Sports

More than Laughary"s wrestling team New wrestling coach Creighton Laughary not new to program

By Matt Phelps' email='Matt.Phelps@mi-reporter.com

The past eight months have been monumental for Mercer Island High School English teacher Creighton Laughary. He and wife Laura Triebald had their first child in February, a girl named Micah. The new father and assistant coach had even more to celebrate in February, when the Mercer Island High School wrestling team won the second of back-to-back 3A KingCo titles. And, when long time wrestling head coach Paul Jackson decided it was time to retire, Laughary was chosen to take over the program after five years as an assistant coach. "I have been able to see him in action for several years," said Jackson. "His biggest asset is being a teacher. Coaching is teaching. He really relates to the kids." Laughary said that one of the biggest things he learned during the past two seasons is that winning a league title takes hard work and a little bit of luck.

"There are so many factors that go into it," said Laughary. "A lot of things have to go your way and we got contributions from a lot of guys that we didn't expect," he said.

"You're not always a success the first time." One of the biggest things that Laughary learned from Jackson was his patience with the athletes on the team. "Paul is a great coach and a good man," said Laughary. "He exemplifies patience and he stuck with kids that didn't have a chance in other places." Laughary knows about the highs and lows of wrestling from his own career. The new coach comes form a wrestling family and began competing in the sport when he was just 5. His dad wrestled in college and his uncle was a wrestling coach. He was not the best competitor on his Shadle Park High School team.

"I wasn't very successful in high school ,but I tried to not make the same mistake twice," said Laughary. "I know what it is like to lose and I have empathy for these kids because it is a tough sport. I don't shut out guys or give up on them. It is all about team and everyone pushing everyone else." Laughary also said that he learned a good laugh can be helpful with a rough sport like wrestling.

"Paul has a good sense of humor and it can get pretty intense," said Laughary. "It is definitely an asset in this sport." Wrestling was not Laughary's only passion in high school, as he also split time between soccer and football.

"I wasn't a real football player," joked Laughary, who was a four year letterman in soccer. "I was a kicker." Laughary came west from Spokane to attend Seattle University and graduated in 1996 with his teaching degree and a desire to get back into wrestling as a coach.

"He doesn't have some big ego to feed," said Jackson. "He is genuinely a good person." Being a coach and teacher at the same school also allows Laughary to keep track of his wrestlers in areas like weight loss and academics. "I have a better idea of when kids are having problems," said Laughary. "It is a different way to see the kids. We all thrive in different areas. Whether it is in the classroom or on the mat, I want them to have goals in mind." During his 27 years as head coach, Jackson instilled a sense of family in the program that he thinks will continue with Laughary. Many former wrestlers come back to help with current teams during winter break. "We have great parents and students here but everyone wins and everyone loses as a team," said Laughary.

Laughary will not have the same team that won those KingCo titles, but his goals are still set high. Key wrestlers like Jesse Johnson, who took third in state both years, and most of a large senior class will have moved on. "It will be tough, but we will be sowing the seeds for future success," said Laughary. "But if we work hard, it will work itself out."

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