Coach Jim Alderman hangs tough as a cruiserweight fighter

Sports history never gets old
March 24, 2020

Jimbo checks in - Got a call from former Cape football coach Jim Alderman March 22 to report he is doing well, recovering from recent exotic surgery to remove his pancreas and gallbladder. Coach Alderman is completing his first of two rounds of postsurgical chemotherapy. “I feel pretty good and then I look in the mirror and I’m like 175 pounds, which is maybe what I weighed in seventh grade,” he said. “I intend to get through this next round, then ring that chemo bell and let them stamp my forehead cancer free; then I want to get up to Delaware and hug all my friends. If I can get my weight up to 210, I’ll be happy.” Jim talked the entire seven miles as I drove home from my son Dave’s house in Dewey. When I finally spoke I asked, “What did you say?” Coach is irrepressible; there is no doubt he will be the huggy bear of Sussex County sometime soon. Friends are encouraged to contact Jim via Facebook or his daughter Abby at and she will give you Jim’s cellphone number. 

Pretty sure that’s right - Saturday, Feb. 29, the second and final night of the 64th Delaware State Wrestling Championships. Cape had three grapplers going for third-place trophies simultaneously on three adjacent mats. Mikey Frederick, 145, on Mat 1; Luke Bender, 132, on Mat 2; and Finbar Rishko, 152, on Mat 3. All three Cape guys won and I wrote with reserved self-assuredness, “I’m pretty sure that never happened before.” Well, pretty sure is not absolutely sure. In 2012 at the 56th state championship held at Cape, the Vikings’ Garrett Smith, 138; Justin Lopez, 145; and Sammy Mohr, 152, all wrestled for third and won. I did use my finite math skills to figure that the chance of making the top three over the last 51 years of Cape wrestling is less than 3 percent. I’m pretty sure that is true. The DIAA website has the top three wrestling place winners listed by weight class going back to 1957.

Super shoe me - A late Friday morning in the spring on a school day, I was pitching horseshoes at the blacksmith shop on Third Street with John Ellsworth and Doc Pepper, and later we picked up a fourth player, Dr. Jim Wilson, superintendent of schools. I’m pretty sure we were drinking beer prior to Jim’s arrival. That was the only explanation for all those empty cans. Funny, all was good until Dr. Jim asked me, “Say, do you still work for us?” I answered, “Yes, I’m sick, what about you?” “I’m on vacation,” he said. Small towns used to be the best. Now you have to travel to Milton or Milford to find that culture. Tell me I’m wrong. 

Winds up and winds down - I was deeply embedded inside scholastic wrestling this winter and wrote that wrestling was a crazy sport that winds up to an emphatic and abrupt conclusion after two straight weekends of conference and state tournaments. Wrestlers were beaten up, with many going right into a spring sport. These are not athletes who desire a break – there is something good about feeling so bad. I’m a lifelong athlete, coach and sportswriter with a collection of cameras and long lenses, and nine grandchildren to chase around. I can’t be redshirted. I’m missing stuff I can’t get back, but I ain’t complaining unless I get sick; then I still won’t complain as long as I can sit at my keyboard and see the letters. We are all making lifestyle adjustments.      

Snippets - I work for an essential business, a newspaper, but I’m not sure how essential the Sports Editor Emeritus is during a shelter-in-place season when the only sports being played are mind games. Focused coaches are freaking during this shutdown, as plans for the season evaporate like canned milk. It’s like an Isaac Asimov science fiction story where an unseen alien force destroys a planet of upside-down values through boredom. I looked on the DIAA website and discovered I was listed as the head coach of the 1975 Cape state championship track team, a good trick since I was living in West Chester, Pa., at that time. And the coach wasn’t Tom Hickman, it was Dick Ward, whom I never met but who came from Laurel. Grandmom Rose: “The older you get, the less people are looking for you.” Go on now, git!


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