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Postcard from the Past - A Wrestling Instinct

Written by Dick Perue

Cokeville’s James Teichert (a 145 pound grappler) is definitely elite after getting a late takedown to beat Moorcroft’s Tate Ellison 3-1 and win his fourth title,” the Casper Star-Tribune reported on March 1. 

It continued, he “became only the 15th Wyoming wrestler ever to win four individual state titles.”

Coincidentally, Teichert was present at a wrestling tournament in Saratoga, when a plaque was dedicated honoring Wyoming’s first four-time state champion wrestler, Dave Edington.

“After his win Dave was hailed as ‘the best.’ And it’s no wonder. Dave is strong, fast and smart – a combination rarely found in a high school wrestler. He has what you call a wrestling instinct.” 

So claims a March 14, 1960 article in The Saratoga Sun after Edington was crowned Wyoming's first, the nation’s second and Saratoga’s only four-time state champion.

A feature in the Sept. 10, 2014 issue of The Saratoga Sun noted, “If Edington was not born to be a wrestler, he was certainly bred to be one.”

He was from a family where everyone was expected to work, like his father, who ranched, baled hay, built fence and followed construction in the Upper North Platte River Valley. The creed was if you didn’t work hard or put everything into what you were doing, you got left behind. Growing up he had to live by one simple rule, “It was either toughen up or get the crap kicked out of you.”

And he had his hands full. His cousins, Ron and Norm Perue, were both two-time state mat champions on the newly-formed Saratoga Panther wrestling squad, plus many of his other cousins and friends wrestled, as well.

His mat career began in the sixth grade on the living room floor of his cousins’ house, trying to figure out the sport. By the time he was in eighth grade, Edington’s athletic ability caught the attention of Saratoga High School wrestling coach Dale Federer, who invited him to practice with the team. As a freshman he knew the sport and was ready to join the team.

Dave went undefeated and won the 120 pounds crown in 1957, helping the Panthers to the first ever team state championship in any sport. Better yet, Wyoming athletics did not have classifications in wrestling until 1963 – after Edington graduated. Making any champion truly the best in the state.

Edington went undefeated throughout his Wyoming high school career – one of two wrestlers in Wyoming’s history to do so. He is also the only four-time champion to win in all classifications.

As with many accomplishments in high school, success carried over into later life. Wrestling gave Edington countless awards, an education and a career. But most important, it gave him a wrestling instinct – the drive to succeed and the expectation to be the best. That desire carried over into a career of teaching and coaching.

His many accomplishments over the past 50 years include teaching industrial arts and coaching wrestling for 45 years at Ronan, Mont. He retired last fall.

He coached eight state championship mat teams and 32 individual Montana state champions. He was named Montana Wrestling Coach of the Year seven times and was runner-up for National High School Association Wrestling Coach of the Year twice.

Edington served on the coaching staff of junior national wrestling teams which traveled to Soviet Union, Turkey and Iran and was a coaching staff member for the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal and an administration staff member for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Edington was instrumental in establishing youth wrestling programs, first in Montana, then across the country.

After founding one of the first youth wrestling tournaments in Montana, Edington remarked that he “wanted to help grow the sport that grew him.”