Sanford receives lifetime achievement award

Sanford receives lifetime achievement award

By Shayne Mazur

Mark Sanford received the Chad Johnson Lifetime Achievement Award for his years of dedication and service to Wyoming wrestling April 15 at the 2022 Wyoming Amateur Wrestling Association (WAWA) state tournament in Casper.

Chad Johnson was a high school and USA wrestling coach at Douglas High School who recently passed away after a battle with cancer. To pay tribute to Johnson and his coaching legacy, the WAWA board created an award in his name, which it gave to his family last year. It is the board’s goal to continue giving out the award each year to an individual who commits their time and expertise to the sport of wrestling.

Sanford was nominated by a long-time board member who highlighted his years of service, his improvement of the programs he’s headed and his dedication to the sport.

One statement read, “Mark has been instrumental in the continued success of wrestling and is a huge advocate for the sport.”

Sanford was unanimously selected by the WAWA board and received the award last Friday during a break between sessions at the WAWA state championship.

“Bennett was the one who handed the award to me,” Sanford said. “It was very special to have him and my wife there.”

Sanford has coached wrestling for 34 years. He started as the high school head coach in Saratoga where he was also introduced to the USA wrestling program. While head coach for Greybull-Riverside, Sanford’s team won the state championship in 2010 and finished as a top-three team multiple times. Greybull-Riverside boasted 23 wrestlers who were individual state champions over the 20 years Sanford coached.

“You grow close to those guys on your team. There is a special bond between wrestlers, when you get tight with you team,” he said.

Sanford has also acted as head coach for the Greybull-Basin Athletic Club’s USA wrestling program for many years. He credited Brad DeWitt for getting him involved, noting that his lifetime achievement award belongs to more people than just himself.

“This community is like family and is very close, and to have the board unanimously select me for this award is quite an honor. It goes to all those who helped and were a part of the family, for my assistant coaches, Randy Arnold, Todd Zeller, Shane Shaffner, Coley Shadrick, Josh Heinemeyer, Jeremy Brandle, Brant Ogg, Rob Nuttall, Tom Harrington, the Schlattmann clan, Mark, Dean and Sara, and as I mentioned Brad and Kathy Dewitt who really got me involved in the USA world.”

Though Sanford retired from coaching at the high school level in 2019, he was quickly asked to step back in as the middle school head coach. He’s still heavily involved in the USA wrestling program as well.

“The great thing about this sport is you find out about you, what you are made of. Watching young people overcome obstacles, grow and face challenges, learn that they can accomplish so much if they believe. That’s the best memory.

“I just spent three days in the event center coaching and watching wrestling. I learned something each day. That is what it’s about, trying to always better yourself and those around you,” he said.

Sanford’s current coaching plans are to “keep on grinding. Coach middle school one more year as Bennett finishes up there. Then maybe volunteer at the high school level, or maybe continue to coach middle school a bit as I’m finding it quite enjoyable.”