As a high school head wrestling coach for 34 years and a high school and college wrestler before that, it isn't hard to pin down Bill Hyson when it comes to talking about the sport.
"Wrestling is an unique ...sport," said Hyson, a coach and teacher at Francis Scott Key High School. "In wrestling, you're putting it all out there on the mat."
The sport that places strict demands on an athlete on and off the mat, especially in terms of diet and conditioning, has been part of Hyson's life since he arrived at the school in Union Bridge in the early 1970s.
As a freshman entering Key, he had no interest in wrestling after some bad experiences in his early school days in Baltimore County.
"I was a junior kid paired with big kids. It didn't interest me," Hyson said.
He joined the Eagles' football team and one of his coaches encouraged him to try out.
His sophomore year, he did.
"I got hooked," Hyson said.
He wrestled three years at Key. After graduating in 1973, he wrestled for three years at then-Frostburg State College. The program was canceled in his senior year.
His love for the sport continued, and he accepted his first coaching job as the freshman wrestling coach at Key.
"I had a great experience growing up here," said Hyson, whose two daughters and son all graduated from Francis Scott Key. "It was a great opportunity for me.
"I was a big sports guy and I liked the outdoors. Fishing and hunting were right out my back door," he said.
In 1980, he became the school's head wrestling coach and he also has been teaching health or physical education at the school for 34 years.
He also has coached football and girls lacrosse at the school.
His dedication to wrestling and to his students was recognized earlier this fall by the Maryland State Wrestling Association's when he was inducted into its Hall of Fame.
Hyson appreciates the recognition and the accolades, but shrugs it off.
Tim Harrison, now a crisis counselor at Key, has coached wrestling with Hyson for 20 years.
"He's always even keel," Harrison said. "He's more about helping kids learn life lessons. He sees the big picture."
Hyson's first year as head coach at Key was Harrison's final season as a high school senior.
"You see a lot of coaches come and go, especially today," Harrison said. "He's been a constant here for many years."
Hyson's teams at Francis Scott Key have posted winning records in 30 seasons, according to a release from Carroll County Public Schools, and featured 12 individual state champions and more than 80 place winners in the state tournament.
The wrestling program at Key has had its highs and lows during Hyson's reign, but one thing has remained constant — Hyson's dedication to his team and students.
For David Dodson, the former wrestling coach at North Carroll High School, Hyson was an important part of his high school years at Key before he graduated in 1987.
"He's been a big part of whom I am," Dodson said. "He made a difference, no question."
Meetings with former team members are among the highlights for Hyson during the winter season.
"The random contacts you have with wrestlers from the past," Hyson said. "There is a feeling of camaraderie within the sport."
He admits the sport has lost of its attraction for students, especially now when many athletes concentrate on one sport.
"Wrestling is a tough sell right now," Hyson said, citing factors ranging from the competitor's uniform to the one-on-one aspect of the sport. "Competition can be intimidating."
But he sees benefits for those who compete. More important than wrestling, the goal for coaches is for the sport to contribute to students' success and progress when they leave here, Hyson said.
"I hope the kids feel that way," he said.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun