Longtime Newton High School assistant wrestling coach Jermaine “J.J.” Thaw Jr. was found dead Wednesday.
His death comes as the NHS wrestling team was in final preparations for the state meet, which is Friday and Saturday at Hartman Arena.
According to Lt. Scott Powell of the investigative unit of the Newton Police Department, Thaw was found at his home at about 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, when Thaw didn’t report to work.
Powell said, pending results of an autopsy, the death did not appear to be suspicious and is being investigated as an unattended death and not as a criminal case. Powell said final determination of the cause of death may take weeks to months, depending on the case load at the Forensic Sciences Lab of Sedgwick County, which performed the autopsy. Powell said toxicological and pathological tests also are being conducted.
In addition to coaching wrestling, Thaw served at Newton as a paraprofessional with the adaptive physical education program, working with special needs students.
Thaw was a wrestler at Newton, winning a state title in 1991 and finishing second in both 1988 and 1990.
His father, Jack Thaw, was head coach at Newton from 1974 to 1996 and coached again in 2013-14. He also coached 17 seasons at Halstead as well as Sedgwick, when that school entered into a cooperative agreement with Halstead.
His mother, JoAnne Thaw, is a the longtime gymnastics coach at Newton.
His brother Justin also was a state champion wrestler at Newton. Sisters Jahreé and Janae both won state medals at Newton gymnastics.
“By the grace of God, all my kids were better athletes than me,” Jack Thaw Sr. told the Kansan in 2013 upon his induction in the Newton Athletic Hall of Fame. ”... The kids winning that title was very important to me. Janae was an All-American cheerleader, as well as a great gymnast. Jahreé got second on the beam at state. She still has one of the all-time scores on the beam. When she was a junior, she had a 9.7-something with one girl to go, and that girl beat her. All of them got scholarships — Janae academically, J.J. and Justin athletically. Jahreé danced. She danced at Stephens College in Columbia (Mo.).”
According to a post on the USA Wrestling-Kansas Website, coaches being asked to wear black shirts Friday in support of Thaw.
“J.J. was extremely passionate about wrestling his enthusiasm and love for the sport had a major positive impact on many, many people,” former NHS wrestler and current Hutchinson coach Mike Garcia posted on the site.
Obituary information has not yet been received by the Kansan.