Michael Hess has visions of returning Gladstone wrestling to its glory days

by: JOHN DENNY - Gladstone wrestling coach Michael Hess works with Logan Good (on top) and David Ventura during a summer freestyle workout.Gladstone High School’s new varsity head wrestling coach, Michael Hess, has visions of returning Gladstone wrestling to its heyday, in the 1970s and 1980s, when the Gladiators won three state team titles and were in contention for the title every year.

And Hess’ visions may be more than a pipe dream.

Except for a lack of turnout for wrestling, Gladstone has already made pretty good strides in turning things around under former head coach Jon Wolf. The Gladiators placed fifth out of 10 teams at last year’s Class 4A Region 1 Wrestling Championships, and that was with only seven wrestlers competing.

Hess, who was an accomplished wrestler in his own right at Gladstone in the mid-90s, assisted Wolf with the varsity the last two years, and for the past five seasons he’s made tremendous progress reviving Gladstone’s Kid Wrestling Program.

“We had 80 first through eighth graders in the Kid Club last year,” said Hess. “Hopefully they’ll stick with it as they move up into high school....

“Short-term my goal is to get the numbers up in high school. Long-term, I’d like to build the program up where we compete for a league championship every year, and eventually a trophy at state — every year. I know those are high goals, but I believe we can find a way to get it done....

“It’s been awhile, but Gladstone has a long history of success in wrestling. There was a time when Gladstone was in the running for the state team title every year.”

Hess, 35, is a 1996 graduate of Gladstone High School, where he placed second in state collegiate wrestling as a junior and won an individual title as a senior.

But Gladstone has had only one individual win a state title since Hess. Dominic Frederickson was a state collegiate champion in 1996 and in 1997.

Gladstone’s team placed third at state Hess’ senior year, but that was the last Gladstone wrestling team to trophy at state.

After graduating from Gladstone, Hess coached the high school freshmen team for one year and Gladstone’s kid wrestling program for two years. He then went to Clackamas, where he coached in the Clackamas kid program for seven years. A lifetime resident of Gladstone, Hess says he returned to revive the youth program in Gladstone “because of my son.”

“My son Leland was four, and I wanted to get [the youth wrestling program] started for him,” Hess said. “He’s the reason.”

Hess added, “I was born and raised in Gladstone, we live in Gladstone, and I always wanted to come back and be head coach [at Gladstone].”

Hess said of his success generating the large turnout for Gladstone’s kids program: “With the younger ones, we try to put less pressure on. We give them instruction in the basics, but we also have fun, playing games and doing other fun things. Still, you tell them up front that it’s going to be hard work, because that’s what wrestling is....

“In wrestling you learn that, just like in life, if you want to accomplish something, you have to work hard for it. And in wrestling, just like in life, it isn’t always fair. But if you keep working hard, even with disappointment, you’ll get there.”

Hess says he is hopeful that he can spread his passion for the sport of wrestling to more athletes at Gladstone, and as the popularity of the sport continues to grow, Gladstone will once again become a state wrestling powerhouse.

Asked why he coaches, Hess said, “Because I love wrestling. I enjoy the relationships you build, and I like to see the kids grow, and become successful.”

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