Gillaspie to be honored

Posted: Friday, December 05, 2008

Former Nikiski wrestling coach Steve Gillaspie is one of five individuals who will be inducted into The National Wrestling Hall of Fame at the Class 4A state meet next weekend at Chugiak High School.

The Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Okla., has chosen five coaches for the Lifetime Service to Wrestling award, which is presented in recognition of years of dedication to the development of leadership and citizenship in young people through the sport of wrestling, according to the Hall's web site.

Also being honored is Tom Ritchie Sr., a coach at West Valley and later Lathrop, where he led the Malemutes to 17 conference championships and a pair of Class 4A state titles; John Lee Johnson, who coached at Dillingham and Palmer; Lancer Smith, a coach at Palmer who died of brain cancer in 2002 and is known as the father of Greco-Roman wrestling in Alaska; and Bruce Merritt, a former Fairbanks grappler and referee since 1978.

Aside from coaching in Kotzebue from 1991-94, Sitka between 2002-07 and currently working with the Barrow Whalers, Gillaspie served as a wrestling and football coach with the Bulldogs from 1994-2000.

He guided Nikiski to four consecutive conference and state championships between 1996-99 and led the Bulldogs to a fifth conference title during the 1999-2000 season, when they finished second at state.

His 1999-2000 squad also was ranked in the top 10 in the western United States and the top 100 in the entire country.

Gillaspie, named Region III Wrestling Coach of the Year each season from 1995-98 and Alaska Wrestling 1-2-3A Coach of the Year in 1995 and 1996, obtained a bachelor's of science degree from Southern Oregon State College in 1982 and later earned a fifth-year endorsement in physical education along with a health education teaching credential from the same school.

In 2005, Gillaspie was inducted into the Alaska Wrestling Hall of Fame.

On Saturday from 2 to 3 p.m., Gillaspie and others will be honored once again during the Alaska Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame's banquet, which is set to take place in the Chugiak High School cafeteria between the consolation finals and the championship finals of the 4A state tournament.

Today is the last day to register for the banquet, which costs $30 for an adult and $15 for children under 10. Checks are to be made out to the "National Wrestling Hall of Fame, Alaska Chapter."

For more information or to learn how to register, contact Pete Dickinson at 907-230-6541.

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