GREENFIELD — At 70 years young, Ed Hamant isn’t afraid to roll up his sleeves. In constant motion while patrolling the mats inside the Greenfield-Central wrestling room, circling and darting from one spot to the next, the Cougars head coach stops only momentarily.
If he does, it’s often proceeded with swift action. “Hold on. Come here,” Hamant instructs a pair of wrestlers during practice. “Like this.”
Down on the mat, Hamant executes a perfect pinning combination. No escape. Within seconds, the coach, more than 50 years his wrestlers’ elder, sticks one pupil after another. They shake off their bewilderment as he sets them free.
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Then, it’s off again, pulling on the shoulder inseams of his sweat-drenched T-shirt, looking for another lesson to teach.
“I’ll probably coach until I die,” Hamant said while taking a rare breather but still watching every movement with keen attentiveness. “I love coaching and I love the kids. I love wrestling. It keeps me young.”
For 35 years, Hamant has immersed himself in the fountain of youth. An assistant coach for all but one season, he joked how he initially thought it would be “a one-year deal” back when former head coach Gary Pence asked him to train with 155-pound state champion Terry Edon in the late 1970s.
But he knew better. A former 133- and 138-pound wrestler at Decatur Central where he graduated in 1963, Hamant has committed nearly 50 years to the sport in various capacities.
Through his tenure at Greenfield-Central, he’s worked alongside five different head coaches, served as the junior high school head coach, a volunteer assistant and as the junior varsity and freshman coach.
He’s instructed all but one state qualifier in program history, having a hand in molding 46 state finalists, 21 state place winners and two state champions in Edon (1979) and Josh Farrell (152 pounds in 2013).
“He’s been in the program a long time and he knows what he’s talking about,” said assistant coach Mike Stanley, a 1993 Greenfield-Central graduate and two-time semistate qualifier. “If anyone has any doubt about it, you simply need to look back 35 years and the years of service. It’s pretty impressive.”
So much that it was a no-brainer for athletics director Jared Manning to promote Hamant as interim head coach this season when Josh Holden resigned prior to the 2015-16 season to take a new position at Southport High School.
His contributions were a major reason for another more prestigious honor, becoming only the third assistant coach ever to be inducted into the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame.
The first assistant to be enshrined was Randy Helfrich of Evansville Mater Dei in 2001. Eric Kriebel of Pendleton Heights was the second in 2002.
Hamant will join the immortals this February at the annual IHSWCA Hall of Fame banquet the day after the 2015-16 state finals.
“Honestly, I didn’t know assistants could make it,” Hamant remarked. “To me, it means I’ve been blessed to work with a lot of good people all these years. It’s because I’ve been with a really good program, nothing that I’ve done special. I think I’m an okay coach. I guess I’m an okay coach. It’s gratifying to know that someone thinks I did something worthwhile along the way.”
There aren’t many that would say otherwise.
“He’s quite a guy, and I’m glad to see him get a chance to run that program,” said Pendleton Heights head coach Dave Cloud, who has spent countless years competing with Hamant sitting in the opposite corner of the mat. “You couldn’t ask for a better guy and a better friend for wrestling. Everybody’s really happy for him. He deserves this induction.”
His example demands respect, said Stanley, who along with assistant coach Austin Early and volunteer coach Tom Drake, can’t help but marvel at Hamant’s physicality, let alone wrestling know-how.
Still an avid fast-pitch softball player, Hamant just recently made the move from middle infield to first base because he’s admittedly, “slowing down.”
Every year, he takes pride in dropping down to his wrestling weight of 138, despite typically coming in at 150 to start the season, the same he hovered around when playing football in high school.
Picking up wrestling for the first time as a sophomore because he “sucked at basketball,” he routinely cut 15-plus pounds each year to wrestle, finishing fourth at sectional in his career — back when you had to win to advance.
When he’s not coaching, he operates Ed Hamant Construction, building homes like the one he put up for his wife, Diane, of nearly 52 years, in 1973, as they raised their daughter, Karyn, and son, Kevin, both of whom are Greenfield-Central graduates.
Yet, his greatest wrestling project, said Holden, are the record boards hanging in the Cougars practice room.
A six-year pain-staking endeavor, Hamant pieced together every wrestling achievement in program history, dating back from coach Bob Miller in the 1960s through Pence and 2005 IHSWCA Hall of Fame inductee Bill Yozipovich to Josh Holden.
“I like the idea that somewhere down the line I’ve had an impact on someone’s life in a positive way,” Hamant reflected on his career. “I’d like to think somewhere along the way I helped somebody.”
He does every day.
“With work ethic alone he has,” Stanley confirmed. “He’s 70, and you’ll always find him out here on the wrestling mats. I would employ anyone to try to find a 70-year-old guy doing that often. For nothing else, that in itself should be an impact on our kids in the room.”
Greenfield-Central High School
• Hamant has spent 35 years coaching wrestling at Greenfield-Central, working under five different head coaches in his tenure (Gary Pence, Bill Yozipovich, Grant Nesbit, Lance Parsons, Josh Holden).
• After 34 years as an assistant varsity coach, Hamant was named interim head coach this season following the resignation of Josh Holden, who accepted a head coaching job at Southport High School.
• Hamant, a 1963 Decatur Central graduate, and his wife, Diane, will celebrate their 52nd wedding anniversary this February. He has two children, a daughter, Karyn, and a son, Kevin.
• During his tenure at Greenfield-Central, Hamant has been the junior high head coach, a volunteer high school assistant, the junior varsity and freshman coach, and has worked with the Greenfield Wrestling Club.
• He has helped coach all but one of the school’s state qualifiers. He has shaped 46 state finalists, 21 state place winners, two state runner-ups, and two state champions in Terry Edon (1979) and Josh Farrell (2013).
• He is only the third varsity assistant wrestling coach to be inducted into the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame, joining Evansville Mater Dei’s Randy Helfrich (2001) and Pendleton Heights’ Eric Kriebel (2002).