Thiel was at forefront of dominant program

What is there about Enumclaw High School’s wrestling program?

Ever since its inception way back in the mid-1960s, it’s been winning championships in both the Seamount and South Puget Sound leagues – sometimes two or three years in a row. More than once, the teams have won district titles and, when they’ve gone to the state tournament, they’ve generally made a strong showing.

Indeed, this year, for their particular weight categories, seniors Sam Bauer and Jason Gray won their second state championships and, as a team, the Hornets won their second-straight state title.

So, I sat down with coffee and Sheldon Thiel in the Black Diamond Bakery. Thiel started the wrestling program in Enumclaw Junior High School and was wrestling coach at the high school during the 1970s. And I asked him: “Shelly, what the hell is there about the Enumclaw High School wrestling program?”

He thought for a moment.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Support from the administration and the community and parents have a lot to do with it.” Then he added with a playful grin, “I think it must be the coaches.”

Though he’s surely too humble to admit it, he was one of the finest to come down the pike. In 1986, he was elected to the State Coaches Hall of Fame and, in 2000, to the Athletic Directors Hall of Fame. Finally, last but certainly not least, in May 2007 he was elected to the National Coaches Hall of Fame.

Along with his coaching responsibilities at Enumclaw, he also taught a life science class, in which students learned how to cut up a cow’s eye and remove the lens. (I don’t think I would have lasted long in that class.)

Then, in the late 1990s, Shelly left EHS and today he’s the District 3 director for the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, overseeing schools from southwest Washington, through the Puget Sound area and on the Olympic Peninsula.

He came to EHS from Western Washington University. Though Shelly isn’t especially large in stature – 5 feet, 11 inches and about 180 pounds – he played center on the university football team, a position often held by fellows with an additional 100 pounds. After graduating from college he briefly played semi-pro football with the Seattle Cavaliers.

Reminiscing about his days at EHS, some of his favorite colleagues came immediately to mind. There was Bob Campbell, his mentor. Coaches like Gary Radliff and Frank Osborn, who lifted the basketball and baseball programs, respectively, to remarkable heights. And history teacher George Worthington always offered a different perspective on problems and solutions.

Many students also made an impression. For instance, Russ Weeks, present owner of Weeks’ Funeral Home, Mark Kosko, cheerleader Marie Hogue, and everyone’s favorite judge, Rick Bathum. Shelly was quite fond of his students and they respected him.

Of course, there was that time an 80-pound cement base of a volleyball post was dropped on his foot. Needless to say, that was quite painful so he can surely be forgiven for the expletives that followed. He may even have uttered the “F word” which, at the time, hadn’t yet become a common and integral part of the English language all over the world.

The girls were shocked. “Did you hear what Mr. Thiel said?”

Of course, many students hadn’t but, rest assured, by the end of the school day everyone in the student body had heard about the incident and the language used.

Oh well, I guess that’s as good a legacy as any.