Former Arrowhead football coach Tom Taraska dies at 71 in car crash – WISN Milwaukee

Taraska led team to four state championship wins

Taraska led team to four state championship wins

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Taraska led team to four state championship wins

The longtime head coach who built Hartland Arrowhead into a perennial powerhouse died in a Sunday crash. Tom Taraska was 71.
Through nearly three decades, beginning in 1982, Taraska was synonymous with Hartland Arrowhead football. He led them to nine state championship games, winning four times. He was named the 2007 Wisconsin Coach of the Year and is in the Wisconsin Football Coaches Hall of Fame.
“Coach Taraska was somebody who was very intimidating from the outside looking in. But once you got to know him, he was as gentle and kind as anybody in any walk of life,” said prep sports broadcaster Bob Brainerd Monday.
The retired coach died on Sunday, when his car struck a tree in Merton. He was the only one in the car. A memorial, including a football helmet, is growing at the scene as people pay their respects.
“Tons of alumni just contacting me today, and the sentiment is the same. Without Tom Taraska, I wouldn’t be who I am today,” current coach Matt Harris said Monday.
He said Taraska still closely followed the team.
“It’s really cool to see someone who built probably, arguably, the greatest high school football program in state history, but he built a community,” Harris said.
The football stadium was named for him after his retirement in 2011.
” He was sheepish about having his name on Taraska Stadium, I know that,” Brainerd said. “And he appreciated it, but it wasn’t about him. It was always about the program. And the A. What the A stood for,” Brainerd said, referring to the red capital “A” on the team’s helmets.
Harris agreed, saying, “He was such a humble man that having his name, that wasn’t the most important thing for him. I just think the A and the tradition and what the program is and what it continues to be is what he’s the most proud of.”
“He always used the term ‘I’ve been blessed. I’ve been blessed to have great coaches, I’ve been blessed to have this community, I’ve been blessed to have great players.’ And he said that a lot,” Brainerd said.
Hartland community members might say they were blessed to have him.
Taraska began his success in football long before coaching, when he was a student-athlete at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1975.
In 2008, he was inducted into the Wisconsin Football Coaches Hall of Fame and the UW-Oshkosh Athletic Hall of Fame in 2008. He coached four years at Franklin High School from 1978 to 1981 before taking the head coaching job at Arrowhead.
The Waukesha County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the crash. No other vehicles were involved.

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