FREDERICK — The saying is, “Those who can’t, teach.”
It’s not an ideal fit for Frederick’s Jakob Vargas. But considering he wants to be a coach in later life, it’s working out fine.
“The last regular-season football game, I tried to make an arm tackle,” Vargas said. “I dislocated my shoulder. We didn’t think it was a big deal. We popped it back in.”
He made it through football season OK. But in the first two weeks of wrestling practice, he ran into trouble.
“It pops out at wrestling practice. I’m like, ‘Oh, man,’” Vargas said. “We got get an MRI, I have a 360-degree labrum tear, the same injury as (New Orleans Saints quarterback) Drew Brees had. I had to have surgery. I have 10 anchors in my shoulder.
“I’ll heal up, but I’ll miss the rest of wrestling season.”
Vargas was counting on a return trip to the state tournament at Pepsi Center. But he still wanted to remain involved with the team in some form.
Enter the possibility of coaching.
“I figured if I can’t help them physically on the mat, I can help them by giving my knowledge of the sport,” Vargas said. “I’ve been around it for so long, I could help out coaching. ... I want to go into coaching. I want to help others. Same with football — I want to help others. It’s a good way to stay in the sport.”
And it’s a case of so far, so good.
“It’s gone well,” Vargas said. “It gives me a chance to stay close to the sport and to share some of what I know with the younger guys. ... They can talk to me about stuff they can’t talk to the coaches about. I’m their team captain. I’m not a dictator.”
Vargas applies bits of each of his youth and high school coaches to his new role.
“Coach (Gerry) Gal taught me you can’t just scream your head off and expect to get your point across. You have to show them what you’re doing wrong,” Vargas said. “Coach Matthews (assistant coach Bobby Matthews) showed me that in order to be a good coach, you have to be intense. You have to have fire and passion about what you’re coaching. I have that. I’m a competitor. If I’m coaching someone who’s new to the team and he doesn’t win, I get upset. I feel like I lost to the other coach.”
The abrupt switch from active participant to sideline participant hasn’t been easy.
“I’ll watch matches and miss it,” Vargas said. “I just sit there and think, ‘What if?’ I worked really hard this spring and summer. Every year I wrestled built to this. I was excited about this season. I thought I had a legitimate shot at the state championship. But what happens happens. My body is weak. So I have to exercise my mind to try and become mentally stronger from this.”
The injury didn’t have much of an impact on Vargas’ recruiting process. He verbally committed to play football at Western State Colorado University in Gunnison. Vargas could be cleared to play as soon as Aug. 1, just in time for the opening of practice.
“A lot of coaches know about the injury. It’s not like a knee or an ACL,” Vargas said. “It’s a shoulder. It feels fine. Drew Brees had the same injury, and he’s an MVP-caliber quarterback. Unfortunately for me, I don’t have the throwing arm Drew Brees has. I can make it back to playing (NCAA) Division II football.”
One thing his coaches emphasize is academics.
“I need something to fall back on,” Vargas said. “I’m glad I took my classwork seriously and took my tests seriously. I couldn’t go a lot of places if I couldn’t play sports.
“I knew I got free food in the hospitality room if I coached. So that’s nice,” Vargas laughed. “It’s been a lot of fun. It’s not as fun as wrestling. I could be winning matches. It’s fun helping the young guys. We have a lot of young guys who need the helping hand. Sometimes, they need someone to talk to, and I can be that person.”