RANGELY I At first, the Rangely Youth Wrestling Tournament felt like any other kickoff to the youth wrestling season.
As volunteers passed out brackets, boisterous kids practiced takedowns and goofed off with friends. Parents watched their children with barely-contained anxiety or assured calm. Coaches reminded nervous athletes that the Half-Nelson was indeed within their range of ability.
Unlike previous years, however, Saturday’s Rangely Youth Wrestling Tournament included a tribute to a man whose ability to understand, apply and coach wrestling helped make the sport what it is in Rio Blanco County.
Longtime Meeker wrestling coach Bill Turner, who passed away Feb. 22, had a passion for the sport and his community that had far-reaching effects on those who knew him.
The Rangely youth wrestling staff’s dedication of April 4, 2015, as the “Bill Turner and Family Legacy Day” was one way to acknowledge that.
“The definition of a legend is a story handed down for generations among family or people and believed to have a historical basis,” Rangely Youth Wrestling Program head coach Jeff LeBleu said. “Today we are celebrating a true legend and his family’s legacy.”
As Rangely wrestlers, coaches and parent volunteers kneeled or stood in tribute during a dedication ceremony before the tournament, LeBleu outlined Turner’s achievements, from earning Rangely High School’s first state championship in 1958 to taking 109 Meeker qualifiers to State during his 20-year tenure as head coach. Of those qualifiers, 21 became State champions, nine were runner-ups and 70 others placed.
Turner was inducted into the Colorado High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1996.
Turner passed his passion for wrestling in particular, and sports in general, to his children and grandchildren. LeBleu described the strong sports legacy carried on by children Kai, Casey, Keenan, Coley, Hallie and Molly and their children as staff distributed flowers and cards to the Turner family and a plaque to widow Anne Turner.
“I’m grateful to the Rangely wrestling community and the Turner family for letting this happen,” LeBleu said after the dedication. “Bill Turner was a great man. It was privilege for us to honor him and his family this way.”