NORTH BEND — Raised above the bustling main floor of the North Bend gym, with eight mats filled with wrestlers for this weekend's Coast Classic, is the head table where lead organizers ensure everything goes smoothly.
There’s a varsity station and a JV station. It’s where the announcements about which matches are happening at which mats and getting coaches where they need to be.
It's busy, but it’s a bit calmer now than it was in the past with the rise of computerization, making the whole process more streamlined.
On Friday, two familiar faces were sitting up there for much of the day, both of whom have been there for most of the tournament’s 33-year run. They’re Don and Dan Thompson, brothers who both graduated from North Bend, sent their sons through the high school and have continued to lend their time and effort to running one of the largest tournaments in the state.
It started simply for them, as many profound things do. They just wanted to help.
Dan started in the hospitality room 20 years ago, moved into helping with weigh-ins then got to the big show at the head table. His brother Don had a similar path, starting a few years later but ending up sitting next to his brother watching eight matches happen simultaneously before them.
For years, the Thompsons sat at the head table with sheets of paper and manually had to direct people where to go. With eight mats and 16 wrestlers at any time, managing a the tournament with up to 30 teams was a full-time task that took all day and a considerable amount of attention and focus.
Now, though, all of that is handled through TrackWrestling, with data entered at each mat to a website that can be accessed by anyone just about anywhere, if those people have an internet connection.
It’s all but eliminated the need for those two extra folks at the head table. Now the varsity and JV stations are manned by someone with a computer, logging scores and results and updating the 14 brackets along with the spread sheets of what matches will be where. Those spreadsheets are displayed — one varsity and one JV — at either end of the North Bend gym through projectors so all wrestlers have to do is keep an eye on them to know where and when they’re wrestling.
“In the past all the bout sheets were paper,” Don said. “So you had to call the wrestlers down, tell the wrestlers where to go to. (Now) he kids will come up and ask questions and we’ll answer them or find someone that can.”
Now, with nearly 40 years combined under their belts, the brothers are leaving their shoes on the mat and stepping away from such heavy volunteerism to make way for a fresh batch of folks.
“Some people said, ‘I’ll believe it when I see it,’” North Bend wrestling coach Garrett Caldwell joked.
“We’ve been doing it for so long it’s time for someone else to step up,” Dan said. “It’s time to get new blood and better ideas.”
It’s difficult to exactly quantify what the Thompsons mean to the Classic because of the depth of their help.
North Bend athletic director Mike Forrerster called them two of “the best volunteers North Bend High School has ever seen.”
"Most people are willing to help out while their children are in school. Dan and Don have gone way above that."
Caldwell, who was wrestling in high school during the Thompson’s tenure, struggled to find the best way to describe what the Thompsons mean to the tournament.
As a couple of wrestling guys who have been around a while, there isn’t any need to explain anything to them. They understand. They’re looking to help.
“You literally don’t have to give them much direction at all,” Caldwell said. “They just know what to do.”
But they also enjoy watching. It’s been about 15 years since the last of their children went through North Bend, but they’re still coming back to help. They said they just wanted to give back.
But perhaps the wrestling itself was a draw for the longtime fans of the sport.
“It’s kinda fun to watch some of the same kids that are really talented like some of the Roseburg kids,” Dan said, his brother adding the graduated Marshfield great Travis Wittlake Jr. “He was really fun to watch.”