WATERTOWN – The term superfan gets thrown around a lot surrounding high school athletic teams. For Jerry Peterson, he was the definition of a super fan. He didn’t just earn it. He lived it.
“He’s just always at wrestling,” Royals coach Kurt Becker said. “He’s what you would call a wrestling superfan. He doesn’t miss a match. Even this year, he was able to get in. He never missed our wrestling matches. He’s only missed one state wrestling tournament since he was in high school.”
While COVID-19 guidelines kept Jerry at home for some matches this season, that didn’t stop his enthusiasm one bit. At home, he would have everything ready with multiple screens to take in all the action as wrestling has always been his love.
“Even this year, he had to watch a few from home with tickets being just two per kid,” Becker said. “They were talking about how he had the full rosters out in front of him, the rankings on one computer screen and the match going on another screen. As his wife would say, wrestling came first and I came second. There were many Valentine’s Day dates at wrestling matches for those two.”
“He loved the Royals, but he just loved wrestling too,” Troy Petersen said. “Just watching wrestling. He told my wife Tiffany that his idea of the best date was taking my mom to a wrestling match. My mom was OK with that too.”
Jerry passed away at the end of January following an accident at work. Since then, a piece of the W-M wrestling family has been missing when the Royals take the mat.
“He’s just one of those people who loved to talk and visit,” Becker said. “He was always happy and loved to talk wrestling. He would always visit with other team’s fans and build those relationships. He’s one of those guys you’re always remembering. He’ll always be in your thoughts.”
Troy, Jerry’s son, is on the coaching staff for the W-M Wrestling team. Troy’s love for wrestling came directly from his dad and it’s kept their relationship close through all these years.
“He introduced me to the sport that in 1984 and to this day, I am still involved in the W-M program,” Troy said. “I went through the program as an athlete, and then after college came, back and helped with the youth program until just a couple years ago when I moved into an assistant coach role with the high school program. He was a guy that wasn’t necessary at the front line of the coaching part, but was very involved in the leg work.”
Anyone who crossed paths with Jerry could see his love for wrestling and willingness to serve in any way. Whether it was helping the booster club out or starting the tradition of getting a suite for W-M fans at the state tournament, it was all about the relationships that kept Jerry going.
“He was someone who loved getting to know you,” Troy said. “He genuinely wanted to get to know you and wanted to make you feel important. He loved conversations with people and learning more about people. He was a proud husband, father, and grandfather. He was very selfless. He was always willing to help and always willing to provide his knowledge.”
Jerry’s love and energy for the W-M wrestling program were on full display this season. After taking on Owatonna in a match earlier this season, Troy found a moment that he and Becker will remember forever when going back through the film.
“We didn’t even realize until Troy texted us saying you got to go back and watch the film against Owatonna,” Becker said. “We were up six going into heavyweight and Jason Fenske got the kid on his back. The camera was perfectly pointed and you could see Jerry in the corner over there in the bleachers squirming down lower and lower and all of a sudden he’s on the floor on his hands and knees with his head down looking to see if there was any space.”
“I’ll never forget that night,” Troy added. “That was the last match he saw in person. He jumps out of the third row of the bleachers and gets down on his hands and knees and was looking for the pin. He just loved watching and getting to know each of the wrestlers and the wrestlers’ families that have come and gone through the program. He genuinely cared about each of the wrestlers and understood how the wrestling community is such a close-knit community and how important it was that we made all families feel welcome.”
Jerry has had a big impact on the W-M wrestling program throughout the years. Through it all, he’s just loved being able to cheer on and interact with the kids after each match.
“He’s always been around,” Becker said. “He would come down and talk to the kids after the matches and congratulate them. He was always so positive win or lose. He was just one of those guys who were always there and a great influence. He was always the first one down on the floor to talk to the kids. It wasn’t to coach them. It was coming down to support them.”
Jerry had a big impact on his son Troy not with his words, but with his actions. It’s something that’s spilled over in Troy’s coaching career to this day.
“He was a dad that taught me by example,” Troy said. “He didn’t always tell me how to handle things, but I learned through watching him. How to treat people. How to respect people. How to work hard. How to be humble. How to be involved in the community. How to keep family close to your thoughts always. He never yelled at me at wrestling. He was always positive and teaching. You see some parents nowadays yelling and screaming at their kids when they mess up or lose or even by not winning by more. Dad was calm and just my rock. I always knew he was proud of me no matter the results on the mat. I try and take a lot of those lessons with me into my coaching career.”
As the Royals look to send many individuals to the state tournament once again this season, they’ll do so without their biggest fan in attendance.
“Were lucky to have a pretty good tradition here at Watertown with pretty consistently sending individuals to the state tournament,” Troy said. “We are still working hard every year to get to the state tournament as a team, something we haven’t been able to do yet. He was a guy who never missed much of anything related to W-M wrestling. I talked with Eric Reinert, one of the other high school coaches, and the first thing he said was I spent all day trying to figure out when the last time I didn’t see your dad at a wrestling match and I couldn’t remember one. He was just always there. He loved the program and would do anything that was needed.”
While Jerry won’t physically be there anymore cheering on the Royals or offering support, the program as a whole knows he’s looking down on them all.