My first contact with Provo High School came in 1986 as a BYU coaching intern, and it was with the infamous “Sweat Box” that was the wrestling room for much of the time the school was on University Avenue.
It was a room located on the upper level just west of what is now Gym 2, or the “old gym,” right above the locker room. It was very small and heated up really well, which was great for wrestlers that needed to lose a few pounds.
It couldn’t even fit a whole mat but had a long peg board on the west wall. The room also had an irregular shape and has since been converted to two smaller classrooms.
I vividly remember that getting wrestling mats in and out of that place was a huge hassle, and we usually just threw the mat from the balcony of Gym 2 bleachers, a distance close to 15 feet, where then the mats made a thunderous noise when they hit the gym floor.
Getting the mats back up after the meet was the real chore as we had to carry them up the bleachers, over a small retaining fence, and then through a narrow entryway.
I was the last head coach in the “Sweat Box” because the year I was hired as a full-time teacher/coach, the new gym and accompanying locker room, weight room and wrestling room were completed in January of 1995. Thus began a new era in Provo athletics.
I had no complaints, generally, about the new wrestling room as its size was nice, enough space for two mats — well, almost. There was an overlap area or ripple at the midway point that presented some issues.
The other issue was that the walls were barren. The wall mats came in two stages and the greens used for them didn’t match (and still don’t). Then I went to work on the banners that record our program’s history while Dyke Roskelley, a graduate of Provo in late 1980s, drew the Bulldog on the north wall that I simply adore.
It began a new era of Provo wrestling for sure, and I think the new facilities helped us build up the program in both quality and quantity of wrestlers. The successes started to come.
The 1996-97 season was significant as we set some school records for state qualifiers and placers, but the most memorable highlight was the national record we set when we shut out Timpview, 84-0. It came after another frustrating lost to the Thunderbirds on the gridiron and the wrestling team was full of football players.
I gathered them up in Coach David Mills’ football office as it was just big enough but also a bit confining, which is what I exactly wanted.
I went into a lather that might have scared even Knute Rockne. I don’t really want to go into what was said because I can’t remember the words, but the emotions were high. We won all 14 matches, 13 by pin and one by injury default.
The next year in 1998 we had three state individual state champions (Trent Beesley, Coby Jones and Scott Hofheins), which I call the highlight of my professional career. My father passed away in the spring of 1997, but I felt his presence that night guiding me as a coach.
The next year we had three finalists but all lost — that was a bit of a bummer. But over 12 years as head coach, I enjoyed my time in the wrestling program. My last season as head coach in 2006 we had a wrestler finish second in the nation, Nathaniel Holt, and had 14 state qualifiers.
I had so many dedicated wrestlers, parents and coaches, but I would be remiss not to mention my right-hand man and best friend, Darren Hirsche, who did so much for the school as a teacher and coach.
One would expect with the move to the new school that the new wrestling facility will be bigger and better. It will actually be smaller.
I have also coached baseball, football and golf over the years.
Facilities in baseball were always an issue. We have never had a baseball field on the campus of Provo High School. Timp Park wasn’t so far away to be entirely problematic, but it was demolished to make way for the new recreation center causing the program to relocate to the southwest part of Provo, nearly 3 miles away from campus.
While head coach Lance Moore and his players and parents have built a quality facility on a shoestring budget and salvaging what they could from Timp Park, I believe having a field so far away from campus has hurt the program. To me, it’s the out-of-sight, out-of-mind thing.
I think having a facility on campus will be a good thing, though the new site will need some TLC, but Coach Moore will make it happen.
Over the years being part of the football program has been a roller coaster.
In 1999, after coaching the sophomore team, I was asked to coordinate the special teams as we headed into the playoffs. I put in a trick play on the kickoff return called “Return Right, Wall Right.”
We were in a dogfight of a game versus Logan on our home field. They had just taken a 19-17 lead midway through the third quarter.
This is when I decided to call the play, and the players ran it to perfection. Scott Whitaker got the kickoff, handed it off to Dave Ashworth, who went to the house untouched behind the wall.
We won the game 24-19 and then the next one against Cyprus to go to Weber State for the semifinals. It has been the furthest Provo High has ever gone in the playoffs in nearly 30 years, and it was satisfying to make a contribution to that as a coach.
There were a lot of excruciating losses. The troubled times in Provo football are well known. But the worst thing ever was the debilitating brain injury suffered by Brad Bohrer during a JV game. It is a day as coach I will never forget, a day I never want to repeat.
The most fascinating aspect of the football program to me is the constant changing of locker areas. Each new head coach seems to switch back from the old locker room to the newer one built in 1994 or vice versa. And now the players use the old locker room but stage for games below the new stadium, which was built five years ago.
Of course, a big part of my day is spent in the classroom in D-Wing, which is notorious for its gradual sinking into the ground — causing cracks in its wall, some so large that notes could be passed between classrooms.
It has seen interesting animal infestations including bats, rats and even hornets. And the students will ever remember the pea-green carpet in most of the rooms that didn’t get replaced for decades.
Indeed, I have had a lot of great memories on the Avenue. It has been my home away from home for a quarter century.
However, I’m all for the change and grateful that the superintendent and the school board had the vision to make this happen. While facilities don’t necessarily make a school, I think there becomes a tipping point when facilities can really hinder extracurricular excellence and educational outcomes.
It’s no secret that in regards to athletics, our school has generally struggled this past decade. I can’t help think that new facilities can help our athletic programs return to a higher level of success.
A new building or field isn’t a cure-all, but it should propel things in a forward direction. It also allows the newer teachers and coaches, and this generation of students, along with their parents, a chance to create their own new legacy while still being a part of the one that came before.