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He punched a coach but found forgiveness

I had heard the story many times. A community college wrestler, in a fit of rage, had struck his coach. Instead of filing charges with police or dismissing the wrestler, the coach forgave him and defied administrators by keeping him on the team.

The wrestler went on to become a youth coach and volunteered his time to children in Maywood and other near suburbs who wanted to learn the sport. For a while he had one of the best youth clubs in Illinois.

My husband knew neither the coach nor the wrestler but told me the story as an amazing tale of forgiveness and redemption. I figured that in years of retelling the story probably had been exaggerated.

So I tracked down the former wrestler, Carl Foreside Sr., wanting to know what was fact and fiction.

OPINION

Nowadays ugly incidents quickly go public. You can almost certainly count on someone having video that will go viral. For social blunders and acts of violence, there usually is a public outcry demanding punishment.

These days Foreside would never get a second chance.

Initially, Foreside, 59, hesitated to talk.

“It’s embarrassing,” he said, still disappointed that he punched his beloved coach, Art Kraft, who had welcomed him to the Triton College wrestling team in 1982.

Foreside opened up as he spoke about Kraft’s influence on a blockbuster team that won back-to-back junior-college national championships before Kraft died from an illness in 1985.

Beyond his expertise in the gym, Kraft was generous. He gave a suit to a wrestler who couldn’t afford one. Wrestlers with little money lived rent-free in a house Kraft bought.

Foreside came from a troubled family in Maywood and did not know his father. “Kraft filled that void,” he said.

In a workout at Northwestern, where Kraft’s brother Ken coached and son Michael wrestled, Foreside and an opponent were in a heated match that got out of control. Triton coaches restrained Foreside, pulling hair out of his head in their attempt to hold him back, he said. Foreside popped the person in front of him — his coach.

Foreside thought he might go to jail. He wasn’t some teenager. He was 26. He had been in the Army and wrestled successfully overseas but had failed at self-restraint.

Pressured by friends and administrators to kick Foreside out, Kraft scoffed.

“He said he was not turning me over to the streets,” Foreside said.

“I can’t think of too many coaches that would have done the same thing,” Kraft’s son told me in a Facebook message. “It seems my dad made the right decision even if it’s not the one I would have made.”

It helped Foreside get his act together. He became a Maywood firefighter and retired last year. For 16 years he stressed fundamentals and technique to kids from poor neighborhoods for the Gladiators club he founded. He coached his son, Carl Jr., who became a state champion for Montini Catholic.

“What a success story,” said Jim Maraviglia, a former assistant to Kraft who is an associate vice provost at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo. “What a role model for a tough neighborhood.”

It all came down to a second chance.

“I felt special,” Foreside said of the relationship with his coach. “I still feel special.”

Email: MarlenGarcia777@yahoo.com

Twitter: @MarlenGarcia777