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|Les Gutches promoted to Associate Executive Director for Programs and Strategy for USA Wrestling|
By Gary Abbott USA Wrestling
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Les Gutches has been promoted to the new position of Associate Executive Director of Programs and Strategy for USA Wrestling, the national governing body for wrestling in the United States.
Gutches joined USA Wrestling as the Director of Program Development in January 2010. In his new position, Gutches is now responsible for overall wrestling programming, alignment of departmental objectives, and strategy – specifically, within the areas of National Teams, Developmental Programs, and Membership.
Gutches, a 1997 World champion and 1996 Olympian in men’s freestyle, has a strong business background and a lifetime in wrestling as an athlete, coach and administrator.
“We are confident Les will have a tremendous impact in his new position with USA Wrestling. He is a high quality individual with strong skills and leadership abilities. It makes fundamental sense to connect our grassroots program with our elite program. This is an important step in moving USA Wrestling to the next level in key areas of our responsibility. It is great for USA Wrestling and for the sport in general,” said USA Wrestling Executive Director Rich Bender.
Gutches is excited about his new challenge and is focused on helping USA Wrestling continue to grow and improve its competitive performance at all levels.
“My wrestling career started at seven years old with a local USA Wrestling club and it ended as a member of the National Team. This broad experience within the USA Wrestling system will be a valuable resource as I approach an expanded set of responsibilities within the organization,” said Gutches. “This opportunity will allow me to make a positive impact on every athlete in the USA Wrestling system – from the first year wrestler to our Olympians. It’s critical that our grassroots, developmental, and National Team programs are working together to ensure that all of our wrestlers reach their full athletic and human potential.”
Under Gutches’ direction during the last three years, USA Wrestling’s State Services department delivered a high level of support to state organizations, which responded by providing quality opportunities to the membership. Gutches’ team developed several creative programs aimed at recruitment and retention of youth wrestlers. USA Wrestling membership has grown during his tenure, with new records for membership in Athletes, Coaches, Event Sanctions, and Club Charters.
Gutches becomes USA Wrestling’s second Associate Executive Director, joining Associate Executive Director for Administration Dwaine Cooper at this level of Senior management.
Gutches came to USA Wrestling after serving as four years as a commercial lender and credit analyst for Citizens Bank, Inc. in Corvallis.
He received a Masters of Business Administration from the Oregon State University's College of Business in 2006, where he was a member of the Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society. He was also a three-time NCAA First-Team Academic All-American as an undergraduate.
Gutches served eight years as an assistant wrestling coach at Oregon State, helping build the Beavers into one of the nation's top programs. During his tenure at OSU, Gutches helped coach five athletes to NCAA All-American honors.
As an athlete, Gutches grew up within the USA Wrestling system, competing on the local, state and national level for many years in Oregon. He was the first athlete to win USA Wrestling national titles in all five existing age group levels at the time - Cadet, Junior, Espoir, University and Senior. Gutches competed in the World Championships on four age-group levels, as well. He won a Cadet World silver medal in 1989 and an Espoir World bronze medal in 1993. Gutches won three state high school titles at South Medford High School.
Gutches had a remarkable career at Oregon State, winning NCAA titles in 1995 and 1996, and placing fifth in the 1994 NCAA Championships. He received the Dan Hodge Trophy as the nation's top collegiate wrestler in 1996. After his senior year in college, Gutches won both the U.S. Nationals and Olympic Team Trials to make the 1996 U.S. Olympic Team. He placed seventh in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Ga.
He became one of the best U.S. freestyle athletes of his era. His top achievement was winning the gold medal at the 1997 World Freestyle Wrestling Championships in Krasnoyarsk, Russia at 85 kg/187.25 pounds. He added a World bronze medal in 1999 at the same weight.
Gutches won all of the major events on the international circuit, including 1999 World Cup, the 1999 Pan American Games and the 1998 Goodwill Games. He also captured five straight U.S. Nationals titles.
Gutches was inducted as a Distinguished Member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2009, and was a James E. Sullivan Award finalist in 1997. He was the 1997 Amateur Wrestling News Man of the Year, as well as Freestyle Wrestler of the Year for USA Wrestling and the U.S. Olympic Committee.
He and his wife Jennifer have two young children, Lexi and Logan.
“I see this move as positive for all constituents in the USA Wrestling family. Our youth wrestlers and coaches will have an advocate who is dedicated to building the sport at the grassroots level. Our elite and developmental programs will gain a new member to the team who is passionate about making USA Wrestling the world’s most dominant team. I look forward to continuing this work with our grassroots leadership, and I’m excited to provide an added resource to our National Teams programs,” said Gutches.