No tournament this year, so we look back at the origins of the event
It’s the week between Christmas and New Year’s, and dozens of the best high school wrestling programs from the West should be competing in Vancouver this week.
Alas, the Pacific Coast Championship tournament is a no-go, just like so many other sporting events in 2020.
With no wrestling to watch, how about a quick chat with the man who created the event toward the end of the 20th century?
Pat King, a longtime coach in the Evergreen School District, came up with the idea. Now retired and living in Issaquah to be near his grandchildren, King is thrilled to see that Pac Coast has remained on the calendar in Southwest Washington.
After all, it was all about getting some recognition for the region.
“I’m super proud of what we could do to elevate Southwest Washington wrestling a little bit,” King said.
Sure, it was his idea, but he said it was the entire crew at Evergreen High School, including the late great Norm Friehauf, who made it all possible.
By this time, King was the athletic coordinator at Evergreen High School. Years earlier, he was the head wrestling coach at Lewis and Clark College before becoming the head coach at Mountain View High School.
So, yes, wrestling is in his blood.
At Evergreen, King knew the Plainsmen had a chance to do something special going into the 1996-97 season. He wanted them to see better competition. He booked the team to compete in a national tournament in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Later that season, the Plainsmen won the Washington state team title.
That trip to Tulsa, though, got King thinking about a big wrestling event right here in Clark County. Through his years as a coach, especially as a college coach who had to recruit wrestlers, he knew high school coaches from all over the country.
“We could do something like this,” King recalled. “Just call it the Pacific Coast. Let’s have a Pacific Coast tournament. That sparked the idea.”
One of his first calls was to a former wrestler of his, Scott Glabb, who gained national attention for turning a down program into a powerhouse in Santa Ana, Calif. King asked if Glabb could bring his team to Vancouver. When Glagg said yes, King said, he knew others would not pass on the opportunity to compete.
At the time, Evergreen High School had a fieldhouse, an extraordinary amount of space for its gym. The school was big enough to host a big event. King remembers 18 wrestling mats all under one roof. Schools from all over the West were contacted.
“The very best teams from each state, I’d invite them,” King said. “I wanted it to be high, high caliber. I knew if you didn’t wrestle the very best, you weren’t getting better.”
One year, King said, there were teams representing seven states: Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Alaska, Utah, and Wyoming.
Clark County “was just prime for something like that, and Evergreen (High School) had the only facility to do it.”
That facility is no more. Evergreen went through a renovation and the gym space is much smaller. The Pacific Coast has changed locations. It has been held at Hudson’s Bay, and most recently, Mountain View High School. Evergreen remains the official host of the tournament.
The tournament usually runs the week between Christmas and New Year’s.
Not this year, of course. But there is always the future, because of one man’s idea in the past.
“It would be awesome to keep it going,” King said.