Along the way they coached individual and team state champions, many more individual and team conference champions, and together they helped make Snohomish County a hotbed of high school wrestling in Washington.
For their many accomplishments -- too many, in fact, to cite here -- Kevin Corbett and Kevin Judkins will be inducted this weekend into the Washington State Wrestling Coaches Association (WSWCA) Hall of Fame.
Truly deserving, according to the WSWCA. Truly humbling, say Corbett and Judkins.
"All those guys (currently) in the Hall of Fame, those are the guys we looked up to," Corbett said. "So it's an honor to be among those men that we really respected and admired."
"I look at that list and I don't know if I belong with them," Judkins said. "(Some) were my role models, my mentors. ... Years from now I'll probably look back and think, 'Yeah, maybe I did something.' But it's a humbling experience."
The funny thing is, the two men grew up only a few miles and a few years apart. Corbett's family lived in Edmonds and Lynnwood, and he graduated from Meadowdale High School in 1977. Judkins lived on the other side of Edmonds and attended Woodway High School, graduating in 1979.
Adding to the irony, they wrestled for twin brothers Bruce (Meadowdale) and Bryce Cook (Woodway), two of the state's high school wrestling coaching legends and both previous WSWCA Hall of Fame inductees.
Corbett began coaching in 1980 and had head coaching stints at Blanchet (1986-88), Everett (1989-96) and Inglemoor (2006-11). Judkins started in 1982, was the head coach at Lynnwood (1987-2002) and Snohomish (2002-2008), and is currently the head coach at Valley View Middle School in Snohomish.
Though both men won many matches, their Hall of Fame credentials go "beyond wins and losses," Judkins said. "(The WSWCA) takes this seriously, and to get inducted you have to have done something right. You look at those coaches (already in the Hall of Fame), and they made an impact on the sport and they also made an impact on a lot of kids.
"I'm hoping we made (a similar) impact on the sport," he said, speaking for himself and Corbett.
Over their long coaching careers, certain moments stand out. Like the time Corbett opened a letter from a former Everett High School wrestler, now an adult. The man never wrestled a varsity match. Moreover, he never won a JV match or any of his other bouts, and was once even pinned by a girl.
But he stuck with wrestling, finished high school and went on with his education. Years later, he wrote to thank Corbett for the valuable lessons he learned from the sport. He said in his letter, "The things I learned from wrestling are the things that I kept playing in my head as I was going through medical school."
He signed his name: Dr. Josh Kern.
For Judkins, some of the most rewarding moments concern "the kids who you're not sure they're ever going to make varsity, and they end up making it to the state tournament, and maybe they win a match at state. Or they sneak in for a seventh or an eighth place, and they're on cloud nine."
"To see that payday for them, that's the greatest thing about being a coach," Corbett agreed. "To help kids achieve their goals, or exceed their goals."
Though Corbett is already retired from coaching and Judkins expects to retire after this year, both passionate about the future of high school wrestling in Washington. Both hope to see wrestling return at the state's four-year schools.
Beyond giving kids the chance to wrestle after high school, in-state college programs would help assure the state has top coaches and officials in the coming years.
"We're really struggling to get quality coaches at the high school and middle school level," Judkins pointed out. "Our good wrestlers are going out of state (to wrestle in college) and they're staying out of state. So to save the sport, we need to do something."
Wrestling is still very popular in Washington, he said, "but if coaches sit back it can quickly die. It's really hard to build a wrestling program, but it's really easy to destroy one. And if participation drops, it's really hard to build it back up. It's still healthy, but we need coaches to be protecting it."
The reason is to allow future kids to benefit from the same experiences that helped shape Corbett and Judkins.
"Everything good in my life has come from wrestling," Corbett said.
"Wrestling did wonders for me," Judkins added. "It made me the person I am."
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