January 20, 2010 by David Gillaspie
Les Gutches is the new Director of Program Development for USA Wrestling. Greg Strobel was the Director of National Team Programs for USA Wrestling. What else do they have in common? Where do you start?
Both won multiple Oregon state championships. Both won multiple NCAA titles at Oregon State. Both carry Master’s degrees. Both coached Beaver wrestlers. Both are married with children, Grandpa Greg with four grandchildren.
Most important, both came from small towns, Strobel’s the smaller, to Corvallis. Every freshman wrestler knows the feeling of dislocation their first year. New people, new coach, new teammates, dorm life, cutting weight while cafeteria food contributes to the freshman forty with everyone on your floor expanding while you chew on a wet towel.
Both of these guys knew about Oregon State wrestling before they got there. Both were good enough to go any place else, but didn’t. Both were smart enough for most any college, but Oregon State got them. Why?
Dale Thomas laid the Iowa foundation at Oregon State, for the entire state. From Iowa’s Cornell College to Oregon State, Dale Thomas knew what he wanted. For a kid who didn’t wrestle in high school, to becoming college wrestling’s all-time winner, Coach Thomas knew what to look for in a wrestler.
Strobel and Gutches aren’t the greatest wrestlers in Oregon State history. That honor goes to Robin Reed. What they are is the most advanced wrestlers. By that I mean they are the most accomplished in all phases of the sport.
Greg Strobel followed the Dale Thomas career map in reverse, leaving Oregon for points east. His lengthy stop with USA Wrestling took him mat side for the Olympics and gave top athletes access to his insight on the sport.
As head coach at Foxcatcher he guided another generation of wrestlers before the founder of the program snapped and the team shut down. Then it was on to Pennsylvania and Lehigh University.
How good was he as a college coach? His wrestlers earned 30 A/A medals from 1997-2006, with 12 of them earned by non-state champions. He knew a good wrestler when he saw one, even if the kid didn’t know how good he could be.
His bio includes:
Strobel coached in 3 Olympic Games and many national and World events. One of the most active wrestling volunteers, he’s currently 1st VP, USA Wrestling and was President of the EIWA Coaches Association; he’s served on the NCAA Rules Committee as well as seven different committees within USA Wrestling (chairman of four of them, including Sport Science and Title IX). Was Co-head coach of the 2000 Olympic Team and assisted in ’96 and ‘04; was named 1998 USOC Coach-of-Year; 1997 National Freestyle Coach-of-the-Yr and was a 4x coach of PA Junior Freestyle Teams, ’97-98, ’01-02.
Les Gutches is young enough to be Greg Stobel’s son, and seems to take a similar career path.
Gutches, who has a strong business background and a lifetime in wrestling as an athlete and coach, will be responsible for developing new or expanded programs, events and activities for USA Wrestling. He will work closely with state associations to increase membership and programs in underdeveloped markets in all styles of the sport. He will also expand strategic partnerships with other organizations, and assist in promotion and marketing activities.
He will also oversee the State Services staff of the organization, and work with a talented team which includes Manager of State Services Tony Black, Membership Services Assistant Shonna Vest, Manager of Coaches Education Cody Bickley and State Services Assistant Marge Civil.
Two Oregon guys steeped in wrestling, coming from a school whose foundation of wrestling was built in Iowa, take national leadership roles. Any state would be proud to claim either one, but they belong to Oregon.
How much better would wrestling be in a state if these two guys ran the show? Would the University of Oregon still have a team? Would Portland State? If the sport suffers anywhere, it’s not because these guys and others like them are slacking. At some point a coach needs to admit he needs help. He needs the right number to call whether it’s for support, technique, or inspiration.
If you don’t have a phone number to call, just watch this clip and act accordingly. (Warning: don’t try this at home.)