DAVID EDINGTON – MR. RONAN MONTANA –

DAVID EDINGTON – MR. RONAN MONTANA –
DAVID EDINGTON – MR. RONAN MONTANA –

My story about David Edington IS STILL A WORK-IN-PROGRESS!  T’day, September 20th, I’ve made a few corrections with help from David & Rita.  I now await Tom Riley’s input.  Tom was an outstanding Ronan wrestler who achieved more successes at Arizona State University and beyond.    I’m also waiting for some better photos from Jim Perue, David’s cousin from Saratoga.

 

Photo credit:  Dick Perue

Photo Credit:  Dick Perue

Photo Credit:  Dick Perue

David Edington was the first wrestler to win four individual Wyoming State High School Wrestling Championships. He
accomplished this feat for Saratoga from 1957-1960, and since then only 10 other wrestlers have won a title each year of high school. Edington graduated from UW in 1968 and has lived, taught, and coached in Ronan, Mont., since then. He is a member of the Montana and National Coaching Halls of Fame.

 

 

David Edington 120 pound State Champion

 

They say dynamite comes in small packages.  David is standing next to Charlie Swanson in their class photo.  Third from the left – third row from the bottom.  Charlie, the biggest member of the PVHS Class of 1960, is gone now, but David is still standing.  Looking back it is surprising and sad how many of his classmates, and mine, have left the scene…

Below:  1957 Wyoming State Wrestling Championship

March 12, 2017: I am working on obtaining a higher resolution copy to replace the one below…

 

I went to ASU and hoped to play for legendary coach, Frank Kush.  Kush played for Michigan State University as a guard.  He was one hundred seventy five pounds of solid muscle and won All America honors!   175 pounds and All America.  AS A GUARD!  WHAT!

David played as starting guard on our high school team.  He was one hundred and twenty pounds of solid muscle.  Had he pursued football instead of wrestling, he might have become an All America standout.   He was cut from the same cloth as Kush.

I didn’t make ASU’s freshman football team.  I lasted all of three practices on the freshman squad under coach Bill Kajikawa. Thanks to my ill-fated efforts I now have two knee replacements and my right shoulder as well.   Hey! Some of us wannabes at least made a stab at it.   Likely, my unsuccessful efforts have caused me to hold individuals such as Sir David in awe.

1957 PVHS “S” Club

The Saratoga letterman’s club in 1957 was sponsored by head wrestling coach, Dale Federer and head football coach, Dennis Reagan.  David Edington is surprisingly absent albeit he earned letters in both football and wrestling his freshman year.   That’s me top row second from left.

I have known David Edington for over six decades.   I have seen him just once, in 2014, since our last get-together back in 1964.  Yet, David Edington remains one of the most important influences in my life.

PVHS 1957 State Wrestling State Champions

L-R:  Gary Maki, Rod Johnson, Merle Oxford, Ron Perue, David Edington, & Norm Perue.  If you read the story “…Walker Bunch PART ONE: Wyoming” it was Norm and Teddy Wilson who were my first passengers when I stole my father’s Cessna 180 for a short joy ride.   Serendipity and Luck have played a huge role in my earth-bound existence for three quarters of a century so far!   Teddy Wilson on the left below.  Norm Perue with me sitting behind Norm for our sophomore class photo,

Teddy Wilson played both football and basketball for PVHS.  He and Norm, as best I know never divulged our flight in my Dad’s Cessna.   I had convinced them that if our flight had been discovered, the three of us would share equally in the discipline.  Perhaps they forgot about it?  Not, me it was a memorable occasion.

In June of 2014 Cheryl and I were on a road trip through Glacier National Park.  One of our stops in Polson, Montana had us looking out at Flathead Lake.   Indescribable beauty all around.

Nearby is the town of Ronan where one of Saratoga, Wyoming’s greatest, David Edington, positioned himself nearly 50 years ago.   As kids we were pals.   After my family’s move to Arizona we’d lost touch; like most of us from Saratoga, we ended up blowin’ to the four winds…   Thanks to Dick Perue, the former Saratoga Sun publisher and David’s cousin, I finally reunited with my old friend.   We subsequently assured each other not to let another half-century go by before re-connecting.   I hope, through this venue, other’s might enjoy hearing about this remarkable friend of mine.

David was Dave and rather than “Billy,” I was called Bill in our Saratoga days.  It’s complicated!

David overcame great obstacles. He was on his own after his family moved to Jeff-City, Wyoming.

I had an uncle, Charles Willis, who went by Bill that turned out to be a scoundrel.  So, I started going by “Billy!”  As opposed to Dave, I still had a very supportive family close by.

I was still in the “tweener” stage of life.   David was well grounded and had a level of maturation well beyond his teen years.  I hung around with “Dave” and Merle Oxford.  Merle was another one of Saratoga’s Wyoming State wrestling champions.    I too wrestled albeit just one season and achieved a perfect record!  …I lost every single match!

That would have been really deflating were it not for the gracious support of my pal, Sir David.   I quickly realized, of course, that wrestling wasn’t to be my salvation.  Regardless, I always aware that my heart and soul was solidly ensconced in aviation.  I knew where I was aiming.

My dismal wrestling career wasn’t the coach’s fault.  Actually, it was no one’s fault but it was poor judgement on my part to try out for a sport I was ill-suited.

Saratoga’s coach, Dale Federer was legendary.  Coach Federer passed away on Aug. 30, 2016 in San Luis Obispo, Calif.

Coach Dale Federer, standing with tie, poses with the first full wrestling team at Platte Valley High School. Grapplers on the 1954 squad were: standing, left to right, George McIlvaine, Berwyn Brown, Cliff Hamilton, Coach Federer, Larry Picard, Dick Mowry and Teense Willford; kneeling, left to right, Lowell Sanders, Stan Hjerleid, Rod Johnson, Richard (Dick) Perue, Ron Perue, Con Allen, Jerry Ward, Jim Perue, Louie Bensen, Kay Ebbeka and Bob McIlvaine.

A tribute to the late Dale Federer, founder of the Saratoga High School wrestling program, was held during the 2017 Carbon County Invitational held at the Panther Den in Saratoga.

Persons attending the invitational will be presented with a pamphlet featuring Coach Federer and his Saratoga Panther wrestling teams. His former students and wrestlers in attendance will be asked to relate memories of him.

Although in Saratoga for only seven years, the Cheyenne native and University of Wyoming outstanding wrestler left a lasting legacy on the Saratoga school and community.

He began his teaching career here in 1953 when he assumed the position of shop teacher, vocational agriculture instructor and Stewart McPhail Future Farmers of America chapter advisor. Platte Valley High School, as it was then known, did not have wrestling. He founded the local mat program in 1953 with one wrestler, Bruce Willford, who would later become the wrestling coach here.

In 1954 Coach Federer, members of the team, students, parents and fans held fundraisers and solicited donations to buy mats and uniforms. The uniforms consisted of tennis shoes and shorts, which at times proved embarrassing with a few exposed jock straps and occasionally more. His first full team in 1954 consisted of 17 grapplers, including Kay Ebbeka, the first Saratoga Panther to place at the state wrestling tournament. Ebbeka claimed that spot by winning second place in only his first year of competition for the newly-formed team.

Federer’s team record after initiating wrestling here was 9th in 1954; 7th in 1955; 6th in 1956; state champs in 1957; 4th in 1958 and 3rd in 1959. During that period all Wyoming schools wrestled in the same division and Saratoga was the smallest school to win the “All Class State Championship”.

Coach Federer produced 11 individual state champions during his Panthers tenure.

The Saratoga Sun of March 17, 1959, editorialized, “All in all, Saratoga’s and Coach Federer’s record adds up to an impressive one that any coach would envy and any school would be more than proud of”.

Looking back, the time we shared together was very positive.  I was a bit slower at the take than my two pals, but I realized that with some effort I could accomplish something in life.   However, it would take a move to Arizona to bring out my potential.

No question, David was a tremendous influence on me.   I could not help but admire someone who was able to accomplish what he did. And, mostly on his own.  One summer he arranged a job for me to work with him on a road construction gang his dad or uncle was in charge of.

I remembered his living in a rinky-dinky trailer all on his own.  He never knew when or where he would enjoy his next meal.   He was the epitome of perseverance and dedication.   Sixty years later I remain in awe!

In 2009 Ty Hampton wrote about a long-time educator, wrestling coach, and local volunteer, David Edington.  Edington had been recently recognized at the Ronan Chamber of Commerce Banquet with the Lifetime Community Service Award.  I’d like to copy what Ty Hampton wrote. I can’t.  It’s protected by this little warning symbol ©️ .  Yet, it captured the essence of a very special proud American.   You can, of course, GOOGLE it.

At age seventy five (2017), Edington looks back on a legacy of community, family and mentoring countless kids who came through his doors in his 45 years as a Ronan teacher and more than two decades as head wrestling coach. When asked if the award meant a lot to him, David agreed that it did because of how much Ronan means to him.

A quote David gave Tribune sports reporter, David Buck, says a lot about this very special man: Though he was the first in an elite class of Wyoming wrestlers, Edington said, “Coaching a four-time champion in Montana is one of his fondest memories. I coached a kid who was the second one (in Montana), and that was the biggest thrill to me,” Edington said. “That was a bigger thrill than me winning the four.”

It was Aaron Griffin, who called David “Mr. Ronan.”  Edington said, “My passion for this school and loyalty to my community exemplified the community.”

His home town of Saratoga, Wyoming will revere his wrestling heritage as well.  Here is what Sun reporter, Mike Dunn, had to say, after he sat entranced listening to Wyoming’s first four-time state wrestling champion Dave Edington talk about his wrestling career.

“After his win Dave was hailed as ‘the best.’  And it’s no wonder. Dave is strong, fast and smart – a combination rarely found in a high school wrestler. He has what you call a wrestling instinct.”

Dave Edington looked up at a plaque at Saratoga High School holding the names of 31 state wrestling champions. He scratched his grey goatee, and pointed towards a name at the top of the list.  “Yep, there I am,” he said.

It was him – even if his name was spelled wrong on the plaque. David’s last name is spelled ‘Edington’ not ‘Eddington’.

It did not matter all that much to him. He already made a name for himself in the wrestling world, one misspelling would not have an impact on what wrestling did for him.

Or what he has done for wrestling!

Edington’s life on the mat was spectacular. He was four-time state champion-the first to accomplish it in the state, the second to do so in the nation and the only one in Saratoga High School history. For four years, he was arguably the best wrestler around.

Wrestling gave Edington countless awards, a career and an education. But most important, it gave him an avenue to developing his wrestling instinct, the drive to succeed, and the expectation to be the best.

Growing up tough

If Dave Edington was not born to be a wrestler, he was certainly bred to be one.  Edington was from a blue-collar family. Everyone was expected to work, like his father, who built fence in the Platte Valley. He was the youngest-raised with his siblings and cousins; all of whom shared the blue-collar work ethic. If you didn’t work hard or put everything into what you were doing, you would be left behind.

Growing up, Edington lived by a simple rule: “It was either toughen up or get the crap kicked out of you,” he said.

And he had his hands full. His cousins, Ron and Norm Perue, were both two-time state champions on the newly-formed Saratoga wrestling program. Many of his cousins wrestled as well winning champion status individually.

Watching his family wrestle sparked his interest. His wrestling career began in the sixth grade on the living room floor of his cousins’ house, trying to figure out the sport of wrestling with his younger cousins.

By the time he was in eighth grade, Edington’s athletic ability caught the attention of Saratoga High School head coach Dale Federer and was invited to practice with the team. That year of practice, he said, gave him a large advantage his freshman year of high school.  “By the time I was ready to enter high school, I knew the sport already,” Edington said.

He came into his freshman year with no expectations. He joined the team because he wanted to be involved. He wanted to be on a team, and he was too short to play basketball.

But 1957 would be the beginning of an incredible run.

After a beginning of the season loss to Colorado’s defending State Champion, Edington went undefeated and won the 112 pound State Championship.   The Saratoga Panthers won their first ever Team State Championship in any sport.

Better yet, Wyoming athletics did not have classifications until 1963 – after Edington graduated. Making any champion truly the best in the state.

“We won it pretty solid,” Edington said, recalling the Panthers had three first-place wrestlers and several top finishers. “It was such a big deal for the community.”

As Edington grew to 127 pounds his sophomore year, his reputation grew with him. He was expected to win, and he didn’t disappoint.

Perhaps the defining moment in his career took place his sophomore year, when he beat a defending state champion in the weight class above him.

“At that point, I think the light bulb came on that I did have some talent and I was able to achieve a lot.” he said.

And he did achieve a lot. Edington went undefeated in Wyoming throughout his high school career; one of two wrestlers in Wyoming’s history to do so. He is also the only four-time champion to win in separate weight classifications.

Edington was the best in the state, but he wanted more. He wanted to be the best in the nation. He was not going to stop until he was number one. “I developed this attitude that I could beat anybody,” he said.

Wrestling with tragedy

After graduation, Edington traveled across the Medicine Bow Mountains to wrestle at the University of Wyoming. He, along with his cousins, were recruited by Wyoming Hall of Fame coach Dr. Everette Lantz.

Edington was supposed to redshirt his first year, but Lantz had other plans. Lantz would retire within the next few years, and Edington said his coach wanted to get as much mileage out of him as he could before Lantz’s days were up.

Edington wrestled well for the Pokes. He was undefeated his freshman year. The only blemish to his record was a tie with a two-time National Champion from Oklahoma.

But his success would take a traumatic twist.

In 1961, Edington and the Cowboys went up to Powell to wrestle a match against the University of Utah. Edington was matched up against preseason All-American Doug Bingham.

In the middle of the match, Edington had a solid lead when Bingham’s body went limp.

“I thought he had just given up … so I stuck him,” Edington said.

After pinning him, Edington looked down at his opponent. Bingham’s eyes rolled back to the top of his head and he wouldn’t get up.

In the middle of the match, Bingham had suffered a blood-clot in his heart. He passed away later that night.

For a 19-year-old Edington, it was a confusing time. He was not emotional about what happened, but everyone around him was. The coach sent him home to stay with his parents for half the week afterwards. When he returned, he was forced to not travel with the team and seek counseling instead.

But he remained emotionless about what happened.  “I started questioning why didn’t I have all these emotions they were questioning me about,” he said. “Finally I just couldn’t handle it anymore.”

Edington left UW and the team for a week and went on a road trip. “I had to get away from it,” he said.

When he returned, his weight had ballooned. He was rusty and out of competitive shape. His grades were in trouble! He decided to sit out conference and nationals that year.

Edington tried coming back from the incident, but he never could. It wasn’t the same, he said. He lost his competitive edge. His inner drive, which led him to four state championships, was gone.

He lost his wrestling instinct.

Edington wanted to get away from the sport. So upon graduation, he moved to the small town of Ronan, Mont.

But even 800 miles away from where his career took a tragic twist, he would not escape the wrestler inside him.

Fresh start

“I went up there to get a fresh start,” he said. “So I figured I’ll try teaching for a little bit.”

Ronan is located near the south-end of Flathead Lake on the Flathead Indian Reservation. It’s a town similar in size of Saratoga, surrounded by the majestic Mission Mountains of Northwest Montana.

It would be a perfect place to escape from wrestling world, he thought.

After Edington had been teaching for a few weeks, he was approached by the High School Principal who had seen a wrestling activity class on Edington’s transcript. There was no wrestling program at Ronan High School, and the principal wanted Edington’s help getting one started.

Edington was happy teaching Math, English, Reading and Drafting his first year at Ronan. Edington didn’t want to coach, so the Principal made him a deal.

“The Principal said ‘I’ll coach it if you show them what to do. I have no clue what to do”  The deal didn’t last long – Edington became the head coach of the Ronan wrestling team in the following weeks.

Ronan quickly became a hot-bed for wrestling under Edington’s leadership. Within three years of the program’s founding, Ronan took second as a team.

A funny thing happened once Edington started coaching. He started becoming competitive again, taking losses personally. He wanted to be the best, and only the best, for his wrestlers. His passion for wrestling reignited.

“I never really got away from the competitiveness,” he said. “I knew what the sport had done for me as a kid … I just liked that part and I started to see what it could do in kids.”

The team would eventually go on to win eight state championships including five consecutive championships from 1978 to 1982. His team won 42 consecutive dual meets from 1972 to 1974, and he coached 32 individuals to state championships.

Edington was named Montana Wrestling Coach of the Year seven times, and was a runner-up for National High School Association Wrestling Coach of the Year twice.

Edington’s coaching success was not limited to the Big Sky State. He traveled with the National Junior Teams as a Coach and Team Leader to the former Soviet Union, Canada, Turkey and Iran. He said that he and his team were at the American Embassy in Iran just months before the Iranian Hostage Crisis.

Edington was also a coaching staff member for the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal and a administration staff member for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

He was instrumental in establishing youth wrestling programs, first in Montana, then across the county. Edington founded one of the first youth wrestling tournaments in the state. He wanted to help grow the sport that grew him.

The Great Equalizer

There are few awards in the wrestling world Edington has not obtained. But, he said there is no greater achievement than being a teacher and a coach.  A teacher can never know how far reaching their influence goes…

“I have received a lot of awards over the years, but none of them have ever meant more to me than the relationships I have built with the kids,” he said. Every time he sees a former student or athlete grow up and become active members of society, he sees that as his greatest success.

The success of the wrestling program helped bring a new identity to the school. Ronan is an impoverished area with nearly 60 percent of the students on free and reduced lunches. He said with the success of the wrestling program, the community began to find pride in themselves.

“We began to develop an identity,” he said. “Everyone knew where Ronan was. The kids began to develop a swagger – it was a big deal back then.”

Wrestling gave many of his students a reason to stay in school. It gave something to those who had nothing.

Growing up in an impoverished household himself, he knew the impact wrestling had, and he shared it with his wrestlers.

“Wrestling is the great equalizer,” he said “I could go up against the banker’s kids or the lawyer’s kids and say ‘hey I can kick your butt, I’m better than you’.”

***

Today, Edington continues to live in Ronan. He’s retired now, devoting more than 45 years to Ronan High School as a teacher and a coach.

His wrestling days are long passed, but his passion for the sport still exists. You can hear the excitement in his voice when he talks about the sport.

For Edington, wrestling is more than just a sport. Through wrestling, he experience success, tragedy and every emotion in between. Wrestling is what made him into who he is today. It gave him his wrestling instinct.  If you asked him today, he would say: “I wouldn’t have changed my career for anything.”

Some redundancy here! 

In my world of aviation it is important to have redundancy.  If a system becomes inoperative, it is imperative to have another system backing up the failed one.  Given my proclivity of needed redundancy, please excuse it regarding David Edington’s story.

Some of the following you’ve already read.  Regardless of my repetitiveness, some material is new and some the same albeit from a different perspective.

David’s home, since 1967, has been Ronan, MT.  This humble public servant grew up in Saratoga, Wyo. — a small town, population of 800 back in the 1950s. Wrestling with his Perue cousins at an early age, Edington toughened up fast and grew to become Wyoming’s most successful wrestler.

“Coming from an impoverished background [wrestling] was an avenue for me to do something different and be known for something other than my home situation,” Edington said. “The wrestling mat, football field and track were great equalizers for me, because there I could prove that I was just as good as the next guy.”

A younger version of David along with his beautiful wife and hottie, Rita
Robert William (Rob) – Shane (youngest) next to Christian (Kit).

David’s obviously proud tradition was created early on and built towards his lifelong advocacy of the importance of combining scholarship with athletics. He continually fosters youth athletics and activities in schools.

Following his tenure at UW college as an athlete, David chose education mostly due to his being unsure of just what it was he wanted to be when he grew up. Following graduation the well-known Wyoming grappler moved to western Montana to get a piece of land as property values were still lower than the surrounding states.

During his second year in the area, Edington was hired on as a teacher with Ronan High School. Dr. Joe McDonald was the principal at the time and had heard his young teacher had been an extremely successful wrestler.   McDonald asked David to coach the school’s program. Hesitant at first, Edington gave it a try and after a few meets there was no turning back and Ronan Wrestling would never be the same.

“It was all Joe’s fault,” Edington said, “He was a tremendous mentor to me, and undoubtedly had the single biggest influence on my professional life.”  McDonald went on to become the president of Salish Kootenai College.

The acclaimed wrestling program hosted several local athletes who won state championships and national junior championships. Job offers to coach on the college level came thru his success’ including his alma mater UW.   Later, David received an offer to coach wrestling at the National Wrestling Program and travel internationally for his beloved sport. These grand offers created a very tough decision for David to make.  His heart out wrestled his head.   Dave turned all those offers down.  He loved Ronan!

David’s first wife Nicki was diagnosed with cancer and underwent treatment in California before succumbing to her fight with the disease in 1980. The Edington’s received a bounty of support from their school and their community as friends sent gifts, best wishes, and emotional aid during the toughest of times.  David and Nicki were certainly made aware of the care and compassion their adopted home town heaped on them.   It would encourage David to have the motivation to give back.

David would later marry a California girl.  Rita had worked for Nicki’s doctor, herself a recent widow. At first David fretted that Montana would not be to Rita’s liking.  No worry! Rita fell in love with David’s home and has embraced the community ever since.

As of this writing (March 2017) it has been more than 25 years since David retired from his high school coaching giving him time to refocus with his priorities of being a good father and husband — a move he says he has never regretted.  David still works in the sport, voluntarily serving as a Rules Interpreter for the Montana High School Association.

David’s life has not always been an easy one.   Opportunities do a lot of good for kids who came from an impoverished economic background. This has often been a daunting challenge.  “They need people who really care about them,” David said. “…if we can just get them on the right track, and we can’t reach every kid, but I think we do have a lot of opportunity for positive impact on their lives.”

David is also a strong advocate for community volunteerism and giving back to the community, especially when it benefits kids. School groups as well as the Boys and Girls Club, benefits from David’s volunteerism by planting trees in the community, helping to build the school district’s new Events Sign in front of the Middle School, and building numerous park benches with his own two hands are just a few ways he gave even more back to Ronan.

On top of that, each student in his shop classes were required to participate in a community service project by building something that either the school or town can use.  “If you can get people to take to investing in the community like that, it’s a win-win situation,” he said.

Retired after more than 45 years as a teacher, David remembers his domain in the Ronan High School’s shop and his coaching experience there with tremendous pride.. “It was a heck of a ride and I wouldn’t change a thing about it.”

I mentioned earlier, that David Edington was the first wrestler to win four individual Wyoming State High School Wrestling Championships. He accomplished this feat for Saratoga’s Platte Valley High School from 1957-1960, and since then only 10 other wrestlers have won a title each year of high school.

Edington graduated from UW in 1968. He has lived, taught, and coached in Ronan, Mont., since then. He is a member of the Montana and National Coaching Halls of Fame.

David remembers being young athlete in his formative years when he had individuals in his background who helped him develop a philosophy of believing there was nothing impossible. David realized that was especially true when, with God’s help, anything was and still is possible. David selected a motto or mantra to motivate himself.  ‘Lead me to a task and conquer I will!’ David discovered that most of life’s tasks, obstacles, and events are easily dealt with.

As a coach I had a few thoughts I was always trying to instill in my teams….

“You have to believe to achieve!

The arena belongs to those willing to step into it!

Fear is a liability – Confidence is an asset!

Every competitor has feelings and needs as well as people that love them – Treat each other with respect.”

David told me, “I’ve advanced through life I’ve experienced the most satisfaction when I wake up in the morning and I make a conscious decision to feel good and to have a great day. I’ve learned from repeated experience that if you want something done then find a busy person. Most recently I’ve learned that aging is a humbling process; I think God intended it that way.”

David believes that children are a reflection of you. Your time with them is short so make every day count. To love is a conscious decision not just an emotion. Getting married is a decision to learn to love unconditionally. Never mess around looking for a cheap piece of bologna when you have top cut prime rib at home. If you think your spouse doesn’t look the same as when you first met her then look into the mirror and praise the Lord that she is still with you.”

Dave graduated from PVHS in 1960 and went on to graduate from the University of Wyoming.   He became a teacher in picturesque Ronan, Montana.   Now, retired, he is known as “Mr. Ronan, Montana!”   Ronan is pronounced “Ro-nan.”

Edington is extraordinarily unique.   The following is mostly a repeat of what was written several pages above.  I think it bears repeating.

He is the 2nd person in the United States and the 1st person in Wyoming to be a four-time State Champion wrestler and in four weight class.’  Fewer than a dozen Wyoming wrestlers have achieved this feat since Dave led the way more than fifty years ago as the first wrestler to win four individual Wyoming State High School Wrestling Championships. He accomplished this feat for Saratoga from 1957-1960, and since then only 10 other wrestlers have won a title each year of high school. Edington graduated from UW in 1968 and has lived, taught, and coached in Ronan, Mont., since then. He is a member of the Montana and National Coaching Halls of Fame.

To this day Edington’ achievements are legendary!   That is astounding given the competitive nature of the sport.   However, he admitted to me that his wife, Rita, did best him wrestling and even pinned him!  …he figured he’d won anyway!

Dave lost his first wife. Nicki, from cancer in 1980.   They’d been college sweethearts at UW.   Rita, a widow, worked for Nicki’s doctor.   Their’s has been a good second marriage for each and are celebrating 37 years together so far.   The Edington’s raised three fine young men and are blessed with grand kids too!

Their home, located in the outskirts of Ronan, is idyllic.  Dave built it himself with help from Nicki, Rita and their sons.  Their home had to have been sturdily built to support all the wrestling memorabilia on his walls.   Thanks to Rita’s efforts, his office and den is like a museum!

It was nice for Cheryl and me to meet Rita and take a trip back in time with Dave.  We enjoyed a memorable afternoon and evening together.  Cheryl and I are looking forward to our next visit.

Situated in a forest teeming with wild life, their home is in a picturesque setting.   A stream flows through with a magnificent water-fall just beyond their bedroom window.   It is a far cry from the dismal little trailer where Dave lived while completing high school in Saratoga.   Following his parents move to Riverton, when his dad went to work with Western Nuclear, Dave has been on his own since.

Several white-tail does were trimming the lawn while Rita described seeing bears  on her porch; an astounding eight black bears surrounded their home once!   The occasional Grizzly, mountain lion, and often Elk wander through.

Edington went on to wrestle world-wide in AAU wrestling and then went on as coach of the Ronan high school, AAU, and the USA Olympics.   Dave has been inducted into THREE wrestling Hall of Fame’s.   Lookin’ back it all started when the Perue boys were wrestling with their cousin in Saratoga those many years ago.

Saratoga produced several team championships under the late-great Coach Dale Federer’s tutelage.   The Perue boys along with cousin Dave and a few other local boys certainly put a spot-light on Saratoga.   Dave won every match against other Wyoming wrestlers thru high school, and has an enviable college, and AAU record.   As for me, I didn’t wrestle long, but had an equally impressive perfect record.   I lost every single match I wrestled.  You wouldn’t think that I would divulge such twice!

“David Edington knows firsthand the highs and lows that come with competing in sports.”  This comes from writer Dave Buck.

“In 1960, Edington, wrestling for Saratoga, became the first high school wrestler in Wyoming to win four consecutive individual state championships. This weekend at the Wyoming State High School Wrestling Championships at the Casper Events Center two wrestlers – Greybull-Riverside’s Kasey Garnhart and Torrington’s Jared Hatley – will try to match Edington’s feat. If they do, they will become the 10th and 11th wrestlers in the state to win four titles.

“At that time I didn’t even think about it,” Edington, then 66, said. “After the tournament was over my coach told me I might have been the second person in the nation to do it.”

Edington went on to compete at the University of Wyoming, but it was there that his wrestling career took a sudden turn.

At a meet in Powell during his freshman year, Edington was wrestling Utah’s Doug Bingham when Bingham suffered a heart attack.

“I was on top of him and in the process of a hold, and trying to get him turned,” Edington said. “When I turned him, he went limp. I thought I beat him mentally. I stuck him, was excited, and he laid there.”

Edington helped carry Bingham into the locker room on a stretcher. A doctor who was in the crowd was able to get Bingham’s heart started again, but only briefly. Bingham died on the way to the hospital.

“The best thing that could have happened was to keep competing,” Edington said. “But (coaches) had me in counseling and out (of wrestling) a couple weeks, and then my weight ballooned. I never could get it going again. I never was the same.”

Edington moved to Ronan, Mont., to be a high school shop teacher in order to get away from Wyoming and the reminders of the Bingham match.

He wanted wrestling out of his life, but the school’s principal had other ideas.

“The high school principal, after I started there, wanted to start a wrestling program and asked if I wanted to coach,” Edington said. “I wasn’t interested, but he asked if I would show them techniques.”

Edington agreed.

Once again, his wrestling career took a turn, this time for the better.

He found that coaching got his competitive juices flowing. He ended up coaching Ronan High School, a school of about 300 students, for 21 years, during which time it won eight Montana High School Association team titles.

 Edington later became the national head for Junior Olympic wrestling and took teams from the U.S. to meets across the world.
Probably the biggest award and/or accomplishment from David’s perspective comes from his selection as a member of the FILA (World Wrestling Organization) Mini Wrestling  Commission in Mexico City at the World Championships.
This committee oversaw international wrestling for youth 18 years and younger. David served on this five member group as its chairman from 1978 through 1984. Also in 1978 he received the Silver Star from FILA at the World Championships for 18 and under held in Colorado Springs Colorado. Nicki and I organized and oversaw that event.
As a side note one of his Ronan high school wrestlers not only won  the National Championships and team tryouts but he won the World Title there as well. His name is Tom Riley. Tom was named to the1978-79 WRESTLING USA MAGAZINE’S HIGH SCHOOL All-AMERICA TEAM. He wrestled at Arizona State becoming the PAC 12 champion at 133# in both 1983 & 1984.  After college he wrestled throughout the world with Athletes in Action. Tom has lived many years in Phoenix working as a Youth Probation Officer. He retired from that position last year and is now teaching at risk youth at a high school. He returns to Montana almost every summer and spends some time with Edington.

Because he wanted to spend more time with his wife, Edington finally quit coaching. But he hasn’t been able to walk away from the sport that has brought him such joy and such pain. Edington currently serves as a rules interpreter for the MHSA.

Though he was the first in an elite class of Wyoming wrestlers, Edington said coaching a four-time champion in Montana is one of his fondest memories.

“I coached a kid who was the second one (in Montana), and that was the biggest thrill to me,” Edington said. “That was a bigger thrill than me winning the four.”

Mark it down as just another high.”