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The Arrowhead

The Arrowhead

AHS Remembers Tom Taraska


This week the Arrowhead community mourns the loss of former Football Coach and AHS teacher Tom Taraska. On Sunday, October 15th, Taraska was involved in a single car crash on Rybeck Rd in Hartland.  


Before his time at Arrowhead, Taraska played football for the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1973-74. Later, in 2014 and 2015, after retiring from Arrowhead, he returned to help the Titan’s win second and first place respectively in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. 


During his 29 seasons as the Arrowhead Warhawks Varsity Football Coach, he led the team on 9 trips to the WIAA Division 1 State Championship, and won 4 times.


Although Taraska and his team didn’t win all 9 trips to state, former players recall the excitement that the road to state instilled in them. 


Assistant Boys Basketball Coach John Hoch, who played for Arrowhead’s football team from 2002 to 2006, says, “My favorite memory with Coach Taraska was going to state for football my sophomore year. We had an incredible come-from-behind win to earn our trip to Madison (beating Oak Creek 26-25), and celebrating with him and my teammates on the field after that game was something I will never forget.”


According to Taraska’s Bio at UW Oshkosh, “[he] coached 12 high school All-Americans, 34 All-State players and numerous collegiate athletes. The most recognizable alumni include former University of Wisconsin-Madison quarterback Tyler Donovan; former University of Wisconsin-Madison defensive tackle Nick Hayden, who was selected by the Carolina Panthers in the sixth round of the 2008 NFL Draft; and former Dallas Cowboy, Baltimore Raven and Tampa Bay Buccaneer center Mike Solwold.”


Hayden who played under Taraska from 2000-2003 says, “Coach T was all about tradition and the players that came before us. He would always tell us stories about the past players and the success they’ve had. It drove us to succeed ourselves and to have love/passion for the game to continue the tradition to future players.” 


According to the Arrowhead Union High School website, “From 1982 to 2010, Coach Taraska accumulated 265 wins and only 96 losses.”


Arrowhead’s Assistant Activities Director, Liz Arsnow says, “Even the wins and losses on paper are nothing compared to how many people he touched.”


In 2013, Taraska was inducted into the Arrowhead Athletics Hall of Fame along with 13 other athletes and coaches. 


Arrowhead’s current Football Head Coach Matt Harris says, “Believe it or not I was an opposing coach on the other sideline when the field was dedicated to Coach Taraska. Our team was playing versus Coach Taraska and we ended up losing by a lot of points. He made a point to come talk to every coach on our sideline to tell us to keep working and it will all get better. He was right.” 


Throughout his 29 years coaching the Arrowhead program, Taraska racked up 47 WIAA Division 1 playoff wins.


Arrowhead’s Athletic Director Ryan Mangan says, “ I really loved talking all aspects of football with him. He knew everybody in the football world either directly or indirectly. Not just in the area or state but across the country. He was an encyclopedia of Football knowledge. He had such a personal touch with everybody he met. He remembered everybody, where they were from and was famous for writing handwritten notes to all sorts of friends and acquaintances to keep in touch.”


As well as earning championships, Taraska won awards for his coaching, including but not limited to being inducted in the 2004 Wisconsin Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame. 


Head Boys and Girls Track Coach and Assistant Football Coach, and AHS social studies teacher, Chris Herriot says, “I was the official filmer for the football team. I told Coach Taraska I would not be able to make the game because I would be traveling up north on Friday night. He got super excited and suggested I go to the DC Everest game and film that for him. He said he wanted everything from warm-ups to the halftime show. In those days he had as many as 12 people going all over the state getting film on any potential opponents we might face that year or any upcoming year.”


Varsity Baseball Coach and math teacher at Arrowhead, Nick Brengosz says, “I learned a lot from Coach Taraska that still resonates with me as a teacher and coach today. He taught me that preparation is very important to success. I don’t believe there was another head coach in the state who put the hours into his craft like Coach Taraska.”


During his time at Arrowhead, Taraska was not only a coach but an educator. He was a long term physical education teacher. 


Arsnow says, “What people need to know is he was not only someone who built a good football team but built [a team] off the field too.”


Assistant Baseball Coach and AHS social studies teacher, Chris Skaros says, “[I] have a ton of respect for what he built here and how impressive Arrowhead was. [He] was always incredibly prepared.”


Skaros also said, Taraska’s film study was famous and his preparation for everything was amazing. 


Taraska began coaching and teaching at Franklin High School. Seven years later, he took a job at Arrowhead High School. 


Numerous teachers and coaches who played and coached for Taraska recall their favorite memories.   


Hoch says, “Being one of Coach Taraska’s players was something that meant a lot to me. I knew that I was playing for a coach that was always going to have his teams prepared to compete and win at the highest level.” 


Herriot says, “He didn’t just watch film to see what they did in the previous game, he knew each kid’s 100M time, long jump distance, free throw percentage and in many cases he knew what their parents did in high school or college. It was a great life lesson to show that successful people just do more and Coach Taraska never stopped looking for ways to get better.”


Arsnow says, “[My] first dozen roses were from Coach Taraska, not even my husband.”


Brengosz says, “He loved to say…surround yourself with good people. He would always say he wasn’t the best at coaching technique or breaking film down or the best weight room guy, but he was smart enough to hire the people in Wisconsin who were the best at those things. With our high school students, I hope they strive for the same thing: surround yourself with people who make you better and who compliment you. They should be strong in areas where maybe you aren’t as strong. That lesson has resonated more strongly with me maybe than any other.”

The funeral service will be held on Saturday, October 28th at St. John Vianney Catholic Church, 1755 N. Calhoun Rd., Brookfield beginning at 10:00 AM with Mass of Christian Burial at 2:00 PM. A private family burial will follow. Arrowhead will be hosting a ceremony for Coach Tom Taraska, on Sunday, October 29th at 11am at Taraska Stadium.

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