Quadriplegic coach leads Sandy High to state tournament
PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - Members of the Sandy High School boys wrestling team are no strangers to the big stage, hitting the mat at the Oregon State Championships this weekend.
The boys are excited to be back but they wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for their head coach.
Earlier this month they took home first place in the Mt. Hood Tournament which punched their ticket to the state championships, but the icing on the cake was head coach Larry Topliff taking home the districts honor for coach of the year
“I’m more excited about our team goals and how the team is doing and just seeing the kids develop more than anything else,” Topliff says.
Head coach Larry Topliff is taking 13 Sandy wrestlers to state this year.
“All season long we’re just talking about ‘team, team, team,’ but now we’re looking at what can each person accomplish individually,” Topliff says.
Topliff has coached for many years, inspiring others along the way.
“Seeing the team coming together as a family basically has been really exciting. The whole year has been an incredible blessing just a fantastic group of kids.”
But Topliff has had quite the journey himself. In 1985 he was involved in a car accident on the way to a wrestling tournament. His van hit ice and went off an embankment, rolling half a dozen times, leaving two of his teammates dead and him in a wheelchair as a paralyzed quadriplegic.
“I don’t think I would’ve survived the accident had it not been for my involvement in the sport and certainly I wouldn’t have had as good of a life sentence had it not been for the lessons I learned on the mat.”
Now, Topliff has been part of the wrestling world for more than 30 years and believes it’s all about the kids.
“My coaches gave to me so I have an opportunity to do the same thing.”
But Topliff wasn’t supposed to coach this year.
“Our program was on the rise, we wanted to make sure that our direction didn’t go off the rails.”
So, he stepped in and this year, Topliff was awarded the district’s coach of the year and Topliff humbly accepts his award.
“I’ve coached for a lot of years. We’ve had hardware in the past and all those things are great but it’s the life lessons that really matter.”
And couldn’t have done it without the support and a little grit.
“God has been good he has blessed me with a wife and three kids now and the opportunity to be involved in the wrestling program at Sandy so it’s been a good time.”
The Pioneers have the day off today and but they will wrestle for that title Saturday and Sunday.
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