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Imbler wrestling coach Doug Hislop stands with Panther grappler Garrett Burns just before the state championship competition on Feb. 29, 2020. Burns took the championship, and Hislop was recently named coach of the year by the Oregon Coaches Association.

IMBLER — It’s been a good month for grapplers in the Grande Ronde Valley.

Imbler High School wrestling coach Doug Hislop has coached in Union County for half a century, and as he closes out his stellar career, the Oregon Coaches Association honored him this week as Coach of the Year.

“With all the great coaches out there, hey, they must not have been looking very far through their list. My goodness,” Hislop said.

Hislop coached the La Grande Tigers for more than three decades before retiring as La Grande’s superintendent and stepping back from the mat for the Tigers. Hislop kept busy, though, and to this day he is an accredited wrestling official who sits on the board of Eastern Oregon University’s wrestling program, where a new head coach was recently named.

“If we get a season in this year, it’ll be 50 years,” Hislop said.

In 13 years leading Panther wrestling, Hislop has led three Imbler boys to state championship victories. The way he sees it, though, that’s only a footnote to his success.

“It depends on how you measure success. Do you measure success because you were Nick Saban and you got paid millions of dollars a year, or because you were Mike Bellotti and you had some success and wins and losses, but you treated your kids and the individuals you worked with phenomenally?”

Hislop, reflecting on his half-century career, said his greatest successes were helping students graduate. He recalled a time during his tenure as Imbler’s superintendent when the school achieved a 100% graduation rate, calling that a significant achievement.

“Your parents didn’t send you to school to be there for 12 years, they sent you to school to get an education and graduate. That’s our job as educators, to get that done. I think it’s my job as a coach, I think it’s my job if I were the bus driver or the custodian or whatever else,” Hislop said.

Not one to hold back a good story, Hislop shared several tales of the youths he pushed to graduation over the years. He said he tried to teach them to be good family members, good students and then good wrestlers — in that order.

The influence a coach can have on a child was far from lost on Hislop, who credited his high school wrestling coach with convincing him to go to college. College led him to La Grande, where his now-storied career as a coach, teacher and mentor began.

While the Oregon Coaches Association chose to recognize Hislop’s remarkable coaching career, he was quick to recognize others. Chief among them was his wife, Patty Hislop, whom he praised for her tolerance of him and the love she’d shown for his wrestlers.

“The most important person that has helped me, my supporter, in making me a coach,” he said, “is Patty Hislop.”

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Newest reporter with the La Grande Observer and Union County native. Coverage includes COVID-19, news stories, sports, business and community issues. If you've got a news tip, send it to news@lagrandeobserver.com

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