Former Bellevue Wolverines wrestling head coach Jim Richards (pictured in center with state championship trophy) is pictured with the Bellevue Wolverines 1963 state championship wrestling team. Bill Strickland (heavyweight), Noel McMurtry (135) and Roy Brewster (106) are pictured in the above photo.Image courtesy of Jim Richards.

Former Bellevue Wolverines wrestling head coach Jim Richards (pictured in center with state championship trophy) is pictured with the Bellevue Wolverines 1963 state championship wrestling team. Bill Strickland (heavyweight), Noel McMurtry (135) and Roy Brewster (106) are pictured in the above photo.Image courtesy of Jim Richards.

Simply legendary

Former coach Jim Richards will be inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame this June.

Flashback to 59 years ago: Jim Richards founded Bellevue High School’s first ever high school wrestling team.

Nearly six decades later, Richards will be honored as one of the most influential wrestling coaches in the nation. Richards received a letter in December of 2018 informing him that he will be inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma, on June 2, 2019.

The 83-year-old Richards, who was inducted into the Washington State Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1992, is ecstatic about being selected to the most coveted wrestling Hall of Fame in the country.

“From a wrestling coach’s point of view, this is the final level. It doesn’t go further or higher. It is an extreme honor is just a really special situation to be put together with some very elite high school wrestling coaches that we’ve had in this state (Washington). It is really a special treat and honor to be selected to the National Hall of Fame. I feel very humbled and fortunate,” Richards explained.

Richards was the Bellevue Wolverines head coach from 1960 through 1975. Richards also was the head coach of the Sammamish Totems wrestling program from 1976 through 1984. One of the fondest memories of Richards’ career was leading the Wolverines wrestling team to a state championship in 1963. Roy Brewster (106) and Bill Strickland (heavyweight division) won individual state titles. Noel McMurtry (135) competed at the tourney but didn’t place.

“We took three boys to the state wrestling tournament. We did start the evening of the finals knowing that our 106-pounder (Roy Brewster) and our heavyweight (Bill Strickland) were in the finals. Our third wrestler Noel McMurtry had been eliminated but he had scored some team points for us. Roy won his match, which was a really tough match but he came out the winner. He ran off the mat and jumped into my arms,” Richards recalled. “After that, there were about six other matches during the evening that all had to fall exactly right to give us a chance to win the state championship. Going into the heavyweight title match, we were in second place by three points. Bill Strickland went out on that mat and won his match by a pin and we won the state tournament by two points. We are still the only KingCo (Conference) wrestling team that has ever won a state championship.”

Richards said high school wrestling in 1960 compared to now couldn’t be more different.

“Our mat area at that time was a 20-by-20 square foot area, which was very small for upper weight wrestlers. It was almost like if you took two steps, you were out of bounds. It was a much different style of wrestling with a great deal of more riding, holding and positioning. You didn’t want to get trapped in the corner of a square mat,” Richards explained of wrestling in 1960. “We probably didn’t have the larger circle mats until we go into the early 1970s. There were some holds that you could use back in the early 1960s that are now illegal like the double overhead arm bar and figure-four leg lock. I have seen a lot of rules changes.”

Weight rooms were virtually non-existent during the 1960s and early 1970s, which forced high school grapplers to find other ways of conditioning themselves.

“The tradition at that time was a lot of stair running. We also did a lot of rope climb work. That rope climb was our big upper-body strength workout,” Richards said.

Richards has fond memories of coaching tenure at Samammish High School as well. The 1984 team was a squad he will never forget.

“We had some super strong teams through the late 1970s into the early 1980s. In 1984, we had six wrestlers that all qualified for the state tournament and four of them were regional champions and two were runner ups (second place at regionals). We thought we really had a good shot at the state championship. The Monday after the regional tournament, we got ready for practice and two of our guys showed up with the flu. By Tuesday, two more had it and the day we were going to leave to go to the state meet, the final two came down with the flu,” Richards explained. “They all wrestled at the state meet. They recovered and all wrestled really well. We finished in 18th place.”

Following his retirement from coaching, Richards remained active in the wrestling community. Richards was the Mat Classic Class 3A state tournament mat chairman for 15 years (1989 through 2003). The Mat Classic state wrestling tournament had its inaugural tournament, which featured tournaments in a myriad of different classifications in 1988.

“The Mat Classic is a major event for the sport of wrestling and is actually the largest high school tournament in the United States,” Richards said.




In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@bellevuereporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.bellevuereporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

Bellevue 83-year-old resident Jim Richards will be inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame this June in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Shaun Scott, staff photo

Bellevue 83-year-old resident Jim Richards will be inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame this June in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Shaun Scott, staff photo

More in Sports

The WIAA announced Wednesday that if schools reopen at the conclusion of the six-week statewide shutdown ordered last week by Gov. Jay Inslee, then the state championships will go on as planned. (WIAA photo)
WIAA still hoping to hold state championships in May

But if the school shutdown extends past April 24, those championships could be in jeopardy.

Vikings earn all-league honors on the basketball court

Both boys and girls Bellevue Christian basketball teams were well represented on… Continue reading

Vikings end season at the SunDome

The Bellevue Christian boys lose to Meridian in the 1A state basketball tournament in Yakima.

Games are being postponed in response to coronavirus outbreak

In response to the recent coronavirus outbreak, Eastside schools are taking precautions… Continue reading

Hardwood Classic tips off after coronavirus outbreak

By Benjamin Olson and Andy Nystrom Basketball players took to the court… Continue reading

Relay teams guide Sammamish to boys swim and dive state title

The Totems won the 2A state title for the first time in program history.

Reporter file photo
No changes to state basketball tournament schedules after coronavirus outbreak

State boys and girls basketball Hardwood Classic tournaments in Tacoma, Yakima and… Continue reading

Most school events, including sports practices, on schedule after coronavirus outbreak

All the school districts in the Reporter’s coverage areas — Northshore, Lake… Continue reading

Griswold gives one last performance at state

Sammamish gymnast Sydney Griswold competed at state for the fourth and final time.

Vikings ready to tip off at the SunDome

The Bellevue Christian boys basketball team is competing at the 1A state tournament in Yakima.

Bellevue girls soccer trio named to All-State first team

Bellevue girls soccer standouts Paige Satterlee (senior midfielder), Courtney Serres (senior midfielder)… Continue reading

Wolverines’ postseason run ended by Panthers

The Bellevue boys basketball team lost 54-45 to Seattle Prep in a district tournament game.