From the Cheap Seats: It’s all about the wrestlers for Rick Gallegos in Parachute
From The Cheap Seats
Rick Gallegos has never been a me-first kind of guy. Just ask the people who have been around him.
“Rick is by far the best wrestling coach, and best life coach, I’ve ever worked with,” said Ryan Frink, Grand Valley High School’s principal who just took over as the Cardinals’ head wrestling coach this summer. “This is a guy who could get more out of a kid than anyone I’ve ever seen, whether it’s three months or four years they spend with him.”
It’s pretty safe to say that the impact that has been made by Gallegos, who served as the head wrestling coach for Grand Valley for more than a decade, has been timeless. Gallegos stepped down as the Cardinals’ coach after 12 years of running the program.
Frink, who has served as Gallegos’ assistant for the past eight years, feels like he owes almost all of his knowledge about coaching young student athletes to Gallegos. He watched as Grand Valley’s teams put on some epic conditioning sessions over the course of the season, which included a yearly conditioning run from De Beque to Parachute. Some kids even took the conditioning to another level, taking their sweat-drenched practice shirts and wringing them out into a cup. The winner would be determined by whose cup was fullest.
And for as gross as that sounds, it produced plenty of results.
At the end of the previous decade, Grand Valley had a stretch of on-mat success that was daunting at the small-school level. The Cardinals had four individual state champions from 2008-10 and could have had twice that, with four Grand Valley wrestlers placing second at the 2009 Class 3A State Championships in Denver.
All that conditioning paid off to the tune of the school’s only state wrestling team championship, in 2008 — the last year Grand Valley competed in Class 2A — when the Cardinals not only had two state champions, but a runner-up and a pair of third-place finishers as well.
More recently came the highly-publicized success at the 2013 state wrestling tournament achieved by Cody Pfau, who became the first female wrestler in Colorado history to prevail in her first-round match. She’s now wrestling at Oklahoma City University, where she won a national championship at the Body Bar FILA Junior Nationals at 48 kilograms (105.75 pounds).
“He taught me how to persevere and push myself,” Pfau said. “Without him, I guarantee I wouldn’t be where I am today.
“He doesn’t just teach how to win, but to have class both with the wins as well as the losses,” she continued. “He showed us how to represent ourselves, our school and our community with pride. It’s not just wrestling but life values we take away from the mat.”
That kind of success is hard to come by, but Gallegos, like most coaches, didn’t make his program about himself.
You could always see a twinkle in his eyes when any kind of conversation came up about his athletes, especially the ones who worked their butts off. He had a way of communicating with his athletes that specifically motivated the individual, giving gentle reassurance to some while dishing out brutal honesty to others. And in his haste to give props to his kids, there’s even been times in the past when I’ve called Gallegos to get information for a story and, while he was giving after-practice rides home, he’d pull over, turn on the dome light of his car and take five minutes to give me what I needed.
And for the most part, the ultimate goal of each kid improving has almost always been achieved over a dozen years.
Frink wants to keep that mentality in the school’s wrestling room when he’s running the program next winter. After all, why fix something that’s not broken?
“Rick is a great man and a great friend,” Frink said. “If he doesn’t stop by at a couple of practices, I’m going to hunt him down.”
He said that with a smile, of course.
And for the record, a phone call and message left for Gallegos last week were not returned in time for this column.
Of course they weren’t. After all, for Gallegos, it’s never been about him.
Jon Mitchell is the sports editor of the Post Independent and can be reached at 394-9123.
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