Never stop: Beloved Laurel art teacher, wrestling coach keeps making art

By 
Story And Photos By Jaci Webb
Thursday, December 1, 2022
Long-time Laurel art teacher and wrestling coach Tom Sprigler is still painting, putting together puzzles and enjoying life. Please come honor him during a reception on Dec. 4 at the Laurel Outlook from 2 to 4 p.m. His artwork will be on display and the Outlook will provide hot beverages and treats. Please stop in and look at his artwork and thank him for his years of service to Laurel.

Long-time Laurel art teacher and wrestling coach Tom Sprigler is still painting, putting together puzzles and enjoying life. Please come honor him during a reception on Dec. 4 at the Laurel Outlook from 2 to 4 p.m. His artwork will be on display and the Outlook will provide hot beverages and treats. Please stop in and look at his artwork and thank him for his years of service to Laurel.

Tom Sprigler’s detailed paintings of locomotives involved careful research to paint the trains with historical accuracy.

Tom Sprigler’s detailed paintings of locomotives involved careful research to paint the trains with historical accuracy.

Article Image Alt Text

Tom Sprigler never gets bored.

And he never let his Laurel art students get bored either. So he came up with projects. Things like painting historic and athletic-themed murals at Laurel Middle School. Or building a miniature village.

Sprigler is retired from teaching and coaching now. But he is still as busy as ever painting, building, and putting together puzzles. He never seems to sit still. The Laurel Outlook is honoring Tom Sprigler with a reception from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 4, during the holiday stroll.

Sprigler’s life started out in Deadwood, SD. Sprigler had a severe speech impediment and in those early days of understanding student learning disabilities, Sprigler was labeled special needs and kept isolated from other students. Finally, when he reached the third grade, he was mainstreamed and able to be around other students. His learning soared, and so did his grades.

“By the time I was a senior, I was on the honor roll all four quarters,” Sprigler said.

During his teenage years, Sprigler began making a name for himself as a wrestler. In his sophomore year, he earned a state wrestling title in his weight class, and went on to win two more AA Wrestling titles in South Dakota.

After graduating from high school, Sprigler worked in the oilfields before deciding to join the Air Force, but a kidney infection kept him out of the service.

Then he got a call from Black Hills State University that would change his life. He was offered an athletic scholarship to wrestle.

“I was the first undefeated four-year champion,” Sprigler says, his eyes gleaming with the memory.

He married Carol, earned a teaching degree in physical education and art, and soon found his way to Laurel. It was 1969, and Laurel was anxious to fill an unusual opening -- middle school art and wrestling coach. Carol made her own art with colorful quilts, and worked in the Ben Franklin fabric department for many years in Laurel.

He ended up teaching and coaching for 21 years and also serving as Community Education Director and Assistant Middle School Principal.

“I enjoyed it! I really did.” In the 1970s and ‘80s, Sprigler worked alongside other notable teachers, including Jack Bayne, Patti Wetzel and Gary Peterson. They helped him with some of the murals. A couple of teachers became the subjects, along with Sprigler, for one of his paintings of three mountain men. He envisioned the trio wearing fringed leather, fur-trimmed jackets and sporting long gray beards and that’s just the way he painted it.

During the summers, Sprigler and other teachers would paint the school or tar the school roof. And in his spare time, he restored old vehicles, added buildings to his property south of Laurel, and of course, he painted and sculpted and drew.

Sprigler’s work is so varied and vast that it’s difficult to

put in a category. One stunning piece shows a coiled rattlesnake etched into a scratch board. He made cutouts for shadow boxes, striking oil paintings, carefully researched and rendered paintings of vintage locomotives, and pencil drawings of animals.

“My favorite ones were the big ones like this,” Sprigler said as he held up a large oil landscape.

Sprigler said he really couldn’t remember a time when he didn’t love making art.

“In high school, I was really into art -- big time,” he said. “They all thought I was nuts.”

Sprigler and his wife Carol, who is an avid quilter, have four children, 12 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Three of his of children teach, including Lisa Condon who teaches business at Laurel High School.

Sprigler is a humble man. But looking back on those early years when he was thought to be unteachable, it is worth noting that he overcame many obstacles in his life and went on to earn a master’s degree and to be a role model for hundreds of Laurel students.

Category:

Poll

What are you more likely to buy your valentine this year?

The Laurel Outlook

 

You can find the historic archives of our paper here:

https://laureloutlook.newspapers.com/

 

We use Google cookies to determine our demographic of visitors to our site. You can opt out here.

We also use Twitter Analytics to track clicks from our twitter feed.