When the head wrestling coach position opened last month, Moline athletic director Todd Rosenthal knew immediately who might be the right choice for the job — the guy who nearly got it the last time it opened up.
But just to be sure, he called a couple of his old wrestling buddies/mentors to see if the was on the right track. They assured him he was.
And so, pending board approval, Moline’s new wrestling coach is Jacob Ruettiger, who not only is the nephew of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, on whom the movie “Rudy” is based, but the son of a wrestling coach and nephew of four other wrestling coaches.
“He was a very strong finalist last time for the head job,” said Rosenthal, referring to two years ago, when Moline named Nathan Cross as head coach.
After going 43-8 in duals and upping Moline’s Western Big Six championship streak to four straight years, Cross announced in March he’s leaving Moline and returning to Colorado. There he will concentrate on he and his wife’s soap and skin-care products business.
“At that time (two years ago), Nathan Cross was the right fit,” Rosenthal said. “When it came up, he (Ruettiger) showed interest again. Obviously, he’s a strong candidate. It didn’t take us very long to make a decision.
“He’s just got extensive knowledge of wrestling. His family … he wrestled at Providence (Catholic High School, qualifying for state in 2007). His program, his knowledge, his experience is enormous. And he was a great assistant with Todd Thompson (at Moline before Cross). He’s very good at analyzing teams and putting the right lineups together for dual meets.
“The kids really gravitate to him.”
Ruettiger already teaches special education at Moline. His coaching experience includes last year as an assistant at Alleman, plus one season each at Joliet Catholic Academy, Lincoln Way East and two years each at Moline and Plainfield East.
“I am excited to get the opportunity,” said Ruettiger, who will inherit a team that had no qualifiers for state but returns 11 starters. “Hopefully, I can continue to grow the program in that rich tradition and continue to take those steps that are needed to get back to the state level of the early ‘90s and 2000s."
That era included a state championship in 1996 and four other top four team places in Rosenthal’s last five years.
Ruettiger believes his time at Moline as a teacher and coach will help him.
“I have a good rapport with some of the kids still in the program,” he said.
Ruettiger originally came to the Quad-Cities to play baseball for St. Ambrose University. He transferred to Joliet for junior college and eventually St. Francis in Joliet, where he graduated from in 2012.
He hopes being a head coach will be as rewarding for him as he saw it was for his dad and uncles.
“I saw what they were able to give athletes,” he said. “And I want to be able to (give) that to the student-athletes I deal with and work with.”