Many old memories were rekindled Saturday when Mike Leck walked into the Douglas High School gym for the 28th Carson Valley Lions Club Invitational. And that was just the homecoming before he was inducted into the Douglas Wrestling Hall of Fame later in the evening.
"It's been a wonderful day, just incredible," Leck said. "I've seen about 20 of my wrestlers. I had a chance to meet their families and we talked about a lot of old memories. I got to see a lot of my former colleagues and other people I was close to in the community."
Leck, who coached wrestling at Douglas between 1974 and 1987, returned for the first time as coach of the North Fremont High wrestling team from Ashton, Idaho. Fittingly, Leck was inducted into his former school's Hall of Fame during a tournament he first organized in 1976.
"I'm glad to see the tournament still going. I started this my second year here ... Norm (White) has been at that table ever since the first year," Leck said.
"Today has kind of been a reunion for a lot of us. Some of these kids came here to see me today and some of them hadn't seen each other in five, 10 years. It's really great to see so many of them are still involved with wrestling. Mike (Sheets) is out here officiating, Steve (White) officiates. It's great how they appreciate what they got out of it and now they're giving back to the sport and to their community. That's gratifying to me more than anything else."
Leck was inducted into the Hall of Fame during a brief ceremony along with Mike Sheets, one of two wrestlers in Douglas history to go through through a season undefeated. Sheets was 43-0 as a senior 157-pound state champion in 1986, finished as class valedictorian and went on to wrestle for Notre Dame.
Leck left Douglas in 1987 to accept a coaching position in Caldwell, Idaho. Three years later, he moved to Ashton, located near the Wyoming and Montana state borders. What he found was very similar to the Carson Valley he met in 1974.
"It's a town of about 1,100 people and there's 172 kids in the school," said Leck, who doubles as head football coach at North Fremont. "The fishing is incredible -- I have a stream near my home and I can fly fish any stream on any day -- I live within an hour's drive of Yellowstone and Jackson Hole, Wyo., and I have a view of the Grand Tetons out my back window that's just beautiful."
His contingent of nine Huskies was very competitive against a Carson Valley Lions Invitational field won by Churchill County, ranked No. 1 among all schools in Northern Nevada. Runner-up Centennial is one of the best in Las Vegas and is expected to contend for the 4A state tournament championship next month.
"We left Thursday after practice," Leck said. "It was a 12-hour drive -- three cars, nine kids and three sets of parents -- it was long, but we've had a great time. They put us up here and the hospitality has been just unbelievable."
Fremont, winner of seven Idaho 2A state team championships in the last 10 years, finished fourth in this tournament and sent three wrestlers to the championship round. Two walked off the mat as gold medal winners, including Leck's son, Phillip, who won the 130-pound weight class. Tyler Jones won his 112-pound championship at a high price -- by default after being slammed to the mat, leaving him with a broken clavicle.
"I was proud to see my kids do well here. We had three in the finals and two others in the consolation finals. They represented the school very well," Leck said.
Leck feels fortunate to have seen three of his own children go through school and achieve success. Daughter, Emily, now works for Montana State University. Oldest son, Jacob, went to the Air Force Academy and now works as an engineer. Chris graduated from Notre Dame, where he played on the football team for three years, and is now serving in the Navy. And Phillip is a junior at North Fremont, winner of 87 career matches and one state title, and at 135 pounds, an all-district linebacker this past season for a football team that advanced to the playoffs.
He has also followed the success of his brother Dan in Carson City: Kaitlin Leck now plays volleyball at the University of Washington, Austin and Matt played football and baseball at Carson High, and Cameron is a junior who plays two sports.
"Wrestling has been such a great part of my life," Leck said. "I've made millions and millions of dollars worth of memories. Those moments have all been precious, too. Whether it's been a kid going to state for the first time, or winning state, or even a kid winning a match for the first time -- it's all about accomplishing something they've never done before and then seeing them feel good about it."
Dave Price is a sports writer for the Nevada Appeal