Long considered a sleeping giant, Eden Prairie took a huge step Wednesday toward becoming a force in Minnesota high school wrestling by hiring former Apple Valley head coach Jim Jackson as an associate head coach.

Jackson, who won 618 matches and 14 state team championships in his 25 years at Apple Valley, joins current coach Scot Davis, who was hired to take over the Eden Prairie program last year. The combination of Davis, the nation’s winningest high school wrestling coach with 1,015 career victories, and Jackson creates a coaching “dream team” at Eden Prairie. Between them they have 1,634 victories and 16 state titles.

“I’ve known him for a long time,” Davis said. “We were huge competitors when I was at Owatonna but I’ve always had great respect for him. It’s going to be fun having two guys who have been wrestling coaches for a long time working together like this. We both have that 24-7 love affair with wrestling.”

Jackson retired from coaching following the 2012 season, citing a desire to spend more time with his family and watch his daughter Taylor play tennis for Prior Lake. But it didn’t take long for Jackson to look for a chance to get back into coaching.

“At the state [wrestling] tournament this year, Taylor was cheering for her three favorite Apple Valley wrestlers,” Jackson said in a press release.  “At one point she turned to me and said, ‘Dad, you should go back into coaching.’ Taylor knew that working with kids and wrestling has always been my life's passion.”

While the responsibilities of each have yet to be defined, Davis said he and Jackson have already come up with ideas to help build Eden Prairie into a wrestling power. The Eagles took the first step last winter, winning the Lake Conference championship.

“It will be more of a teamwork thing, but we already have already thrown out a lot of ideas about summer programs and things like that,” Davis said. “We’re not going into this blind. We know it’s going to take a few years to build the program, but we’ve had great support from the school and from [Athletic Director] Mike Grant. I’ve never had that kind of support before.”

Jim Paulsen - 612-673-7737