OLYMPIA – In 35 years of coaching wrestling at Olympia High School, Rockey Isley has done a fair share of celebrating, teaching, and, most importantly, shaping young athletes’ lives.
This is Isley’s final season with the Bears; he’ll retire from coaching and teaching physical education at the end of the school year.
On Thursday night, it was Isley’s turn to receive a thank you in the Bears’ final home dual match of the season. In addition to honoring the seniors on their Senior Night, the school honored “The Rock” for his hall of fame coaching career that began four decades ago.
Halfway through Olympia’s dominating 63-18 victory over Gig Harbor, which featured seven pins by the Bears in the 10 matches contested, the meet was stopped to honor Isley with an engraved plaque. Surrounding him were current and former wrestlers. A standing ovation followed.
Not only does Isley insist on hard work, but he’s also big into changing lives and teaching his wrestlers the impact of their sport.
“I’ve been around a lot of good young men who were really dedicated to the sport that has been hampered (at the college level),” Isley said. “ Good young men dedicated, and seeing them change into something special.”
Isley began coaching wrestling and teaching physical education at Olympia High in 1976. He has coached more than 1,200 wrestlers, including two state champions; Doug Sharp won the 178-pound Class 2A title in 1980, followed by Clay Stablein’s 115-pound 2A title in 1982. He also had more than 50 state placers.
He was inducted into the Washington State Wrestling Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame in 2009 and has been honored as the Class 4A coach of the year.
Senior Grant Hughes, who won his 145-pound match with a pin in 2 minutes, 29 seconds over Mitch Jeffers, takes away many memories from Isley – including learning that determination and work ethic go along way during and after a wrestling career.
“If you put in the hard work, it always comes out good,” Hughes said.
Senior Nelson Ruth echoed a similar statement.
“The most I take away is that no matter how much things suck, just to keep going and keep going at 100 percent,” said Ruth, a 126-pounder. “He knows his stuff and always knows what to do. He’d beat me if he were in my weight class. He’s a funny guy and knows when to joke around.”
Even though he’ll go into retirement from coaching, Isley said he still plans to remain active in the wrestling community “to get my two cents in, whatever it’s worth,” he said
To Olympia, and the rest of the wrestling community, it’s worth a heck of a lot more than two cents.
Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 email@example.com