The hiring of Craig Hanson to head East Valley High School’s wrestling program means that the school is gaining more than a coach.
Lakeside High School wrestling coach Scott Jones, under whom Hanson worked as an assistant for three years, said Hanson will be missed most as a teacher.
“He was part of a group that helped put together our school’s educational package,” said Jones. “Those are big shoes to fill.”
Hanson, who was Lakeside’s teacher of the year last year, gives EV a complete educational package.
He’s a special education instructor who will help further mold the school district’s program, which last year ended its long-standing affiliation with a Valley cooperative.
He’s being called upon to maintain an East Valley wrestling program that has won five of the last six Frontier League championships under two different coaches and is respected statewide.
Last year, Hanson taught at Lakeside in Nine Mile Falls but coached at Coeur d’Alene High School, which he guided to an 11th place in the Idaho state tournament. At Coeur d’Alene, Hanson’s wrestlers earned individual second-, third- and fifth-place finishes.
Hanson is excited about both aspects of his new job.
“I know Charlie Miller and what he stood for and Mark Perry’s a friend and I know a little about that also,” said Hanson. “I think I can come in and maintain some of it.”
In addition, he’s looking forward to the challenge of special education.
“EV had such a good job open for me,” he said. “Things are pretty new and they are giving us a lot of freedom to experiment, make mistakes and build the best program we can.”
After coaching three years in Montana and three more at Wapato (Wash.) High School, Hanson spent three years as Jones’s Lakeside assistant before going to Coeur d’Alene.
“I would like to say we didn’t miss a beat,” said Jones. “But when he came back to visit practices our entire tempo changed.”
Jones said initially he had another assistant coach in mind when Hanson came to Lakeside. But when a cursory interview lasted two hours, he discovered that the two were kindred souls.
“He’s probably my closest friend,” said Jones. “Our sport tends to bring out stubborn kids and he’s patient and understands the temperament of the athletes.”
East Valley’s new coach said he initially had planned to take a teaching job in Coeur d’Alene. Economics and the fact he wanted to coach in the Greater Spokane League, of which EV will be a part in two years, swayed his decision.
“Being a head coach is something I wanted to do,” he said. “I wanted to live in the Spokane area and knew good jobs would come open.”
Hanson said his coaching style will be much like at Lakeside, which is known for an aggressive, offensive attack, a keep-coming-at-you philosophy.
The Knights were young last year, half of their lineup filled with freshmen and sophomores.
“It looks to be a good program with a number of dedicated wrestlers and parents,” said Hanson. “Hopefully we will improve their technique through the years so the kids will be solid if they want to go on to college.”
Lakeside’s loss, Jones said, will be EV’s gain.
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MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: NEW COACH NO STRANGER TO TRAVEL International traveler Craig Hanson had barely unpacked from one wrestling trip when it was time to hit the road again. East Valley’s new head coach is a Junior National Wrestling director and oversees freestyle wrestling in Washington state. He recently participated in a cultural tour of Capetown, South Africa, with 10 wrestlers. Last Thursday he left for Fargo, N.D., and the Junior National tournament with another group. “Capetown was just a fantastic trip; the people were so accommodating,” he said. Although it is winter there, people took vacation time to make sure the wrestlers had a good experience. As an example, Hanson explained, Lakeside graduate Bart Orth lost his wallet and had 150 rand, the South African currency, stolen. During a lull in a match, the head official spoke to the audience in Afrikaans and within 10 minutes the people had brought 350 rand to the mat for Orth. Wrestlers competed in two tournaments, winning both, and two dual matches. They had up to 14 contests which, said Hanson, is more than usual for a cultural exchange. Because of past international sanctions due to apartheid and the fact that rugby is where South African interest lies (the country is world champion), wrestling is a minor sport in the country. “Orth lost only once, supposedly to the country’s best wrestler who was 24 to 26 years old,” said Hanson. “They’re trying to make wrestling a bigger thing and bring it into their schools.” During the stay, the Washington contingent toured around the cape, where the Indian and Atlantic oceans converge. They visited Robin Island where President Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 19 years. “We toured townships and saw different lifestyles,” said Hanson. “It is a typical big city with poverty in some areas and is extremely rich in others.” With nine tribes and 11 different spoken languages, there are still racial overtones, he continued, although affirmative action is a big word there. “With the sanctions off it appears to be a country that is about to burst,” said Hanson. “Things are happening and politics seem stable. “It’s hard to say what will happen after (Nelson) Mandela is gone, but right now everybody seems happy.” -Mike Vlahovich
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