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Bill Hickey — 1958-69 Head Coach; California and National Wrestling Hall of Fames.
Dave Fickel — 1960-61 MVP; UCD Conference Champ; top senior athlete for UC system; 4-time Far West Conference Champ.
Steve Niles — 1962-63 MVP; State Champ at SCC; wrestled at Fresno State; 125-pound Best-of-the-Best.
Rod Lung McKensie — 1963-64 MVP.
Alex Docherty — 1964-65 and 1966-67 MVP; 103-pound Best-of-the-Best.
Casey Oliver — 1966 League Champ; Most Inspirational Award named in his honor.
“Once a Cougar — Always a Cougar” was a fitting motto as El Dorado High wrestling held its annual banquet Saturday immediately after hosting the Sierra Valley Conference Tournament.
Set at the Cold Springs Golf and Country Club, the team handed out letters and patches to current wrestlers before acknowledging its past — all the way back to its first-ever coach and the program’s founder, Bill Hickey, who along with five alumni were inducted onto the Cougars’ Legacy Wall.
Hickey, now residing in Grants Pass, Oregon, was the guest of honor and is also considered the founder of high school wrestling in the greater Sacramento area — a time when El Camino, Elk Grove, Roseville, Nevada Union, San Juan and La Sierra to name a few also started programs. At El Dorado, Hickey coached and taught 11 years and then another 20-plus years at Sacramento City College.
Hickey highlighted an evening that began with a pasta dinner and ended with introductions and short speeches from former wrestlers dating back to the Hickey era. The banquet was MC’d by Cougar assistant coach Dave Pimentel who successfully melded past with present.
Fittingly, when it came time to speak, Hickey, once a coach — always a coach, was quick to dispense wrestling tips to guarantee success and challenged his former wrestlers to a “weigh-in in 30 minutes.”
The event brought out wrestling alumni from each decade from the 1950s forward. Hickey’s first four-year wrestler, Dave Fickle, a Legacy Wall selectee who went on to success for UC Davis, was in attendance as well as the two others slated for the wall, Steve Niles and Ron Lung McKensie. Two others inducted, Casey Oliver and Alex Docherty, are deceased but had representatives attend. El Dorado alumni Frank Peterson spoke on Docherty’s behalf.
Hickey, Fickel, Niles and others attended the wrestling action earlier in the day. As he sat in the bleachers with an eye on three mats of action, Hickey recalled how today’s location of the weight room “used to be the wrestling room and today’s wrestling room used to be a parking lot.” He also noted that the program’s first location was “on a stage” in the girl’s gym.
At El Dorado, Hickey oversaw a program that began with 20-30 kids or “whoever was the strongest and toughest,” to 90 kids and full varsity, JV and freshman teams when he left. He takes pride in the success those team had.
“We won over 60 percent of our dual meets and numerous league championships,” said Hickey who also developed strong feeder programs into the school.
“The program was set,” he added.
Earlier, Cougar senior John Kunkle was named the team’s MVP; senior Alex Ollar received the Coaches’ Award; and Dan Carey named the program’s Most Improved Wrestler.
The El Dorado program also has a Wall of Honor it began in 2010. Featured are Dave Henning, Jordan Williams, Ken Flickinger, Dave Brumley, Trent Williams and Kendall McCune.