Ric Fehr, the head varsity wrestling coach at Sparks High and the senior pastor at Living Waters Christian Fellowship in Sparks, has lived his life based on his three P’s since he was young: painting, preaching and pummeling. Not necessarily in that order of course.
“The mat, the art and the preaching, it’s kind of like a DNA strand of who I am,” Fehr said.
In order to avoid the chaos at home that comes with having five fathers growing up and being the oldest of eight children, Fehr started wrestling so he wouldn’t have to go home after school.
Jim Coverley, the wrestling coach at Sparks at the time, took Fehr and his brother under his wing.
“I’ve had a lot of people help me. I can say something positive about my middle school coach all the way up to my high school coaches. Without a father, those guys gave me a lot. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them,” an emotional Fehr said. “I believe God used wrestling to get me out of the environment I was in as a gift. So I want to give it back.”
Wrestling gave Fehr an out. He also turned out to be very good.
Fehr won the state championship at 98 pounds his junior year at SHS, but then moved up to 112 pounds his senior year in order to prepare for college, where the lowest weight class is 118 pounds. Fehr was the state runner-up his senior season, despite never having to cut weight and going up against wrestlers who were stronger.
After graduating from Sparks High in 1985, Fehr then wrestled at Lassen College for two years, where he met his future wife, Anisa. He was a Junior College All-American his sophomore year before transferring to Humboldt State. His first year there, he qualified for the Div. II Nationals. Fehr was ranked fifth in the nation as a senior, but he got slammed, separating his shoulder and his collegiate career was over.
That’s around the time he found his faith.
“About the time I separated my shoulder, it took some growing up for me. When I won, I felt better about myself. When I lost, I didn’t. So I had a little bit of psychological issues with that,” Fehr said. “I really had to grow up a bit. Being married didn’t help. Having this encounter with God did. It really helped my marriage. It helped me personally.”
Fehr and his wife returned to Reno. His daughter was born in 1991. Fehr returned to school at UNR and began assistant coaching at Reed High that same year.
In 1994, the family was dealt a blow. Anisa had struggled with a giant-cell tumor in her leg over the years, but it turned into cancer. In Fehr’s graduating semester at UNR, his wife elected to have her leg amputated in order to prevent the spread of cancer and to save her life. She’s been cancer-free ever since and has been able to carry and give birth to two sons with only one leg.
Fehr was still kind of lost and overwhelmed by life’s events of dealing with the cancer, raising a baby, graduating and having student loans, so he decided to join the Army. Fehr made the all-Army wrestling team one year. But after his oldest son was born, life responsibilities took a higher priority than wrestling, so he closed that chapter of his life. Fehr finished out his military career and was able to get his Master’s degree in Human Relations. He has an undergraduate degree in Art and English Literature
During this entire time, Fehr was always a member of a church no matter where he was stationed. He had always known deep down that his life would take the path toward serving God.
“Even before my life fell apart at 12 years old, I felt this would be my life’s work,” Fehr said. “My home life was so messed up, I had no idea on how to make it happen. I had no guidance. When I got out of the Army, I met a friend and apprenticed into the position. Several years later, I was able to start Living Waters on October 31st of 2004.”
Living Waters Christian Fellowship is located at 155 Glendale Ave., Suite 19 and has an average attendance of about 85 people.
“I love preaching. I love being up there and bringing the word of God. I love communicating God’s love and expounding on scripture, praying for people and seeing God work,” Fehr said. “The best part is really seeing lives change. As far as Sunday, my wife says the way I get ready for a Sunday morning is the way I got ready when I wrestled. It’s like getting ready to go do what you’ve got to do. You get focused. It’s just like going out there on the middle of the mat every Sunday in a manner of speaking. It’s the same feeling.”
Fehr coached varsity wrestling at Reed for nine years before taking a year off from coaching. He never lost that itch and took over the Sparks program three years ago.
While coaching wrestling and preaching might seem like opposite ends of the spectrum, Fehr believes he’s doing the same thing.
“It’s the same exact job title. The subject matter is slightly different, but the way I approach being a pastor is like spiritual coaching,” Fehr said. “I challenge people where their weaknesses are and help them understand a little bit better about what they can do. It’s the same with wrestling. It’s all about the body, soul and spirit in both aspects.”
Fehr also continues to pursue his passion for art daily, which he believes he got from his biological father. Fehr has painted and drawn since he was young. He has sold some of his paintings and he continues to draw comic books with Christian super heroes.
His daughter will be graduating from UNR this year with a degree in elementary education. His oldest son will be graduating this year from Excel Christian a year ahead of time in hopes of pursuing a career in engineering. Fehr’s youngest son just turned 9 and is in his first year of wrestling.