Southeast, Palmetto high schools ready to honor coach Bob Thomas

jlembo@bradenton.comJanuary 8, 2013 

BRADENTON -- Bob Thomas is no longer Southeast's wrestling coach.

But you wouldn't have known it Saturday afternoon, when Thomas didn't sit still during the final day of the Southeast Duals.

There he was working the concession stand or collecting chairs or rolling up extension cords or breaking down the scorer's table.

It's that sort of commitment Daniel Bradshaw, the Seminoles' current wrestling coach, will be honoring Thursday night. Southeast hosts Palmetto in a dual meet 6:30 p.m. in the school's old gymnasium, affectionately known as Seminole Alley, but the event will double as a tribute to Thomas, who is retiring from teaching and coaching at the conclusion of this school year.

Thomas coached Southeast's wrestling team from 1978 to 2010 before turning things over to Bradshaw.

"A lot of people don't always realize what wrestling was like in Florida in 1978, or how new it was even, compared to the northeast and where he came from in Ohio," Bradshaw said. "He's obviously had a lot of success."

A social studies teacher who also coaches the school's girls golf and tennis teams, Thomas led the Seminoles to a state runner-up finish in Class 3A in 1993. The Noles totaled 84 points that year, finishing second to Bunnell Flagler Palm Coast (90).

Thomas oversaw five individual state wrestling champions at Southeast. Three of those titles came courtesy of Mike Gorris from 1987-89.

He also played a pivotal role in Palmetto's wrestling program, which was hatched in 2005. The Tigers' program is

coached by Bryan Wilkes, a Southeast alum who served as Thomas' assistant from 1992-2002.

That's the reason the Seminoles will host the Tigers on Thursday.

"I knew him from day one, when he walked into the wrestling team at the old auditorium," Wilkes said. "He loves two things -- number one, he loves Southeast High School. ... and he loves wrestling. And he likes that camaraderie about being around the guys.

"He molded me."

Thomas coached Wilkes' daughter, Logan, when she wrestled at Southeast. And Wilkes considers Thomas one of his best friends and estimates the two get together at least twice a week.

Last week's Southeast Duals took place in Ben Narbut "Buzz" Gymnasium, which is more than big enough to host a two-day, 10-team wrestling meet.

In going with Thursday's retro motif, the Southeast-Palmetto match will be wrestled in Seminole Alley, a smaller but tradition-rich gymnasium that has played host to the school's championship boys and girls basketball teams. It's also where Thomas did most of his wrestling coaching.

"I wanted to rekindle any of that fan support as much as we can. Hopefully, we have a full gym," Bradshaw did. "The old gym is smaller, so it's a nice atmosphere."

Bradshaw hopes the gym isn't just packed with fans, but with many of Thomas' former wrestlers. The match will be broadcast live online at

"We're trying to bring back as many as the alumni wrestlers, and try to bring back some of the support and history from the prior years," Bradshaw said.

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