Wrestling brought ups and downs for first four-time champ

Wrestling brought ups and downs for first four-time champ

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David Edington knows firsthand the highs and lows that come with competing in sports.

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, now 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.

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.

Contact sports reporter David Buck at (307) 266-0596 or david.buck@trib.com.

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