In the course of his 28-year wrestling coaching career that spanned five decades at two Maine high schools, Jerry Perkins had a profound impact on not only the sport, but the young athletes who competed for him.
"To this day...I make decisions based on what Coach Perkins would think, what he taught me back then," said Mark Dolloff, one of his former wrestlers who went on to coach at Oxford Hills. "Coach Perkins taught us lessons about life."
He was successful, certainly, in all that he did. Perkins graduated from Brewer High School in 1963 and went on to play offensive guard at the University of Maine, starting on the team that went to the Tangerine Bowl in 1965.
He would coach two sports at Rumford High, football for 10 years and wrestling for 21. His football teams went 40-49-2, despite the fact that Rumford had the smallest enrollment of any Class A school at the time.
But it was his wrestling teams, first at Rumford (1967-88), and, after a six-year absence, at Mountain Valley High (which formed when Rumford and Mexico merged), that made everyone notice.
Over the years his teams had a dual meet record of 432-73-7 and had winning streaks of 57, 47, 39, and 28. They had five state championships (1972, 1973, 1974, 1978 and 1981), 9 state runner-up finishes, and 13 regional championships. His teams finished fourth in the New Englands three times.
The 63-year-old Perkins coached 49 state champions and two New England champions.
He loved coaching at Rumford, saying its blue-collar work ethic was perfect for what he was trying to do.
"Wrestling is perfect for this town and area," Perkins once told writer Bob McPhee. "I've found that the kids are hard-nosed and have the mentality to succeed in this sport."
His Rumford teams were so good that Wrestling U.S.A. Magazine called the town "the wrestling capitol of Maine."
Five times Perkins was named Maine Wrestling Coach of the Year, and it was not necessarily because of what his teams achieved on the mats.
"Jerry was an anchor for hundreds of boys in a sea of turmoil," said Steven Swindells, a long-time high school wrestling official. "His service was stellar and he was as affective as he was effective. He coached multiple state champions but just as important was the way he modeled sportsmanship and perseverance.
"Jerry was a class act. He demanded that his athletes win with humility and lose with dignity."
He retired in 2001, after Mountain Valley won the Class B west championship and finished second to Camden Hills in the state meet.
"This is it," said Perkins after the regional championships. "I thought our kids wrestled their hearts out."
That's what was most important to him.
Maine Sports Hall of Fame
P.O. Box 2
Cumberland, ME 04021
Phone (207) 807-7666
The Maine Sports Hall of Fame was established in 1972 for the purpose of: 1) appointing and bestowing recognition awards and scholarships to outstanding Maine high school scholar-athletes; and, 2) to formally honor and memorialize Maine athletes and sports figures who have brought distinction and honor to the state of Maine.