Cokeville’s Linford inducted into WCA Hall of Fame

Former Cokeville head wrestling head coach Marty Linford celebrates his induction into the WCA Hall of Fame with his family last month in Casper. (COURTESY PHOTO/Charles Lallatin)

Longtime Cokeville High School wrestling head coach Marty Linford decided to call it a career earlier this summer, leaving an impressive list of accomplishments in his wake: seven state titles, 44 individual champions, seven WCA Coach of the Year awards and was once named National Coach of the Year.

Now, to cap off a stellar, 22-year career with the Panthers, Linford can add one more accolade: Hall of Fame inductee. Linford was one of 10 coaches from around the state so honored at the annual WCA Hall of Fame banquet, held on July 21 in Casper.

“It was a really cool night — all of my kids were there, except for my son Eli, who’s on his mission in Brazil,” Linford said. “The people I was inducted with are some amazing coaches, also — Donny Julian, from Kemmerer, was inducted that evening; and Steve Harshman and both of his assistants were inducted that evening. It was just a really cool thing to be honored with those kinds of coaches.”

With a sizable cheering section consisting of his kids and grandkids, Linford said one in particular could be heard above the rest.

“As I was walking down to get the award, my grandson Cinch — who’s two years old — you can hear him on the video, just holler out, ‘Grandpa!’ Linford chuckled. “That was cool. It was a cool evening, just a great time.”

A Star Valley native, Linford began his coaching career in Wells, Nevada, with an eye toward coaching a different sport altogether.

“Growing up in Star Valley with the Linford name, It’s a big basketball name — my uncle is in the Hall of Fame as a basketball coach,” he explained. “But I wrestled in high school, and Wells needed a wrestling coach, so I jumped right in, and was successful down there. I came up here, and was very successful coaching wrestling, and it’s just been a great thing.”

Linford took over the Cokeville program in 2002, and led the Panthers to the first of seven Class 2A state titles in 2003. He said all of those title teams were memorable, but the first one will always hold a special place in his heart. Led by state champion Clint Child at 130 pounds and runners-up Landon Peterson (103 pounds), Tyson Teichert (135 pounds) and Jade Pope (189 pounds), the Panthers won the team title with 169.5 points, just 1.5 points ahead of Greybull/Riverside and Wright, who tied for second with 168 points.

“I’m extremely proud of all seven of those team titles, but that first one in 2003 was really, really awesome,” Linford said. “The year before I took over, Cokeville placed 15th, I think — my first year [2002], we took second. We thought, ‘Wow, we have a lot of kids coming back, we have a shot at this.’ It was awesome to win it that first time, it was a great feeling.”

Linford’s right-hand man for all those years was assistant coach Darren Moody, who also retired in June after 27 years with the program.

“Darren’s amazing — he’s an amazing coach, a great example, I couldn’t have done it without him,” Linford said. “We’d always planned to go out together. It was a great opportunity for us to coach together — we’re best friends, and Cokeville wrestling wouldn’t be what it is today without his influence on the program, and the things he’s done. It was fun to go out together.”

Looking back on his career with the Panthers, Linford said it was an honor to coach the wrestlers that came through the program, and he’s proud that it’s one of his state champion wrestlers who will now take the reins and guide Cokeville into the future.

“The most gratifying part of my career was, I worked with a lot of great kids,” Linford said. “I wouldn’t have received those accolades without coaching some amazing wrestlers, some amazing young men. They’ve gone on to do great things with their lives. It’s always been one of my dreams and goals to turn the program over to one of my wrestlers, and I’m proud to be able to do that. Sullivan Teichert is going to be the new head coach, and his cousin Ammon Tiechert is going to be the assistant coach. It’s awesome that I was in a place where I was able to turn the program over to them, and feel that it’s going to be in great hands.”