Spending a few minutes talking with Chris Rice is easy -- the Skyview senior is more than happy to chat with anybody about anything at any time.
That quality earned him a spot in the Skyview High School yearbook as one of the most likable members of the Class of 2001. It also makes it difficult to talk to him for more than just a few minutes -- just about every person passing by also wants to stop and say hello.
"Chris is a wonderful young man," said Skyview wrestling coach Neldon Gardner. "We were very fortunate to have him on our wrestling team. His work ethic is something you would wish every wrestler would have."
Of course, once he gets into the mat room, Rice isn't quite as accommodating.
"Off the field or the mat I'm a totally different person," Rice said. "I'm a very physical person when it comes to sports."
Rice's accomplishments this season reflect his desire for a physical challenge. He was named to the all-state football team as a defensive lineman -- not bad for a guy who weighs in at 160 pounds.
From football, he went straight into the fall wrestling season, putting together an undefeated season and winning a state title at 152 pounds. Rice capped his high school wrestling career with a great run at a national invitational tournament in Reno, Nev., finishing just out of the medal round.
He finished off his senior year on the soccer pitch for the Panthers, anchoring what proved to be a very good defense from his sweeper position.
"This is my second year playing soccer," Rice said. "I started because a best friend of mine, Ryan Childers, suggested we go out for the team. I thought, 'Hey, why not?' I love sports. I loved soccer a lot more than I thought I would."
Rice's athletic style -- great work ethic and a never-give-up attitude -- made him a natural to play sweeper, a position that requires leadership and organizational skills.
"I actually played a little bit of sweeper last season, but Dan Rich was our sweeper," Rice said. "I admired Dan, and I wanted to play just like him. (A leader) is the type of person I try to be, whether people see it or don't see it."
In just one season, Rice made an impact with the Skyview football team after transferring from Kenai Central High School just before the 1999-2000 wrestling season.
"He's a great kid," said Skyview football coach Wade Marcuson. "The top two things -- No. 1 is his work ethic was outstanding in whatever sport he was in. The other thing was, he was a total team player. He'd play any position or help a teammate any way he could. He was always leading by example, not just with his mouth. If he said, 'Let's do it,' he was the first one in line."
Marcuson credited Rice's family for supporting Rice and the team.
"He's got a really good family. I think that's important,too," Marcuson said. "They're very supportive of him, his coaches and his teachers. He's never complaining -- he's just doing what we asked an always giving more."
Rice said his family is very important to him -- not just his immediate family, but his extended family as well as a close circle of friends that has been sort of adopted into the clan.
Rice's immediate family includes his parents, Jody and Rebecca, an older sister, Christina, an older brother, Danny, younger brothers Christian and Jonathan and younger sister Christelle. The extended family includes the Demellos.
"We have a really close family," Rice said. "If something bad would happen to one of us, you're going to get the whole family.
"My family has been a big support in everything I do. Every extracurricular activity I've wanted to pursue, they're behind me 100 percent."
"He's got a good support network, then he fit in so well with our team," Gardner said. "I really enjoyed coaching him."
Rice said that wrestling was the toughest sport he competed in -- and the one he was best at.
"I had an awesome wrestling season," Rice said. "I had a great match at state. There's nothing more I could have asked for."
Gardner said that Rice pushed other members of the Skyview squad to excel -- and got plenty of inspiration in return.
"Chris' hard work ethic rubbed off, and he picked up some from others in the room as well," Gardner said. "We have a very competitive room, and he fit right in."
Rice's talents extend outside the world of athletics, too. He's a member of the Skyview swing choir that won a first place at a recent competition at Brigham Young University of Hawaii.
Rice is a member of Skyview's student council and the vice president of the senior class.
Rice said his transfer from Kenai has turned out to be a great experience.
"Kenai was my foundation," Rice said. "The transfer was great for me and my brother. We got a chance to meet new people and see another school and see the differences and the similarities. I've had the opportunity to meet a lot of people that have become my close friends."
Rice is still considering a few options for college. He said he'd like to study psychiatry because he likes helping other people work through their problems.
Rice said he probably won't wrestle in college.
"I was focusing on getting a scholarship," Rice said, "but I wrestle for myself because it's fun. At the college level, it's not as much fun -- it becomes work. I know I could do the work, I know I could keep up, but that's not what makes me happy.
"I love to hang out with my friends and family. That's where the memories are."
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