WRESTLING: Pasco's Bodnar to be inducted into hall of fame

Tri-City HeraldOctober 26, 2012 

Bob Bodnar set the bar high for the Pasco High School wrestling program in his 18 seasons as the Bulldogs’ head coach.

Three Big Nine Conference coach of the year awards, four Big Nine championships and 65 state placers later, the retired physical education, science and Spanish teacher will be honored today by the Washington State Wrestling Coaches Association for his longtime dedication to the sport.

Bodnar will be inducted into the WSWCA Hall of Fame as part of a five-member coaching class that includes Kevin Corbett (Everett High School, Inglemoor HS); Joey Johnson (Port Townsend HS); Kevin Judkins (Lynwood HS, Snohomish HS) and Manny Ybarra (Quincy HS).

The ceremony will begin at 6 p.m. at the Red Lion Hotel in Pasco. Limited space is available.

Bodnar, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, served two tours of duty during the Vietnam War before beginning a distinguished coaching and teaching career that influenced countless wrestlers and students on and off the mat.

“He’s worked most of his life to receive an honor like this. I’m definitely proud of him. He’s a guy who always believed in working hard and doing the right things,” said his son Chad, who wrestled under him at Pasco and now coaches men’s and women’s soccer at Walla Walla Community College. “Besides the wins and losses, he just ran such a successful program and impacted a lot of people in the community.”

The WSWCA Hall of Fame inducted its first class in 1984 and now has 121 members, including another former Pasco coach, Gary Hackney, whom Bodnar succeeded in 1990.

Bill Conrad, who coached at Kennewick from 1962-2001, was inducted in 2001.

Bodnar, who recently has been fighting the physical affects of rheumatoid arthritis, said it wasn’t an easy summer but the news of his induction was a nice pick-me-up.

“I’m feeling pretty bright right now. I just need to put some weight on,” said Bodnar, who lost nearly 60 pounds in the last few months. “I just about broke down here the last couple of weeks. I felt like I wasn’t contributing a whole lot to people. I had to really go back and think.”

The 66-year-old Eastern Washington University graduate doesn’t have to think too hard.

He began his coaching career at Kootenai High School in Harrison, Idaho, coaching football and going 15-5 in two seasons as wrestling coach. In 1977, Bodnar moved to Pasco and coached football and baseball at McLaughlin Middle School, also guiding the wrestling team to a 120-7 record over 13 seasons before taking over for Hackney at Pasco High School.

Bodnar led the Bulldogs to a 205-22 dual-meet record in 18 seasons. His best season was 2007, when Pasco won the CBBN and Eastern Regional championship, and then finished second at the 4A state tournament.

Bodnar created and managed the Best of the West dual-meet tournament in 1999, an annual event that continues to thrive in Pasco.

When his son Chad coached the Pasco boys soccer team, he would have his father address them, giving inspirational messages as well as sound competitive advice that Chad still carries with him to this day.

“He always talked about never quitting and always finishing what you started,” his son said. “He stressed the importance of working harder than the guy across from you. I still use that today when I teach my kids. If you want to work and do the extra things, those things are going to pay off.”

Even today, Bodnar remains a big influence in the local wrestling scene even after his retirement.

Chiawana head wrestling coach Jack Anderson, who submitted the nomination for Bodnar’s Hall-of-Fame bid, asked his former coach to create a conditioning program for Riverhawks wrestlers.

Bodnar came up with the Riverhawks Elite, a demanding training regimen that has helped Chiawana’s wrestling program shoot to the top of the ranks.

He even published a booklet on leadership and wrestling, entitled “On Team Leadership” and has written items for other publications as well.

It’s one of the many ways Bodnar continues to give to the sport he has loved for so long.

“Forty-some years of coaching, and I’m still doing it,” he said. “It makes me feel good because I feel like this is what I was put on this earth to do.”

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