First-class role models

Stratton, Fenton named to National Hall of Fame

Two longtime successful coaches from the local area will receive one of the highest honors in high school coaching later this month.

Retired Gladstone High School educator and coach Steve Stratton and retired Rex Putnam educator and coach Jerry Fenton have both been named to the National High School Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Both will be inducted during ceremonies at an Oregon Chapter banquet, scheduled Saturday, April 28, at the Holiday Inn - Portland South in Wilsonville.

'It means a lot to me because now my name will be mentioned in the same breath of air as [Phoenix High School coach] Harry Mondale,' said Stratton. 'Harry Mondale's a quality person and a quality coach, so it means a lot.'

'It was a big surprise!' said Fenton. 'I really didn't expect it, because I didn't have the great success that some schools - like Newberg - have had. We always represented ourselves well in competition and we produced some quality wrestlers. But we weren't competing for a state title year after year like some schools do.'

Stratton taught at Gladstone High School 29 years and coached Gladstone wrestlers for 15 seasons, retiring as an educator in 1998.

Fenton taught and coached at Rex Putnam for 26 seasons, retiring in 1997.

This isn't the first time Stratton has been honored by his peers. He's a three-time Oregon High School Wrestling Coach of the Year (1976, 1979, 1982). He was the Portland Wrestling Officials Association Coach of the Year in 1979 and he was named the Oregon Coach of the Year for all high school sports the same year.

'It's my first coaching honor, other than the 25-year plaque,' said Fenton. 'It's wonderful to be included in there with all these people that have been outstanding in your field.'

'What I remember about Jerry, was he always had a strong competitive team, but his emphasis was on attitude and on building character,' said National Hall of Famer Bill Geister (Clackamas). 'Sportsmanship was always high on his list.'

'[Steve Stratton] was kind of like a father figure back then,' said Rich Holliman, who was a freshman on Stratton's first team. 'He taught me how to work hard and how to meet challenges.

'If it hadn't been for Steve Stratton, I probably wouldn't be where I am today. He taught me pride, desire and loyalty.

'My son's named after him, that's what he means to me.'

Holliman is now head wrestling coach at Gladstone.

Stratton took over Gladstone's fledgling wrestling program from Dick Baker in the program's second season and built Gladstone into a small-school wrestling dynasty.

Stratton coached Gladstone teams to state team titles in 1976, 1979 and 1982; he coached an Oregon high school all-star team with McNary's Jerry Lane in 1976; and he coached his son Lyle to the rare Triple Crown (1977).

Stratton coached 83 district champions and 12 state champions, including Dan Gibson (1972), Don Zellner (1976), Lyle Stratton (1977, 1978), Todd Gross (1979), Kirstin Arnold (1979), Keith Beutler (1980), John Powelson (1982, 1983), Rod Saldivar (1982), Todd Haugen (1983) and Steve Faber (1993).

Stratton had several wrestlers go on to excel in college wrestling, including his son Lyle (Brigham Young and Portland State University), Keith Beutler (U of O), Don Zellner (Clackamas Community College and Pacific University), Mark Ball and Rich Holliman (CCC and Southern Oregon).

Wrestling has been a part of Stratton's life since he was a youth. As a junior at Riddle High School, he talked the school board into starting a wrestling program.

'They said we could have a program on a one-year trial basis, if I could find a supervisor,' said Stratton. 'I got the shop teacher to come on as a supervisor and I coached the team that first year. The next year, my senior year, they hired a coach.'

Throughout his high school coaching career, Stratton's family was a part of his passion. His wife Maria attended nearly every meet and his daughter Carla was a cheerleader.

Now Carla's son, Cody Mansur, is a freshman at Clackamas High School, where he excels in football, baseball and wrestling. The young Mansur is a two-time world age-group champion in collegiate-style wrestling.

Lyle Stratton also has children who have excelled in athletics. One daughter, Anna Maria Stratton, is a two-time world champion and a national collegiate champion [Texas A and M] in archery; another daughter, Erika, has cleared 12-6 in the pole vault and holds pole vault records for the Intermountain Conference and for Lane Community College.

Steve Stratton's wife Maria is a retired secretary from Ardenwald School in Milwaukie, where she worked for 27 years.

In their retirement, Steve and Maria tend their farm - with goats, horses, cows and chickens - in Sandy.

When they're not watching their grandchildren compete in sports or doing chores, they travel. Mexico is a favorite destination.

Stratton taught science, biology, health and physical education, and served as athletic director during his 29-year tenure at Gladstone High School. He introduced and ran an outdoor education program at the school for 20 years.

Jerry Fenton

In his 26 years at Putnam, Jerry Fenton had seven state champions, four state runners-up, 27 state place-winners and 35 district champions.

He had two wrestlers earn the Triple Crown, Pete Edgerly (1978) and Tom Ziegle.

Putnam teams placed first, second, fifth and 10th at state during Fenton's tenure. He was assistant coach in 1971, when the Kingsmen won their only state team title in the sport of wrestling.

Fenton remembers the names of the wrestlers on that 1971 team: Steve and Kerry Bolen, Pat Birnel, Ray Todd, Wes Stanley, Karl Miller and Larry Ermini. Steve Bolen was the only wrestler on that team to win an individual collegiate title that year.

Fenton's first year as head coach at Putnam, the Kingsmen won the Wilco League and placed fifth at state.

Fenton's wrestling career began at Milwaukie High School, where he took up wrestling as a junior, after learning that he did not make the varsity basketball team. His high school wrestling coaches were football coaches Denny Miller and Ron Useldinger, and baseball/football coach Bob Misley.

'They didn't know a lot about wrestling, because it wasn't their sport,' said Fenton. 'It was learn as you go.'

Fenton learned quickly. His senior year he was state runner-up in wrestling.

A four-sport athlete in high school (counting basketball), Fenton also excelled in baseball and in football. He was a Metro League all-star pitcher for a Mustang baseball team that placed fifth at state; his senior year Milwaukie placed second in league in football, losing only one game [to Beaverton] on the season.

Fenton went on to wrestle and play baseball at the University of Oregon, where he was a pre-med major. When pre-med didn't work out, he transferred to Portland State University, where he was a two-time Oregon Collegiate champion and Pacific Coast runner-up.

He met Bill Geister as a student teacher at Clackamas High School, and he coached one year under DeLance Duncan at Klamath Falls before landing at Putnam.

He assisted Don Conway one season and Doug Muck seven seasons at Putnam, before taking over the head wrestling job in 1976.

While at Putnam, Fenton ran the Old-Time Oregon Open Wrestling Tournament, inviting former wrestlers from around the state. The popular tournament continued for 16 years.

Bill Geister competed in the tournament every year.

'He always won,' said Fenton. 'He'd tell me he had to win, because he wanted to win a trophy to give to every one of his grandchildren. I told him I stopped running the tournament because he had so many grandchildren that I couldn't afford to buy them all trophies.'

One of Fenton's fondest memories is of Mike Brewton, a 1976 state champion who was the two-time Oregon wrestling All-Academic award winner.

'After Mike got it two times, the next year they split it up so that each classification got a scholar/athlete,' said Fenton. 'They said it wasn't fair that the same kid got it every year.'

Brewton is an orthopedic surgeon in Salem and he is in line to become the in-house doctor for the state wrestling tournament, Fenton said.

Fenton, who stressed academics as well as athletics, also has fond memories of Wally Anderson and Boyd Goodpaster, two former wrestlers who went into police work.

Fenton taught science and biology classes at Putnam, and he and his wife were part of a team that developed a statewide 'K' through 12 'integrated science' curriculum that earned awards from the National Science Foundation.

In retirement, Jerry says he and his wife Peg have done a lot of traveling, with trips to New Zealand, Australia, Tahiti, France, Greece and Italy. They've also become involved with Ken Wright Wine Cellars out of Carlton. Each fall they spend a month sorting grapes, and they help with presentations around Thanksgiving time.

Fenton also enjoys crabbing at the coast, working a garden in the backyard, and raising sheep on 4-1/2 acres off of River Rd. in Milwaukie that have been in the family for nearly a century.

'I was raised in a logcabin that was built in 1911 and it's still here,' Fenton said.

Fenton said he looks forward to renewing friendships with former students at the upcoming awards banquet.

'The biggest honors that I've received [over the years] is the gratitude of the kids I've coached,' Fenton said.