Thursday , February 08, 2018 - 5:52 PM
OREM — Much of the history, state champions, trophies and accolades that adorn the walls of the Box Elder High wrestling room have been won in the past 34 years.
After this wrestling season concludes, however, that era will end.
Mike Ripplinger, the Bees’ head coach for the past 34 years, is retiring once this season concludes, he told the Standard-Examiner on Thursday — closing the book on a legendary chapter in Box Elder wrestling history and Utah high school wrestling history.
BEHS athletic director Kim Peterson confirmed Ripplinger’s coming retirement as the Bees wrestled for more of those accolades during the 6A/5A wrestling state championships at Utah Valley University.
Ripplinger, 62, said it was the right time to retire. He said he wants to give more attention to some health-related issues that could benefit from having less stress overall (stress associated with coaching a high school wrestling team).
There had been talk of his retirement the past few years, but there was a different tone to it this year that led some to believe this would be the year. So Box Elder fans and wrestlers showed their support and paid tribute to him Thursday in the UCCU Center.
They all wore purple shirts that said “Box Elder Wrestling 34” on the front and “Ripp’s Bees” on the back while also touting his six state championships, 25 region championships and 58 individual state champions.
It’s those accomplishments and more that have made the Bees a beacon of steady success for nearly three-and-a-half decades. He was recognized for his 34 years of coaching before Thursday’s finals and was greeted with a standing ovation.
“Good support from family, my wife had to be really patient, she’s just a rock-solid support,” Ripplinger said. “I’ve had great assistants, so they’ve taken quite a bit of the work. It’s a great community, a lot of good support.”
There are certain years and teams that stand out to Ripplinger: the 2011 team that scored more than 300 points and romped to the 4A championship; the three straight team titles from 1999-2001, coinciding with Jeff Newby’s first three years at BEHS where he won three of his four individual championships.
There’s also this season, where Ripplinger has coached Brock Hardy (aiming for a fourth championship) and Garrett Ricks (going for a third title) as well as having 17 freshmen on the team, which he said has been very fun.
“One year, they were kind of debating in the stands who was my best team, and that was kind of fun to watch them debate,” Ripplinger said, laughing.
Box Elder supporters weren’t the only ones wearing the shirts to pay homage to Ripplinger, who’s known as “Ripp.” His son, Viewmont head coach Brandon Ripplinger, wore the shirt, but colored Viewmont maroon, and Weber head coach Caleb Hardy, who wrestled at BEHS, wore the shirt in black.
Ripplinger said he doesn’t care for the limelight so much, so he was surprised upon seeing the purple, maroon and black shirts touting BEHS wrestling’s accomplishments.
“It took me about two minutes to figure it out though because I was just coming in,” he said, laughing. “I didn’t notice it at first, then I kind of started, ‘Hey when did we have these shirts?’ and then I started looking. Oh my heck.”
Of course, the numbers printed on the back of the t-shirts were prior to Thursday’s state championship matches, where Ricks and Hardy won state championships.
A lot has changed in the sport of wrestling since he started coaching (Ripplinger actually spent two years at Alta before the 34 at Box Elder). Back then, coaching focused a lot more on situations when a wrestler was on top, but he said it’s evolved to where wrestlers need to be stronger on their takedowns.
“Every year I’ve tried to learn new things and try to improve a takedown situation or a pinning combination. If you don’t keep trying to improve, you’re going to get left behind,” he said.
Ripplinger and his wife Tracey will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary this May. He said he plans to spend more time with family in retirement and might pick up another game to keep busy.
While Ripplinger won’t be coaching anymore at BEHS, his legacy will live on in the Bees’ wrestling room: the state champions on the big board on the wall, the multi-time state champions on the other board and the dozens of trophies lining the shelves on the other side.
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