By Kelly Jadon
For Hometown News
In February, Coach Mike Sawtelle of Jensen Beach High School took student athlete Noel Jordan to the Girls' State Weightlifting Competition, where she placed third.
While it was her third approach at placing, the win gave Noel the distinction to be the first Jensen Beach athlete to medal at the state level.
Noel competes in the 110-pound weight class. For the competition, she weighed in at 106 pounds while lifting 140 pounds on the bench press and 135 pounds on the 'clean and jerk.'
Jensen Beach High School is noted for its high-level performance of students academically and athletically. The youth there are called by the faculty to be the best they can be. The goal: Preparation for life. A schools' success is only as good as its dedicated leadership. Teachers are these kinds of individuals.
This is where Coach Sawtelle shines his brightest.
Originally from Erie, Pa., he attended West Virginia University on a full wrestling scholarship, where he was a four-year varsity starter in the heavyweight class. After graduation, he started working at Martin County High School, teaching and coaching football and wrestling.
"When I was young, my parents took no interest in my sports, so it was my coaches who nurtured my career," Coach Sawtelle said. "They took me to wrestling tournaments and football games. I knew early in life that there were others out there who needed the same type of help, so I decided to be a coach to help those who needed coaches as much as I did."
In the almost 25 years he has worked in Martin County, he has worked with more than 1,000 students, coaching high-school volleyball, football, wrestling, girls weightlifting, boys weightlifting and track. At the middle school level, he coached girls volleyball, boys track, girls track and girls basketball. Elementary-school students have benefitted from his coaching in girls basketball, boys basketball and boys and girls track.
Over the years, Coach Sawtelle has amassed a large number of championship titles, starting with the Martin County High School football team going to the final four in the late 1980s. Since then, there has also been several state wrestling champions, several runners-up and many state qualifiers.
"At South Fork we have had at least one state champion in wrestling, several runner ups and many state place winners and qualifiers," he said. "At Jensen Beach, we have had three state championships in volleyball, four regional championships and six district titles, and I have coached at least one state qualifier every year in both boys and girls weightlifting."
His philosophy is simple: Anyone can be a champion, you just have to be willing to put in the time it takes to do so.
"What sets state level players apart is work ethic," he said. "The state level players can see what it takes to get there and put in the time to do it."
But at the end of the day, it isn't winning the titles that means the most.
"My reward is the joy I see in the athlete's face and the pride they have in themselves after they achieve something they did not think they could achieve," Coach Sawtelle said. "I know how it felt when I won titles and I want other children to have that same feeling."