After 37 years of molding boys into young men, a Hall of Fame induction, six state championship teams and more individual state placers than you can shake a trophy at, Enumclaw High wrestling coach Lee Reichert knew it was time to call it a career.
“It’s been coming for awhile,” Reichert said of his retirement from the coaching ranks. He hinted at stepping down the past few years, but the same thing always stood in the way: “It was always so much fun, I thought I’d maybe go one more year.”
While he still loves competing, building the Hornet program and developing lifetime relationships with wrestlers and their families, things proved a bit different this year. Reichert is stepping aside, at peace with his decision and secure in the knowledge that the EHS program is poised to remain a power – not just in the South Puget Sound League 3A, but in state wresting circles as well.
“It’s time to pass the baton to the younger guys,” the 60-year-old Reichert said.
He leaves with a record that would be envied by any coach, any sport, at any level.
After graduating from Tahoma High and wrestling four years at Central Washington University, Reichert was an assistant from 1976 to 1980 at Kent-Meridian High. He then spent a season at the junior high level before moving to Kentwood High School where he was co-coach from 1985 to 1995.
During that time, Kentwood won three state titles, featured 18 state placers and had five individual state champions.
In 1996 he made the move to Enumclaw High, where his teams have posted some staggering numbers. Reichert leaves EHS with a dual meet record of 117-7. His squads have ground out 15 league titles, 18 subregional titles, 14 regional championships and four state championships. There have been 88 state placers and 13 state champs.
Reichert’s greatest success came near the end of his career. This year’s squad placed fourth in the 3A state tournament but, before that, had claimed four of the past five state championships. Presently, the Hornets have won 49 consecutive league dual matches.
Reichert’s peers recognized something special and, in 2010, he was elected to the Washington State Wrestling Coaches Hall of Fame.
“I was honored to be a part of that,” he said. “Those are very special men in the sport of wrestling.”
Through his 37 years of putting kids on mats, Reichert has maintained a belief that coaching doesn’t end with the final buzzer. His wrestlers have become an extended family and he expects them to share the sentiment.
“Success in coaching comes from building relationships with kids,” he said. “It’s about loving competition and sharing goals.”
The connection goes so deep, Reichert is certain he knows exactly what former wrestlers are thinking when the two pass on downtown streets. And he’s sure the former Hornets know what’s going through the coach’s mind.
The lifetime bond is built on a simple pholosophy, “You can count on me. Can I count on you?”
When he talks about his wrestlers, Reichert gets emotional.
“It’s a family approach,” he said. “When you need help, they help you. You have a connection.”
That’s a building block of Reichert’s success.
“Teams that don’t have that, they can’t beat you,” he said.
While Reichert is associated with wrestling, he left his mark on athletes in other sports, too. He spent a dozen seasons as co-coach of the Hornet fastpitch team and, for two years, guided the EHS soccer team.
With coaching in his past, there are other things that will occupy Reichert’s time. He loves to hunt birds and fish for salmon and, even more important, there are grandchildren to spend time with.
High school students will remain a part of his life, as Reichert will keep his teaching job with the Muckleshoot tribal school. It’s a post he’ll keep “until I just don’t want to do it anymore.”
With a legendary coaching career now in his rear-view mirror, Reichert assumes the role of a dedicated fan, guaranteeing he’ll still keep tabs on the Hornet fortunes.
“You can’t just walk away completely,” he said.