Editor’s note: This post was written by “Stat Rat” Jim Craig, formerly of Lusk and now of Cheyenne, who has provided significant help to the research on Wyoming sports history.
Even though this writer was born in the early 1950s, it’s tough for me to recall all that much about that particular decade, save for my Davy Crockett coonskin cap and my oft-busted Zorro sword with the chalk tip that made nifty Zs on my mom’s kitchen cupboards, much to her chagrin. (We Baby Boomers were the initial slaves to corporate Disney decades before the rest of you!) But I’ll digress from that nostalgic traipse down memory lane and focus on memories created by Wyoming high school coaches during that decade of Eisenhower and Elvis, while word-processing from underneath my atomic bomb-proof school desk, safe and sound!
First, a chart which will covers games played from December of 1949 to March of 1959:
(The chart data shows that coaching careers lengthened during this decade—compared to the 1940s—and the number of those who coached all ten years of the decade increased from three to five—the three in the chart as well as Harvey Crowe (Sundance and Buffalo) and Vern Jensen (Lyman and Laramie). Nine year coaches increased from one to 10 (those listed below and Tead Weaver –Sundance and Upton). Granted, WWII shortened many careers in the 1940s, but don’t forget the Korean War did likewise for the initial years of the 1950s. An average coaching term was 3.74 years, more than double the 1940s average.)
|Top Ten 1950s Coaching Records by Wins|
|*Okie Blanchard||Cheyenne Central||9||204||0.813||1.000||0.889||4|
|Mack Peyton||Rock Springs||9||187||0.722||1.000||0.667||1|
|Jacque Schmiedt||Huntley; Wheatland||10||159||0.624||0.600||0.000||0|
|George Collins||Thermopolis; Natrona||8||153||0.725||1.000||0.375||2|
|George Dorrington||Hanna; Campbell Co||9||151||0.59||0.778||0.222||2|
|Roger Youtz||Albin; Veteran; Greybull; Worland||10||147||0.639||0.500||0.400||2|
|Reese Gaskell||Saratoga; Rawlins||9||137||0.571||0.222||0.000||0|
|*Jim Wiseman||Lingle; Torrington||9||126||0.555||0.667||0.111||0|
|*Swede Erickson||Midwest; Natrona||7||122||0.613||0.857||0.286||1|
|Ed Rich||Pine Bluffs||9||117||0.539||0.333||0.111||0|
|Dennis Ragan||Moorcroft; Albin; Saratoga||9||117||0.52||0.444||0.111||1|
|Tony Katana||Superior; Green River||10||117||0.468||0.500||0.000||0|
|*Keith Bloom||Evanston; Powell||8||115||0.561||0.500||0.125||0|
|*Wilford Mower||Byron; Lovell||8||111||0.593||0.500||0.250||1|
|Norval ‘Bud’ Johnson||Glenrock; Evanston||8||111||0.493||0.625||0.000||0|
Q-Factor=percentage of times qualified for the state tourney
Medal=percentage of times finishing 1st, 2nd, or 3rd
*Wyoming Coaches Association Hall of Fame member
As he did during the 1930s and 1940s, Okie Blanchard is heads and tails above the rest, even when he spots everyone else a year of wins by retiring before the 1958-59 season. Coach Blanchard leads the list in wins and win percentage, medals (1st, 2nd, or 3rd) in all but one state tourney during the time period, takes double the state championships of the runners-up, and qualifies nine out of nine times for the state tourney. The city of Cheyenne honors all sorts of historic events and history makers with bronze statues in and about the downtown area. A street corner should be saved for a statue of Coach Okie, Wyoming’s first great coach.
Two for the Hall of Fame? The Wyoming Coaches Hall of Fame was established in 1984, a quarter century after the 1950s ended and a generation after many of the above finished their stints on the sidelines. Are there any on the list that should be considered, possibly forgotten by time? Certainly Mack Peyton’s record is impressive, and while his numbers don’t quite match Okie’s for this arbitrary time span, they’re still excellent. The 20 years of coaching requirement—80% within Wyoming— keeps Peyton from serious consideration, as sadly he only coached nine years in the state, from what I’ve found. Wheatland’s Jacque Schmiedt is one who just misses the 20 year mark. I have him totaling 19 seasons, 6 in Huntley (where he also founded the Cardinal football program) and 13 seasons in Wheatland. A factor working against Coach Schmiedt was geography— those 13 years as a Bulldog mentor had Wheatland playing against Cheyenne Central (enrollment @300 vs @2500), Laramie and Torrington pre-1962 and against University Prep’s championship program after that date. This limited the Bulldogs’ chances at state tourney qualifying somewhat. However, both coaches have Hall of Fame worthy numbers, in my estimation, and as the chart for the 1950s demonstrates.
Others? George Collins established a nifty record, coaching at Thermopolis and Casper Natrona, notching two championships in seven years with the Bobcats. His Mustang teams were less fortunate, medaling only twice in six years. However, in all his 13 years as a coach, Collins’ teams qualified each year for the state tourney. George Dorrington won state championships with small school Hanna and also larger school Campbell County. The latter win was quite the surprise as the Camels were unranked entering the state AA-A tourney and Gillette wasn’t all that big of a school at the time, with around 260+ students. Dorrington only coached 10 years of hoops in Wyoming, which works against him, somewhat. Roger Youtz coached mainly during the 1950s and stepped away from the sidelines in the 1963-64 season, totaling 16 years in Wyoming, a career that began in 1948-49. His two state championships were with small school Veteran. His teams made the trip to the Gem City for the state tourney eight times. All three coaches fall short of the requisite 20 years, but still should merit some consideration for the Hall of Fames, I believe.