Tim Koch grew up in Islip on Long Island and took up wrestling in 9th grade at the urging of Coach Sal Beninati (a graduate of Ballston Spa HS), mainly to fill the 98 lb. weight class. Over the next four years Tim never achieved personal success, but 1964 – his senior year – was marked by two significant events: Coach Beninati took the team to his home town to wrestle the Scotties (a match officiated as it turns out by Art Cardi – father of Jon Cardi – small world), and that Islip team won their very first league championship. During those four years Tim developed a love and understanding for a sport which challenged the individual while it nurtured and encouraged close friendships and team success. He also relished the unbridled joy of that team championship, an experience that would one day lead him back to a sport that ultimately defined a significant segment of his life. In 1982 when Jon Cardi won his second NYS Championship, Tim invited Coach Beninati to sit ‘mat-side’ with him during the championship match, an experience he will treasure forever.
At Oneonta State, Tim wrestled for a year while working on his BA in English, then turned his spare time toward his second love, the theater, performing in a half dozen plays and musicals. After graduation in June, 1968 he and his soon-to-be bride Karen accepted teaching positions at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Central Schools, and they moved to a furnished apartment on Pashley Road knowing almost no one. Their daughter Kristin graduated from BH in 1998. Tim and Karen didn’t just work in Burnt Hills, they believed in Burnt Hills.
While teaching at the (then) junior high school, and while performing in a local production of West Side Story, Tim volunteered to help Ron Kibbey, the junior high wrestling coach. Within two years Tim became the junior high coach – ably assisted by his good buddy Phil Pekar -- when Kibbey moved to the JV position, then took the JV position behind Kibbey’s transition to varsity. Following a year off (1975) from coaching as he explored the possibility of focusing on school administration, Tim sensed that his greater interest lay in coaching wrestling (he watched practices almost every day), and when the opportunity to take the helm of the Burnt Hills program presented itself (1976), he took it and never looked back.
Over the 28 years of Tim’s varsity coaching career he had the support of many important individuals, greatest among them his wife Karen and later his daughter Kristin who in addition to her own athletic accomplishments served as a wrestling team manager for 4 years and accompanied the team and other managers to many weekend tournaments including the States. Those times together are life-treasures. No program of the caliber BH enjoyed can exist without great assistant coaches, and Tim remains indebted to them all: Sev Popolizio, Scott Winters, Phil Wright (7 yrs), Terry Tryon (3 yrs), John Parisella (3 yrs), Todd Passer, Mike Robyck, Bill Rue, Peter Mesh, Bill Martin, and his long-time friend Phil Pekar, who shared Tim’s final season with him. For a number of years after he graduated from North Carolina, Jon Cardi also served as a volunteer coach and confidant, contributing his high level of expertise and motivation in extending the Tradition of Excellence.
Tim also attributes much of the program’s success to a remarkable group of Jr. Spartan (PeeWee) coaches who took the reins and responsibility of the feeder program Tim had begun, and built it into a state powerhouse of its own, providing a steady stream of well-skilled and highly-experienced wrestlers ready for top level competition: leading the way with the help of others were Don Marrone, Warren Crow, and John Cintula, all of whom built the foundation of the 1989 team and more.
When Karen and Tim retired to Tucson, Arizona in 2003, Tim joined the Southern Arizona Wrestling Officials Assoc., and spent the next 7 wrestling seasons officiating from Bisbee (near NM), to Nogales (near Mexican border), to Cottonwood (near Sedona), and throughout the greater Tucson area. He served as President of the SAWOA for two years, and enjoyed officiating the individual state championships (2X), the State 5A dual meet championship match, and at Arizona’s premier tournament, the Flowing Wells Invitational.
Tim is indebted to the late Harold VanEarden and the many members of the PE department who offered support and advice over the years and to Bob McGuire for his continued support of our program and for facilitating the expansion of the wrestling room. The Burnt Hills program also benefitted from the immeasurable contributions of so many parents and our Booster Club; it is impossible to imagine our success without them. Seeing Coach Steve Jones – a product of the Burnt Hills program and one of Tim’s former athletes -- continue and enlarge the legacy of excellence completes the circle for Coach Koch.