After spending close to a decade with the Reed wrestling program, Ric Fehr was named the new head coach of Sparks wrestling, taking over for Doug Walsh.
But that’s not the most important way Fehr is a familiar face around the Rail City. Fehr is a 1985 Sparks High graduate and won the state championship in his weight class in 1984 and was the runner-up in 1985.
“The thing I really like about it is he’s a Sparks High state champion,” Sparks High athletic director Rob Kittrell said of the hire. “He understands Sparks High School. As a coach he’s really proven himself. He spent nine years at Reed, so he’s a very dedicated coach. We’re very fortunate to bring back an alumnus and a high character person. All-around, he’s going to be great for our kids.”
Fehr has been back to the Brickhouse countless times for tournaments over the years, but he admits he never got that tingly feeling of nostalgia.
That all changed recently.
“I went over to talk to the football team to do some recruiting yesterday (Tuesday). I’ve been in there for tournaments, but I never thought anything of it. But yesterday a surge of excitement went through me,” Fehr said. “It hit me a little more emotionally than I thought it would. Being the coach now and having other Sparks High graduates on staff within the same time frame as me endorsing me to the kids, it was a new experience for me.”
Fehr took a year off from coaching last winter for various reasons. He is a pastor at Living Waters Christian Fellowship on Glendale Ave., which was going through a transition. He also wanted to spend more time with his family and to allow former Reed standout grappler Dan Barraza a chance to take the reigns of the Raiders program.
But Fehr never lost the itch to coach.
“It burned in my belly,” Fehr said. “It was killing me. I was meant to be a coach. I do a lot of things, but I was meant to coach as well.”
Sparks is never lacking quality wrestlers who can challenge for state titles. The problem has been numbers. The Railroaders have struggled to compete with a full squad since Spanish Springs opened its doors.
Now, Fehr has the task of building the program like he did at Reed, a challenge he’s excited to tackle due to the support he is receiving from Kittrell as well as other Sparks High alumni.
“When I went to talk to the football players, I saw a hunger. I saw an expectation. I saw something familiar in them that I haven’t seen in a lot of other places. I felt a connection with those athletes,” Fehr said. “I feel like I will be able to identify with some of the life experiences of those kids. So I think number one I will be able to have a connection. Number two, know what motivates them coming from their life circumstances and be able to give them something they need more immediately as a coach.
“For me coaching is more than just the wrestling. It’s an investment into life and it’s also a training skill for life. I think I have that to offer.”