Bluhm Continues Building on Trenton Tradition in 5th Decade as Coach

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

December 22, 2022

TRENTON – What Tom Bluhm likes about wrestling also happens to correlate perfectly into what his program at Trenton has been about as of late. 

Greater Detroit“It’s one-on-one,” Bluhm said. “You can’t hide and you can’t make excuses. That’s what I’ve always liked about it.”

Excuses aren’t in the vocabulary of the Trenton program that’s been presided by Bluhm for going on 46 seasons.

Last season, the Trojans went 22-9, solid on the surface but incredible when considering Trenton had only 14 wrestlers on the team and forfeited just one weight class. 

Again, Bluhm and his group weren’t interested in excuses. They just forged ahead with what they had.

“There’s no planning for it,” he said. “It’s just something that happens. It makes it tough to run practices. It’s not like you have a room of 30 or 40 guys where you can group them into three based on weight and get after it.”

Numbers haven’t traditionally been a problem for Trenton under Bluhm, who said his 1978 team had 100 wrestlers competing for spots on varsity and 50 freshmen. 

In recent years, the lack of a program at the middle school level has negated opportunities to develop a feeder system, so Bluhm just hopes for the best when tryouts come around in November. 

Bluhm and current wrestler Nolan Diroff stand in front of the program's record board.Bluhm said it’s become an increasing scenario where athletes come out for the wrestling team who have never before wrestled in their lives. 

Bluhm said one example was a sophomore who came out for the team last year, quickly learned the sport and ended up winning 36 matches.

“His mother supposedly called the AD last year saying he needed something to do because he was driving her crazy,” Bluhm said. “So he came out for wrestling.”

Nolan Diroff, a senior who primarily wrestles in the 189-pound weight class, but has also wrestled at higher weights, said the limited number of wrestlers on the team rarely comes up as a topic.

“I can’t really say that anybody has complained about not having a lot of people,” he said. “Nobody on the team complains when they get moved around in the lineup. We wrestle where Coach needs us to wrestle. We do whatever he says to try and win matches.” 

Diroff said in a strange way, having a limited roster has made who is on the team better wrestlers because it has forced them to be versatile athletes who can compete at multiple weights.

“He’s kind of built us up to realize that and wrestle wherever he needs us,” he said. “He tries to get us as many matches as possible. It makes us better wrestlers and makes the team better.”

This year, there is a slight increase in the numbers. 

Bluhm said there are 17 out for the team, including the first girl wrestler during his tenure. 

“She fits right in,” Bluhm said. “She gets in there and does everything the boys do.”

Bluhm entered this season fourth on the MHSAA all-time coaching wins list for wrestling, carrying an 812-416-2 record with five seasons at Taylor Center before taking over at Trenton beginning with that 1977-78 winter.

Despite the struggles with numbers, Bluhm still very much gets a lot out of coaching after more than five decades.

He drives a little less than an hour to Trenton and back every day from his home in Northville, and said he’s stayed at Trenton out of his love and respect not only for the kids, but their parents.

“He tells a bunch of other stuff and random stories,” Diroff said. “Never ones that you really roll your eyes at. They are always enjoyable and shows you how long he’s been around.”

And when Trenton wrestles this season, the Trojans will do what they always do: Fight on with no excuses. 

“I enjoy coaching,” Bluhm said. “I’ve always said show me some rules, and I’ll play.”

Keith DunlapKeith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Trenton wrestling coach Tom Bluhm coaches Connor Charping during the 2016 Individual Finals. (Middle) Bluhm and current wrestler Nolan Diroff stand in front of the program's record board. (Top photo by High School Sports Scene; middle photo courtesy of Nolan Diroff.)

High School 'Hoop Squad' Close to Heart as Hughes Continues Coaching Climb

By Keith Dunlap
Special for

July 11, 2024

Jareica Hughes had a Hall of Fame collegiate basketball career playing at University of Texas-El Paso and has played professionally overseas, but her most prized possession is something she earned playing high school basketball in Michigan. 

Made In Michigan and Michigan Army National Guard logosA standout at now-closed Southfield-Lathrup High School during the early-to-mid 2000s, Hughes proudly displays a signature symbol of Lathrup’s Class A championship team in 2005. 

“I have my state championship ring on me right now,” said Hughes, now an assistant head coach for the women’s basketball program at UTEP. “I wear this ring every single day. Not so much for the basketball aspect. Inside of the ring it says ‘Hoop Squad.’ It’s more the connection I’ve had with those particular young ladies. Friends that I’ve known since I was kid. Every once in a while when we talk, we go back in time.”

Believe it or not, Hughes and her high school teammates next year will have to go back 20 years to commemorate a run to the title that started when they were freshmen. 

It was a gradual build-up to what was the first girls basketball state championship won by a public school in Oakland County. Lathrup, which has since merged with the former Southfield High School to form Southfield Arts & Technology, remained the only public school in Oakland County to win a state girls basketball title until West Bloomfield did so in 2022 and again this past March. 

Lathrup lost in the District round to Bloomfield Hills Marian during Hughes’ freshman year, and then after defeating Marian in a District Final a year later, lost to West Bloomfield in a Regional Final.

When Hughes was a junior, the team got to the state’s final four, but a bad third quarter resulted in a heartbreaking one-point Semifinal loss to eventual champion Lansing Waverly. 

A year later, when Hughes and other core players such as Brittane Russell, Timika Williams, Dhanmite’ Slappey and Briana Whitehead were seniors, they finished the job and won the Class A crown with a 48-36 win over Detroit Martin Luther King in the Final.

However, the signature moment of that title run actually came during the Semifinal round and was produced by Hughes, a playmaking wizard at point guard who made the team go. 

Trailing by three points during the waning seconds of regulation against Grandville and Miss Basketball winner Allyssa DeHaan – a dominant 6-foot-8 center – Hughes drained a tying 3-pointer from the wing that was well beyond the 3-point line. 

Lathrup went on to defeat Grandville in overtime and prevail against King.

Hughes said the year prior, she passed up on taking a potential winning or tying shot in the Semifinal loss against Waverly, and was reminded of that constantly by coaches and teammates. “I just remember in the huddle before that shot, that just kept ringing in my mind,” she said. “That was special. I cried for weeks not being able to get a shot off (the year before) and leaving the tournament like that.”

Growing up in Detroit, Hughes got into basketball mainly because she had five older brothers and an older sister who played the game. In particular, Hughes highlights older brother Gabriel for getting her into the game and taking her from playground to playground.

“I’m from Detroit,” she said. “We played ball all day long. Sunup to sundown. When the light comes on, you had to run your butt into the house.”

Hughes, second from left, begins the championship celebration with her Lathrup teammates at Breslin Center.Hughes played for the Police Athletic League and also at the famed St. Cecilia gym in the summer, developing her game primarily against boys.

“My first team was on a boys team,” she said. “I was a captain on a boys team.” 

The family moved into Lathrup’s district before she began high school. 

Once she helped lead Lathrup to the 2005 championship, she went on to a fine career at UTEP, where she was the Conference USA Player of the Year twice and helped lead the Miners to their first NCAA Tournament appearance.

Hughes still holds school records for career assists (599), steals (277) and minutes played (3,777). On Monday, she was named to Conference USA’s 2024 Hall of Fame class. 

After a brief professional career overseas was derailed by a shoulder injury, Hughes said getting into coaching was a natural fit. 

“I had to make the hard decision, and I knew as a kid I wanted to be around basketball,” she said. “Once I made that decision (to quit), I knew I was going to coach.”

Hughes started coaching in the Detroit area, first serving as an assistant at Southfield A&T from 2016-20 and then at Birmingham Groves for a season. She then served as interim head coach at Colby Community College in Kansas before being named an assistant at UTEP in May 2023, a month after her former coach Keitha Adams returned to lead the program after six seasons at Wichita State.  

While fully immersed in her job with UTEP, Hughes’ high school memories in Michigan certainly aren’t going away anytime soon – especially with the 20th anniversary of Lathrup’s championship coming up. 

“We are still close friends because we all essentially grew up together,” she said. “They are still my friends to this day.”

2024 Made In Michigan

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PHOTOS (Top) At left, Southfield-Lathrup’s Jareica Hughes drives to the basket against Detroit Martin Luther King during the 2005 Class A Final; at right, Hughes coaches this past season at UTEP. (Middle) Hughes, second from left, begins the championship celebration with her Lathrup teammates at Breslin Center. (UTEP photo courtesy of the UTEP sports information department.)