holland girls won 3 state championships in a row while the Zeeland boys have finished in the top 10 at the division 1 state meet for as long as Hamilton’s swim program has been around.
He has also had great success at the state championship meet, where he has had 8 different teams finish in the top 5. Two different girl’s teams have placed 3rd and 4th, while he has taken 4 different boys teams into the top 4, with a fourth place, runner-up and two state championships. He has also coached 7 different individual state champs, as well as 4 state championship relays. Two of these boys relays also hold state records for the event they won, the 200 yd. medley and 200 yd. free relay.
Many of Hamilton’s swimmers have also had great individual successes through coach Talsma’s program. In only nine years as the head coach of our swim team, he has produced a total of 96 all state performances, 63 individual performances and 33 relay all state swims. On top of that, he has also had swimmers capture the highest honor possible for a high school swimmer, and that’s All-American. Coach Talsma has had 3 different relays named as All-American, and one individual swimmer as well.
Thanks to Talsma’s coaching, 16 of his athletes have also gone on to compete at the collegiate level, and many have had great success there as well. Both girls and boys have had great success in college, boys like Austin Fathman, who finished in the top 10 in the nation in two different events at the division 3 national championships, as well as others like Brad Melpolder, Jordan Moses, and many others.
Many other coaches have also had great success. Coach Stoel for example, won more than 10 conference championships in a row, however he has never won a state championship and doesn’t have nearly as many individual state champs as Talsma does. The girl’s track team, which is always a perennial powerhouse, has only won 1 state championship and doesn’t have near the kind of individual success that coach Talsma’s athlete’s experience. Coach DeGood with the boy’s varsity baseball team has won numerous conference and even district titles, but he has yet to accomplish a state championship.
There’s one thing I really think makes coach Talsma special however, and that’s how much success he’s had in such a short amount of time. In only nine years he’s accomplished all of this, while it has taken decades for other coaches to accomplish as much. All in all, Talsma’s balance of team and individual state championships, as well as conference championships and the amount of all state athletes he has produced in such a short time is astounding, which is why I think he’s the best coach Hamilton has ever seen.
Written by: Zeb Wilson
Hamilton’s athletic program has seen many successes in the last 14 years. Many different sports have contributed to those successes. A successful season requires good leadership, and good leadership normally begins with a good coach. Hamilton’s sports programs wouldn’t be where they are today if it weren’t for the dedicated coaches we have. I’ve been given the task of deciding who I believe has been the best Hamilton coach of the 2000’s. Looking back at the statistics and accomplishments there is an obvious choice in my head, and that is Coach Gregg Stoel.
Since the year 2000, the wrestling program has seen nothing but success under the wing of Coach Stoel. Having been a wrestler for 5 years of my life, I understand just how much of a difference having a good coach can make. In wrestling, you learn a lot from your coach. I think it is pretty obvious that many wrestlers have learned a thing or two from Coach Stoel. Hamilton has yielded 54 conference champion wrestlers in the last 14 years, which is something not too many other sports could say. Also in that time span, the wrestling program has produced an individual state champion, which is a very difficult thing to accomplish in wrestling.
The wrestling has seen more than just individual successes, as they have many accomplishments as a team as well. I mean how many coaches could say they have lead their program to 11 district championships in 14 years? The answer is not very many. Just to add to the accolades, the wrestling program has brought home 5 conference championships and 3 regional championships.
The championships are great and all, but the thing that says the most about Coach Stoel to me, is the fact that he has consistently had successful teams year after year. If you can lead your program to a 76.5% win percentage over 14 years, you are obviously doing something right. It is one thing to coach a good team, but it’s another thing to build a phenomenal program.
The only other coach that I believe makes the conversation would be Coach Talsma and the swim program. He has coached the boys swim and dive team to a couple team state championships in the last 14 years. I’m not trying to take away from their accomplishments, as they are very impressive, but I just don’t see the consistency that I see from the wrestling program. I mean it is hard to top the wrestling programs record of 409-125 over the past 14 years.
Call me crazy, but I would hire a coach with 11 district championships over a coach with 2 state state championships. We want consistency, and that is what Coach Stoel has displayed in his time coaching at Hamilton.