For 21 years, Hermiston High School knew its wrestling program was in good hands with Curt Berger.
When he stepped down in March, Berger made sure the program would continue to flourish, backing the hiring of former Olympian Shaun Williams.
“I’m pretty excited about it,” Williams said. “When Curt knew he would retire, he approached me in December and asked if I would be interested. We have been in contact since.”
The Hermiston school board approved Williams’ hiring Monday.
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“Curt is like the John Wooden of wrestling in this region,” Hermiston athletic director Mike Kay said. “We’ve known for a while Curt was stepping down and we started putting together a list of people we wanted to look at. Shaun’s name is one that rose to the top.”
Kay said the panel looked to Berger for input on hiring his replacement.
“Curt is such a class act, it would be foolish for me not to use his knowledge and expertise,” Kay said. “Curt spoke highly of Shaun and his abilities. When you visit with him, you can tell he has passion and a desire to pass that onto the kids.”
Williams, 35, will finish the school year in Moses Lake, where he works with special needs students.
“I love my teaching job,” Williams said. “We have about 18 days left, then I will start looking for a place in Hermiston. I know I have big shoes to fill, but Curt isn’t going to be too far away. He will help when and if I need him.”
Berger stepped down after 21 years at the helm of the one of the top programs in the Northwest.
Under Berger, the Bulldogs won seven district titles and six state team titles — five in a row until they finished third this year. He coached 111 state placers and 20 state champions who accounted for 33 titles.
Joey Delgado, who will graduate this spring, was a four-time state champ under Berger. Ben Jorgensen (2007-09) and Curt’s son, Curtis Berger, (2009-11) were three-time state champs.
Williams’ résumé is nearly as impressive.
Originally from Pretoria, South Africa, Williams placed 11th at the 2003 World Championships, and participated in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, for South Africa, and is a former national champion at North Idaho College (1999).
He was an assistant coach at NIC and Central Valley High School in Spokane before going to Arlington as the head coach in 2008. He was an assistant at Moses Lake in 2011-12.