IMBLER — A national award is on the way for one of the area’s high school coaches, while several other Union County individuals will receive state recognition.
The Oregon Athletic Coaches Association (OACA) is set to honor Imbler wrestling coach Doug Hislop as the National Federation of State High School Associations national wrestling coach of the year.
The ceremony will take place at Eastern Oregon University at 5 p.m. Sunday, June 6, in the David E. Gilbert Center.
“He’s not only deserving, but he was chosen as the top wrestling coach in the entire nation, which is quite the achievement,” said OACA Executive Director Rob Younger.
Hislop is being honored as a NFHS National Coach of the Year alongside Anne Ellett of Centennial High School. The national award is given to one coach in each sport across the entire nation, slating Hislop as the top boys wrestling coach in the country.
Hislop was a long-time assistant coach at La Grande before taking over in Imbler in 2007. The 2020-21 season is Hislop’s 50th season coaching wrestling.
Four Panthers have won individual state championships during his time at Imbler, but for Hislop, coaching goes beyond just success on the mat.
“My greatest success story is helping kids make decisions about what they want to do with their life,” he said.
Alongside the successful run at Imbler has been assistant coach Ron Osterloh, whom Hislop said is more than an assistant coach to the program. The duo have been coaching together since Hislop convinced Osterloh to come out of retirement following a successful coaching career at Enterprise.
“We’ve got some good athletes out here, great family support and an excellent school,” Hislop said. “It’s just a nice place to work.”
The Imbler athletics department will have another coach receiving an award at the ceremony. Volleyball coach Jennifer Teeter is set to be awarded the Rob Younger Power of Influence Award. The OACA gives this award to a coach or athletic director who emphasizes the development of strong character traits among student-athletes.
“It makes me feel very proud and honored to be able to work with these coaches,” Imbler Athletic Director Mike Mills said.
La Grande School Board member and sports announcer Merle Comfort will be honored with the OACA Community Service Award, which is given to a community member who has positively contributed to Oregon high school sports.
In addition to his dedication to sports in the community, Comfort has been an instrumental part of the La Grande School Board. He was honored as the State School Board Member of the Year in 2019.
Powder Valley superintendent Lance Dixon is set to receive the Marv Heater Distinguished Service Award. The OACA bestows this award to an individual who is not a current coach or athletic director but has influenced athletics, the community, schools and individuals.
In addition to the awards, Powder Valley student Hunter Lind is one of eight recipients of the OACA 2021 scholarship. The OACA annually awards eight $1,000 scholarships to graduating high school seniors. The organization has been passing out this scholarship since 1986 and has provided more than $250,000 to graduating student-athletes since then.