For years, Lake Stevens wrestling coach Brent Barnes made it known to his friends in the coaching fraternity that he did not want to be nominated for induction into the Washington State Wrestling Coaches Association (WSWCA) Hall of Fame.
His pals put up with it for a while, but this year they, along with Barnes’ son, Burke, one of two four-time state champions produced by Lake Stevens’ program — Michael Soler is the other — took matters into their own hands.
“Barnes needs to be in the Hall of Fame,” said Anders Blomgren, the head coach at Vashon Island and a close friend of the Barnes family since he, his brother Per-Lars and Brent helped coach Team Washington at the 2003 Cadet and Junior Nationals in Fargo, North Dakota. “Every year it’s been a consideration to nominate him, but Brent kept on saying he didn’t want to be nominated. And this year, Burke called me and said, ‘Now is the time. What do we need to do?’”
Barnes, 56, will join Kevin McNulty, who is in his second stint coaching at Ilwaco after stops at Sequim and White River, in the 2017 induction class that will be honored at the WSWCA Coaches Clinic at 6 p.m. on Oct. 28 at the Yakima Convention Center.
The WSWCA announced the inductees via its Facebook page on Sept. 19.
If not for his reluctance, Barnes — who will begin his 30th season as Lake Stevens’ coach in December — likely would have been enshrined 10 years ago, the earliest active coaches can be considered for induction.
Barnes’ accomplishments in his three decades at Lake Stevens are almost beyond comparison.
He has won 11 4A team championships, the most by any one coach in the history of Washington wrestling, and after his first title in 1990, the other 10 have come since 2000. Moses Lake owns the state record with 17 team championships.
He has coached 38 individual state champions — 37 boys and one girl, JoMae Alewine in 2010 — and the Vikings have had at least one state champion in each of the past 21 seasons.
Barnes has mentored two three-time state champs (Kelly Kubec, Josh Heinzer) and five two-time winners (Danny Kleven, Lester Brown, George King, Eric Soler, Cody Vigoren).
His program has produced 181 state placers, and despite a rare year out of contention last year, the Vikings will be in the running for a 12th team title at Mat Classic come February.
But for Barnes, the most satisfying part of his induction will be that his parents, Ray and Dorothy, will be on hand to share in the festivities.
Ray Barnes was inducted into the WSWCA Hall of Fame in 1986 after starting the program at Puyallup High School in 1955 and coaching there for 15 years.
“For him to still be with us at 87 years old and for him to be there with my mom, my wife and my kids … it’s going to be pretty fun,” Barnes said. “That’s the biggest part of it for me. These kind of honors are typically later in life when your parents have passed, and for them to get to enjoy it is pretty neat.”
Anders Blomgren, who has tagged along with Barnes on his European adventures to locales such as Serbia, Finland and Bosnia and Herzegovina as a coach on USA Wrestling’s Cadet and Junior World Teams, say that Barnes’ eclectic interests outside of wrestling have helped him stave off burnout and remain hungry and engaged after 30 years of success.
“While Brent is definitely a wrestling junkie, he’s also a voracious reader, creative writer, gardener, cider maker and more,” Blomgren said. “I think the fact that he has other interests helps him get a way from wrestling for a bit, then delve in with more vigor and passion.”
Barnes gave credit to his two long-time assistants — Andy Knutson and Dean Width — as well the other assistant coaches that have helped him turn Lake Stevens wrestling into a colossus.
“I’ve been with the same people since the beginning, especially Dean. None of this could have happened without him. A lot of people have their hands in this along the way,” Barnes said.
While Barnes acknowledges that he’s closer to the end of his career than he is to the beginning, he doesn’t have any immediate plans to step away from the Vikings.
“Right now, I’m just taking it one year at a time,” he said. “I’m pretty excited about this year and I really like the kids I have in this program and our potential as a team. I try to get better each year as a coach. It’s a craft and you have to work at it.”