The late Mike Hess of Edmonds, Wash., who passed away in May, was named USA Wrestling's FILA Junior/University Leader of the Year. The award recognized achievement and contributions in USA Wrestling's FILA Junior and University age-group level programs and activities.
Hess was involved in wrestling at all its levels. He was nationally recognized as a referee, coach and leader for many years. He died in Las Vegas, Nev. on May 9, after becoming ill while attending the U.S. National Wrestling Championships as an official.
He graduated from the University of Washington in Seattle in 1965 and was a letter winner in wrestling. He began his teaching career in Edmonds, Wash. the same year and became the head wrestling coach at Edmonds High School in 1968. He coached and taught for 34 years at Edmonds High and then Edmonds-Woodway High.
During his coaching tenure, he coached several state champions and several highly ranked teams. He served a four year term as President of the Washington Wrestling Coaches Association and was active with the State Athletic Association. He was instrumental in helping wrestling grow at the high school level throughout the state of Washington.
In the early 1970's, Hess began to promote freestyle wrestling, becoming an international referee and helping found the Washington Wrestling Federation. His efforts helped develop a strong program in the Northwest. Mike attained a USA Category 1E and a FILA Category 1 while officiating at every level of competition. Within the Washington Federation, Mike served as Cultural Exchange Director and organized many trips for Washington wrestlers to foreign countries like Japan and Russia. In 1990, he served as Competition Director for Wrestling at the Seattle Goodwill Games, one of the most successful international wrestling events ever held in the United States. In 1996 Mike served as the Director of Staging for wrestling at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. He was the man who sent the athletes to the mats and kept a smooth flow throughout the event.
He and former University of Washington wrestling coach Jim Smith co-chaired a committee of wrestling enthusiasts who are pushing to have the sport reinstated at Washington and Washington State.
Hess said that his greatest achievement was not the state champions but the graduates his teams produced. His reward for coaching was watching the success of the kids after high school as they became leaders in the community.