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robin richards

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What would Robin Richards do?


I grew up in a small Oregon town that had one big team, the wrestling team.

And I wasn’t a wrestler.

After working my athletic magic to the point of no return in football and basketball and baseball, the magic was gone.

Washed up at fourteen years old.

My skills didn’t transfer from practice to games, from playing to winning.

The fast track to Scrubsville was my path.

In an attempt to recover confidence my first year in high school I searched for a new team, a new sport.

If I didn’t find one I was going to quit playing sports. It’s not easy being a quitter and I wasn’t looking forward to it.

Looking through a yearbook a few years old I started checking wins and losses of teams.

One stood out more than others.

The 1971 Hesperia reported the good news:

“Wrestlers Extend Win Streak to 65 Before Being Defeated.”

One athlete stood out.

Robin Richards with three state championships his junior year, along with a national championship, and placing second in the Junior World tournament over the summer, stood way out.

He was the nation’s outstanding wrestler in big meets.

Robin Richards, a seventeen year old boy from North Bend, Oregon, lit the world up in 1970.

But his biggest win didn’t come on the mat.

When he came back from Japan with a silver medal in world competition he was different than anyone else in the school.

He looked different.

Instead of all jeans and Converse, he mixed in striped bell bottom trousers, harness boots, and flowing shirts.

He went international in more ways than one.

Instead of coasting on his success, he refocused and got ready to do it all over again senior year.

He didn’t make it all about him when he could have.

The North Bend wrestling room could be a harsh place in those days. Older kids were more than willing to pound the heck out of younger kids just for fun.

Robin Richards used a different tactic. He helped guys get better. I was one of them.

At the time, North Bend had few black students. If a black family was assigned to the local radar station, their kids became Bulldogs.

Relations between blacks and whites didn’t have much chance to work things out with only one black student.

Imagine being the only white kid in a black school and you get the picture.

One day a few rough necks decided to talk to the only black kid in school. It didn’t go well until Robin showed up.

While he could have minded his own business and kept an eye on the college scholarship prize waiting for him, he didn’t.

Instead of walking the walk as the closest thing to a super star anyone had seen up until then, he talked the talk.

What did he say? Don’t know, but the others decided to do something else.

That moment has hung with me all my life. Here’s a guy who could have turned the other way and didn’t.

Robin could have walked right by, got into that Thunderbird, and let things slide. But he didn’t.

The example he laid down is one for everyone to follow.

When confronted by fear, be brave.

If what you hear are lies, tell the truth.

What do you do when you’re the only one who can make a difference? Make that difference.

That’s what Robin Richards did. And he kept doing it.

What’s your story?

About David Gillaspie


  1. Allen Taylor says:

    He was before my time but to me you were the one that helped me. Thank you David.

    • David Gillaspie says:

      Some of the best things I’ve learned came out of that wrestling room and the people in it.

      And Boomer, one of the best comments I’ve heard comes from you. It’s easy to trace things back to Robin for the way he took people under his wing instead of kicking the crap out of them until they quit.

      I’ve got two nephews, a freshman and sophomore, on their high school team in California learning the same steps.

      Thank you for coming in, Allen. And know how much I appreciate your posts and attitude.

  2. Mindy Richards says:

    Hey, that’s my dad! Pretty cool, thanks so much for sharing! I miss him everyday!

    • David Gillaspie says:

      Hi Mindy,

      Thanks for coming in. Too often people get busy and time passes, not for kids as much as the rest. Your dad cast a big shadow, but none bigger for the guys younger than him coming into the wrestling room.

      This isn’t stretching things at all: In the old North Bend gym basement one part of the wrestling room was elevated. As a new guy I saw it as Robin’s Room, the elevated part, and the goal of most of us was getting good enough to make it to that mat where he stayed out longer than anyone taking on all comers.

      We’d go out, take our chances, then make way for the next while he stayed out waiting. It was part conditioning, part technique, and all awesome. At the end of the day he’d show us what we needed to do to get out there and last longer. He cared about the team and the future.

      best wishes,


  3. rob brown says:

    David, Great description of a great guy!

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