GRAND RAPIDS — Two Grand Rapids men were inducted into the Minnesota Wrestling Coaches Association (MWCA) Dave Bartelma Hall of Fame during induction ceremonies on Oct. 3, at the Benson Inn in Benson, Minn.
The two inductees are Don Kuusinen and Dan Jinks. Following are biographies of the two men:
Kuusinen was inducted as a contributor. He attended Grand Rapids High School, graduating from there in 1963. He placed fourth at state in a one-class system while wrestling for the Indians. He wrested for a year at the University of Minnesota, then for a year at the University of North Dakota. He completed his bachelor’s degree in math education at Bemidji State University. He also earned a masters degree.
After graduation, Kuusinen got a position teaching math at Grand Rapids Junior High School, and he taught in the school district until retiring in 2001.
Kuusinen served as a junior high/middle school coach at Grand Rapids from 1968 to 1976, and was head wrestling coach at Grand Rapids High School from 1977 to 1979. He served as assistant coach in 1979 and 1980, and was an elementary coach for 10 years. He is a member of the Grand Rapids Wrestling Hall of Fame, the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame.
Kuusinen also officiated for 50 years, starting and ending his officiating career in the Grand Rapids High School Gymnasium.
The Kuusinen family includes wife Laurel, sons Kraig (a two-time cancer survivor) living in New Hope, Minn., Kent, who lives with his wife and two daughters in Vernon, Vt., and Lance, who lives in Grand Rapids.
“It felt good to be honored; those are some pretty prestigious people that have already been inducted,” said Kuusinen. “Basically I think it was for the officiating; not too many guys make 50 years.”
When asked what the sport of wrestling has meant to him, Kuusinen said, “It was a big part. It was all winter long basically. When I wrestled in high school and a little bit in college, you start getting in shape in the fall and you wrestled a little bit in the summer time too, not as much as they do nowadays. We used to go to Jimmy Kamman’s yard and wrestle.”
Kuusinen’s 50 years of officiating speaks for itself, and he said, “It was a long time. Most guys drop out after 10 years or 20 years or so but I enjoyed it. It was fun and I got a lot out of it. I met some terrific people, some great coaches, some great wrestlers and some other really super officials along the way too.”
Dan Jinks is being inducted as a coach. He attended Grand Rapids High School, graduating in 1973. While in high school he participated in football, wrestling and track and field. He earned three letters in football, captained the team hi senior year and earned All-Conference honors as a defensive tackle.
Jinks was a three-time letter winner in track and field, throwing the shot put and discus. He also earned two letters in wrestling and capped off his senior year with a section championship and state tournament berth.
Jinks attended college at Moorhead State University. While there he participated in both wrestling and football. He graduated in 1978, with a bachelor’s degree in both health education and physical education.
He taught and coached in Ellsworth, Minn., from 1978 to 1980, and in Grand Rapids from 1980 to 2017. His coaching record was 420-210-3. During his 30 years as the Grand Rapids head wrestling coach, he coached 70 region/section champions, 115 state qualifiers, 48 state place winners and six individual state champions. His teams reached the state tournament eight times and the 1887 team was the state runner-ups. Seven of his wrestlers have gone on to gain All-American status in college and he was named Region/Section Coach of the Year nine times.
Jinks served as MWCA Section 7AAA representative for nine years, from 1987 to 1996. In 2005-2006, he served as president of the MWCA.
Longtime friend Steve Lynch wrote about Jinks, “His kids wrestled hard for him. The bonds he formed as a coach and leader influenced many kids on the edge of school and society to stick with the sport, and many of them have successful stories to tell because of their time in Jinks’ room.”
Jinks is retired and resides at his lake home in Bowstring Township, Minn., with the love of his life, Lori. He has two children that he is extremely proud of, a son Jacob (wife Stacey) and daughter Jennifer (husband Chad).
“The Hall of Fame started in 1969, and some of those names that I saw (who have been inducted) were people that I had a chance to sit down and talk with over the years and learn from them,” said Jinks. “They are titans in the wrestling world and I have the distinct honor and privilege of being able to talk to them about philosophy of wrestling and coaching strategies and learn from those guys.
“For me to imagine that I would be seated in the same Hall with some of those greats, those legends, was very humbling.”
Jinks said he was asked often during his career how the Grand Rapids High School wrestling program was able to maintain a competitiveness even though it was not in the hotbed of Minnesota wrestling. He said goes back to the tradition of Grand Rapids wrestling.
“There has been a fine tradition in Grand Rapids and there always will be,” Jinks said. “I just hope that I was able to carry on that tradition and to ensure that it is going to continue. Being inducted into the Hall of Fame, I think it shines a bright light on the Grand Rapids athletic system and Grand Rapids school system.”
Jinks said he is gratified to have been able to coach at his alma mater. He thanked the many assistant coaches who assisted in throughout the years.
“To say that I bleed orange and black is an understatement,” Jinks explained. “In my acceptance speech I was very adamant in saying I wouldn’t be where I am today if it hadn’t been for the Grand Rapids community, the school system and the Grand Rapids athletic department. It’s been a true honor to have been able to serve in this community and in those programs.”