Flathead Wrestling Coach Vasquez Resigns Amid Health Issues

Vasquez rebuilt the Braves into a state contender that placed third a year ago

By Dillon Tabish

Rich Vasquez has resigned as head coach of the Flathead High School wrestling program amid health issues.

Vasquez, who took over the storied program three years ago and rebuilt it into a state contender, informed school officials of his decision on Sept. 21. Vasquez has a seizure disorder and experienced several severe fits in recent months. After visiting a neurologist, Vasquez said he decided to reduce his workload to properly address the medical condition and take more time for himself and his family.

“It really came down to too much stress and that I needed to make some changes,” he said. “Talking with the doctor was a real eye opener. I don’t want the (team) to feel like I left them behind. I feel terrible in that way. But I need to take care of this.”

Vasquez was cited with a DUI in August but has pleaded not guilty. He denies the allegation, which he said stemmed from a seizure he experienced while traveling in a vehicle with his wife. Vasquez said his vehicle was parked on the side of the road when officers arrived. He had lost consciousness during the seizure and his lack of awareness at the time led officers to believe he had been drinking, according to Vasquez. He informed school administrators of the incident the following day.

“That situation had absolutely no bearing on my decision (to resign as wrestling coach) one way or another,” he said. “It will be set straight in court.”

Vasquez said he is confident that he will be able to sufficiently deal with the disorder. He hopes to still assist the high school program in a smaller role while continuing to lead the Kalispell Wrestling Club, a youth program he has managed for over 10 years.

Vasquez, a former two-time NAIA All-American wrestler who was born in Whitefish and raised in Columbia Falls, steps away from a rising program that placed third a year ago and will enter this season as the presumptive No. 1 ranked team. Vasquez’s son, Trae, a junior, is a nationally ranked grappler and two-time state champion, and his daughter, Tilynne, enters her freshman season as a top contender in her weight class. Vasquez took over the Flathead program in 2013, after the Braves placed 13th at the state championship meet and first-year head coach Scot Davis resigned. Vasquez led the exciting resurgence of a program that won six Class AA state championships between 2004-2010 and touted the 10th-ranked team in the nation in 2008.

“I’m honored to have coached at Flathead. I’m proud of what my staff and I did in three years, and now they’re poised to be the No. 1 team,” he said. “We’ve done some great things and I appreciate all the support from the administration, the school and the families. I love being part of the Flathead family. And I’ll still be around and help out where I can.”

A search is underway for a new head coach as the season approaches, with practices beginning in November.

“Rich has worked hard and held students to the highest standards as our wrestling coach,” Flathead Activities Director Bryce Wilson said. “He improved on the number of students participating and rebuilt a quality wrestling program. As we move forward we will work together to continue the tradition of a quality program at Flathead High School.”

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