HAZEL GREEN – By launching their Most Valuable Coach program on Aug. 22, U.S. Cellular wanted to honor high school coaches throughout the country who lead by example, strengthen their teams and give back to their communities.
Perhaps no one epitomizes those characteristics more than Karen Wiederholt, head coach of the Southwestern/Cuba City/Benton gymnastics program.
Just recently, coach Wiederholt was informed that she had become one of 15 finalist for U.S. Cellular’s Most Valuable Coach award, which comes with a $5,000 check given to Southwestern High School to use however they choose.
It was her daughter Wendy, a 2000 graduate of Southwestern High School, who nominated Wiederholt for the award and submitted a short essay in her honor.
A celebratory event was held in her honor this past Monday at Southwestern High School, where coach Wiederholt was awarded a $5,000 check from U.S. Cellular.
As a finalist, Wiederholt also remains in contention for the grand prize of a $50,000 donation to the charitable organization of her choosing, as well as a trip to Orlando, Fla., for an on-field recognition at the Under Armour High School All-American Game.
It’s now up to everyone to vote for coach Wiederholt at themostvaluablecoach.com, where you can vote once per day up until 11:59 a.m Nov. 14.
If she should happen to win the $50,000 grand prize, Wiederholt knows exactly what she would do with it too.
As the primary organizer behind the Hazel Green Gymnastics Club which sits on the north edge of town, Wiederholt would look to expand the club’s facilities, which used to be an empty pallet factory prior to housing gymnastics lessons for the past seven years.
“What we’d really like to do is build an addition, so we’re hoping to win this thing, because I can then give it to a community organization, and that’s where it would go,” Wiederholt said.
According to Wiederholt, the gymnastics club has so many members and not enough room, that they actually have turn kids away.
There are over 200 members currently belonging to the club, with kids as young as three years old attending.
Aside from teaching gymnastics to the younger kids, the club also has a competitive club team that competes at the AAU level.
“It would benefit the school too, because then we would have enough space to hold dual meets over there,” added Wiederholt.
The Hazel Green Gymnastics Club was the brainchild of Wiederholt back in 2010.
Prior to that, she had competed in gymnastics while attending Platteville High School, and later at UW-Platteville.
“I actually didn’t start with gymnastics until high school,” explained Wiederholt. “I grew up on a farm, so my summers were spent working on the farm and after school, but once we got into high school we could do sports.”
“We had tumbling in Phy. Ed. class one time and I thought it was awesome,” Wiederholt said. “I just loved it.”
Upon graduating from UW-Platteville, Wiederholt was hired at the Y in Dubuque, where she was put in charge of the gymnastics program, working mostly with younger athletes. She also did substitute teaching throughout the area after college.
“Growing up, I always thought I wanted to be a veterinarian. But then once I got into sports and started doing gymnastics, I thought maybe this is what I’d rather do,” Wiederholt remembers.
She became an assistant gymnastics coach for the Southwestern/Cuba City high school team during the 1992-93 and 1993-94 seasons before becoming the head coach in November of 1994.
Going into her 23rd season as head coach, Wiederholt has guided the Southwestern/Cuba City/Benton gymnastics program to 17 conference championships, nine sectional championships and four state championships to go along with four WIAA Sportsmanship awards.
She has a career conference record of 197-23 and an overall career record of 1,073-367.
She was also named the Wisconsin Coach Of the Year by the Wisconsin High School Gymnastics Association three times (1995, 2000, 2005), and was inducted into the WHSGA Hall of Fame in 2008.
While others may think the Wisconsin winters are long, Wiederholt believes they go by pretty fast, considering how busy she is from November to March.
Despite being so busy, Wiederholt loves coaching gymnastics at all levels, and because of her many years at the helm, she has also developed a number of lasting relationships.
“These girls kind of become my family,” Wiederholt said. “Each spring I attend their graduation parties, and now I’m attending their weddings.”
“Once you’re part of the SW/CC/B family, you’re always part of the SW/CC/B family,” Wiederholt added.