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Millcreek Junior High wrestling coach, recovering drug addict shares life lessons learned with athletes he coaches

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BOUNTIFUL — On March 15, wrestlers from Millcreek Junior High School won their final meet of the season, giving them a perfect 10-0 record. These young athletes will go on to compete in the district championships this weekend — all under the direction of head coach Rob Eastman, who has a story of triumph all his own.

It was 10 years ago when Eastman found himself as a new father who was divorced, living at his parent’s home, deep in drug abuse and contemplating suicide. After a night when he almost took his own life — an experience Eastman described as a moment of awakening — he returned home with a resolve to get better and help others like him. He founded an addiction recovery centerand a nonprofit foundation, but he didn't stop there. He also became a youth athletic coach.

An athlete all his life, Eastman said it was participating in sports that gave him the most confidence even during his darkest times.

“I was a great athlete, and it didn't matter if it was soccer, basketball, baseball, hockey, skiing or any other sport, I was always one of the best,” Eastman said. “But the only time that I ever felt good was when I was playing sports. The rest of the time, I felt insecure and unsure of myself and suffered from anxiety and depression that I would numb out with drugs and alcohol.”

Eastman said he didn't know anything about how to fix his issues or face his fears, but he knew he wanted to help young athletes excel not only at sports but also in life. And when his stepson joined the wrestling team at Mueller Park Junior High in Bountiful, he saw it as an opportunity to both strengthen his relationship with his son and become a mentor to youths in his community.

There was only one problem: his background.

“When I went in to help practice, I was told that I needed a background check,” Eastman said. “By this time, I was about four years clean and sober, so I wasn't thinking about my background.”

Eastman submitted the paperwork for a background check and was told by school district that it would take a couple of weeks to hear back. Instead, he heard back the next day and was told that he had been denied and would not be allowed to coach.

“I really felt judged at the time, and it made me feel so insecure,” Eastman said. “After I found my confidence, I reminded myself that I was not that same person from four years earlier. I then printed off my background check and made an appointment with the man who denied me and I went and sat in his office. I pushed my background check across the table and I asked him where he would like to start. During the conversation, I shared my story of my childhood and my history of drug addiction and recovery. By the end of the conversation, we were both a little teary-eyed. The man thanked me for the time and stamped the coaching approval and looked at me and said, ‘We need more coaches like you.’"

Since then, Eastman has worked with five different schools and is currently the co-head wrestling coach at Bountiful High School and head coach at Millcreek Junior High. And while he enjoys coaching wrestling, he says the best part is getting to know the kids and teaching them life lessons he has learned.

“I am probably the most uneducated wrestling coach in the district, but I make up for it in how I teach my athletes to use their hearts and face their fears,” Eastman said. “I have a tattoo that says, ‘It’s better to stand and fight. If you run, you’ll only die tired.’ I want my athletes and the youth I work with to learn how to stand and face their fears and not hide their anxieties and struggles like I did.”

Eastman says he is proud of the struggles many of his athletes have had to overcome both on and off the mat, and he looks forward to watching them find success in whatever life path they take.

If you would like to watch the Millcreek Junior High wrestling team compete, they will be wrestling at the district championshipon March 23 at Layton High School.