Sunday, April 21, 2024

THE FRONT ROW WITH JASON ELLIOTT: Giving guys back what they earned

| December 19, 2020 1:20 AM

As the leader in national wrestling championships — 14 — and individual champions — 54 — in the National Junior College Athletic Association, when the idea came for North Idaho College to re-do its trophy case, it could be a chore.

There’s plenty of championship trophies — and even with 11 runner-up finishes — it could take a while.

“When Bobby (Lee, NIC's athletic director) came on board, he wanted to rearrange the trophy case in the gym,” North Idaho College head athletic trainer Randy Boswell said.

Most of those who won individual national titles had received their rings, but NIC had 13 rings left over from those who had not been back to receive them.

"So I tried to locate some of these guys," Boswell said. "I don’t have a lot of investigative skills, but felt like I needed to do this for those guys.”

So Boswell, along with former NIC head coaches John Owen and Pat Whitcomb, and former assistant Keri Stanley, got to work.

IN HIS search, Boswell, who has been at NIC for 28 years, discovered that three of those wrestlers have since passed away. For others, it sparked a lot of memories.

“For those that have since passed, we wanted to make sure to get them to their family members,” Boswell said. “Some of them, they’d talk about NIC, and how being here changed their lives. It was great to hear some of those stories from some of them.”

Drew Jackson won a national title in 1987 at 167 pounds, but had lost all of his mementos from his wrestling days in a house fire.

“I wrestled from junior high through high school to college as well,” said Jackson, who lives in Huntington Station, N.Y. “All of my trophies, plaques, they’re gone. This ring is the only thing I’ve got from all my years of wrestling now. My entire room at home was filled with trophies. Having this ring, it’s very special to me.”

“When I contacted him, he said it made his life,” Boswell said. “When I talked to him, he started to name off different guys from that team and I was able to reconnect them.”

Jackson did not visit NIC before committing to the Cardinals.

“I just talked to John (Owen) and came there,” Jackson said. “That team was very special and very diverse. We had guys from Chicago, New York and Albuquerque. At first, it was kind of hard for us all to get along, but we pulled it together midway through the season. By the end of the year, we were national champions.”

A few years ago, while searching for a fellow teammate — Marty Boday, who won a national title in 1987 along with Whitcomb and Sam Parker — Jackson made another discovery.

“I was looking up Marty and found something for the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum in Stillwater, Okla.,” Jackson said. “I saw Marty’s name, and thought that he worked there. When I called, they said he wasn’t there, but his name was on the wall there. When they asked my name, so was I. I didn’t even realize I was in the Hall of Fame.”

THE RINGS were something that Whitcomb — who won individual titles in 1986 and 1987, as well as four team titles as coach — fundraised for starting in 2013. and was able to get for the individual national championships, as well as team champions while Whitcomb was coach. Les Hogan coached NIC to back-to-back titles in 1974 and 1975. Owen led the Cardinals to eight national championships.

“Pat was the guy that went out and got the rings for these guys,” Boswell said. “I’m just helping finish what he started. When you think of the history of NIC wrestling, you’ve got to bring John (Owen) and Bill (Pecha) into it. When you see those men, they’ve got an affection for this program.”

“When we had this idea, Randy and John really took the ball and ran with it,” said Lee, the NIC AD. “Both Keri (a 2003 national champion and former assistant coach) and Pat were also very helpful and outstanding to work with. It was great that they were able to connect with those guys and get them what they’d earned back.”

Once Boswell finally reached some of the wrestlers, it felt like a reunion of sorts.

“Some of the guys, I found their wives on Facebook and would tell them,” Boswell said. “They’d tell me they wanted it to be a surprise. Some others would ask if we’d heard from other guys and wanted to reconnect after being away for so long.”

Others just didn’t respond initially because of another reason.

“If you contact someone these days, and tell them you’ve got a ring for them and are looking for their address, they also want to know if you want their bank account number as well,” Boswell said. “So I’d go on the stage with the photo of that national championship team, or with their name on the wall in the Owen Wrestling Room so that they knew it was legit.”

Darryl Peterson won his national title at 285 in 1982 after finishing third in 1981.

“I didn’t even know they’d done this,” said Peterson, who now resides in Twin Falls. “NIC was such a great place. I loved my time in the city of Coeur d’Alene. I received a great education at NIC and it prepared me to go to a Division I school. I was a high school dropout when I came to NIC, and went on to study television and film. I’m building a recording studio right now. I met so many great people there, and had a lot of great teammates.”

Peterson also went on to wrestle at Iowa State, then his career took a different turn.

“I started off wrestling in World Championship Wrestling as Maxx Payne, then went to the World Wrestling Federation as Man Mountain Rock,” Peterson added. “It was a lot of fun.”

AS THE process went on, Boswell added that what seemed like a chore early on was more of a reward that he could have imagined.

“This is a special place for them,” Boswell said. “One guy called me and he’d said he had never seen some of the photos of himself wrestling. It was very rewarding. I didn’t do it for myself, but getting to hear the stories about them and some of their memories really meant a lot to me.”

“I have a lot of fun memories of the school and the atmosphere around Coeur d’Alene,” Peterson said. “The people there were always so kind and generous. I have so many great memories of my time there and the great teammates I had. I don’t have a negative memory of Coeur d’Alene.”

Seeing the team championship photo also brought back some memories for Peterson.

“When you watch some movies, at the end you see at the end what that person is up to now,” Peterson said. “I couldn’t help but look and say, ‘wow, what an amazing tribe of guys that we had. Just the impact of being on a championship team, it’s a good feeling. I remember when we came back and the entire city was out to greet us. It was great.”

“I like to help people,” Boswell said. “By doing this, it feels like they all really appreciated our efforts.”

Jason Elliott is a sports writer for The Press. He can be reached by telephone at (208) 664-8176, Ext. 2020 or via email at Follow him on Twitter @JECdAPress.


Courtesy photo A side view of Darryl Peterson's 1982 NJCAA championship ring from his time at North Idaho College.


Courtesy photo A view of the top of Darryl Peterson's 1982 NJCAA championship ring from his time at North Idaho College.


Courtesy photo A side view of Darryl Peterson's 1982 NJCAA championship ring from his time at North Idaho College.