'Almquist will never retire from being a coach'

EDITOR'S NOTE: Gary Almquist retired as head wrestling coach at Corona del Mar High after 17 years last month.

He had previous coaching stints at Sierra High in Colorado Springs and Woodbridge in Irvine. He coached 23 individual league champions, 12 CIF section placers, one CIF section champion and one league championship team in 1999, according to a CdM release. He will remain as a teacher and activities director at the school, where he is known for his lunchtime whiffle-ball tournaments.

"Our wrestling program's loss is the rest of the school's gain as Gary will now be able to spend more time devoted to ASB and school activities and, hopefully, even be able to help out with athletics in general," CdM Athletic Director Don Grable said in an email. "We won't let him get lazy around here."

Corona del Mar is seeking a head wrestling coach. Interested applicants should send a letter of interest, resume, and up to three letters of recommendation to Grable at dgrable@nmusd.us. The deadline for the application materials is Friday. For any questions contact Grable.

The following is a letter from Almquist's daughter, Megan Tait.

The breaking story [last month] came down when we got the news that Coach [Gary] Almquist, the varsity wrestling coach at Corona del Mar High School, announced his retirement from coaching.

He announced [it] to his boys as well as the board that it is time to retire and thus ending an era.

Coach Almquist has not only coached wrestling for over 20 years, but has been wrestling himself for over 40 years despite 10 surgeries that would have had most retiring a decade ago. It is through coaches like these we see a true passion and respect for not only the sport, but for the kids' lives he has touched along the way.

Coach Almquist is still highly involved at Corona del Mar, running [the Associated Student Body], and will remain a respected member of the teaching staff.

It wasn't difficult to get an understanding of the role Coach Almquist played at CdM and how he affected not only the kids, but the parents as well.

Sally Starnes said to Coach Almquist, "You touched my boys' lives. You made a difference in so many positive ways. The depth of your character and your influence continues through the lives of all those who knew you as a coach, a friend, a teacher and a man of honor. Thanks, Coach, for remaining an important part of their lives."

We also had several students, past and present, step forward and give us their thoughts on Coach Almquist:

"Best wrestling coach I have ever had," says Tommy Folks.

"I never thought I'd see the day. Thank you for your coaching and life lessons. I'm assuming the prerequisites for whoever's taking over include having every Neil Diamond song memorized, knowing what's inside and outside of the yellow room, and of course, knowing exactly how much a hen weighs," says Chad Caraway.

"Proud to be apart of the Almquist wrestling legacy. Your coaching extended past the mat and is something I still carry with me as an adult. Cheers to a great career," says Sullivan Shores.

As Almquist's daughter I could not be more proud to call him my Dad. I attended CdM and was proud to walk the halls knowing I was "Almquist's daughter." He may be retiring from coaching wrestling, but he will always be a coach at heart. He will continue to coach his ASB kids as well as those who are involved in whiffle ball, which pretty much includes the entire high school and junior high.

It was a sad day in [CdM] wrestling history when he retired, but there is one thing we know for sure: Coach Almquist will never retire from being a coach.

He has touched so many lives over the years and that will never stop. He has a God-given gift to insert himself into the lives of those around him and effect a change for the best. He will never stop giving his all to those around him and he certainly will remain well loved and highly respected. His family could not be more proud of the man that he is and the coach that he will always be.

— Megan Tait

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