Posted 3/04/09 (Wed)
By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer
His wrestling career began in 1955 when he was just a 70-pound seventh grader, and 54 years later he may not be getting down on the mat anymore, but he’s still an award winning wrestler.
Frank Fish, assistant coach of the Watford City Wolves wrestling team received one of the highest honors in North Dakota wrestling, an induction into the North Dakota Wrestling Hall of Fame.
“Coach Fish is one of the most dedicated professionals you could work with,” says Dave Dougherty, Watford City Wolves head wrestling coach. “He has been a big influence on wrestling in the state of North Dakota, and the program wouldn’t be where it is today without him.”
Fish began his wrestling career wrestling during middle school in Cody, Wyo. He then moved to Mandan, N.D. as a freshman in high school, but the school didn’t have a wrestling program until his junior year.
“I couldn’t wrestle my junior year because I had a broken leg. But I joined the team in its first year as student manager and then wrestled as a senior,” says Fish. “I don’t know that I was ever that good, but I did qualify for State my senior year.”
Fish began his coaching career in 1965 as the head wrestling coach for Watford City High School until his retirement in 1988.
“After I retired I took three years off before returning as an assistant coach,” comments Fish. “I missed wrestling and coaching a lot during those three years.”
Throughout his coaching career Fish has received numerous awards and victories.
As head coach, his teams won three state championships (1972, 1973, 1974), five runners-up (1975, 1977, 1979, 1987, 1988), four thirds (1983, 1984, 1985, 1986), and two fourth place finishes (1976, 1978). Fish amassed 264 dual wins which included a streak of 97 wins and one tie over six seasons and 59 tournament wins including 14 Badlands Conference team championships and 17 consecutive Regional championships. Watford City recorded 29 individual state champions and 90 individual place winners at the state tournament during Fish’s tenure as head coach. He also received the Dickinson State University Blue Hawk Athletic Booster Club Outstanding Career Achievement Award in 1988.
“Receiving the Coach of the Year award was a real honor to me,” says Fish. “That is a real prestigious group of coaches and it was an honor to be part of that group.”
Fish served as the president of the Class B wrestling coaches from 1973-1978 and twice was selected as the state’s Coach of the Year in 1973 and 1974. In 1977, 1985, and 1988 Fish was nominated for the National Coach of the Year by the NDHSCA.
Fish not only worked with his team, he was also involved in wrestling at a state level. He was instrumental in the NDHSAA decision to begin seeding the state wrestling tournament and later was a co-author of the current seeding criteria used for the state tournament. In 1981, Frank was a team leader for the USA-AAU cultural exchange team to Germany, and in 1982, Fish was a team host to the Japanese cultural exchange team visiting North Dakota. He served as president of the North Dakota Wrestling Coaches Association for fiveyears as well as being a member of the NDHSAA advisory board for fiveyears.
“His accomplishments speak for themselves,” says Dougherty. “He is easily part of the top five all-time wrestling coaches our state has ever had. Fish is highly respected by Class A and Class B coaches and is often sought after for his opinion and knowledge.”
According to Fish, he has continued coaching wrestling because he enjoys it and he attributes part of that joy to the fun kids and the phenomenal base of parents that he has worked with here in Watford City.
“You couldn’t find a better school to work with,” adds Fish.
For many coaches an induction to the Hall of Fame comes after they’ve retired. But with all of Fish’s accomplishments he was still on the sidelines encouraging and coaching his wrestlers when he was inducted.
“A lot of coaches work their entire career and never get into the Hall of Fame,” comments Fish. “It is humbling to be a part of the Coach’s Hall of Fame and be measured up with the best of the best.”
Frank and his wife, Sally have been married for 45 years, and together they have four grown children: Laura, Terry, Mary and Janet, and 11 grandchildren.