Lake Highlands High School is known for many things around our neighborhood: its community involvement, focus on character, strong academics and football. But one area in which the school consistently does well gets little attention: wrestling.

The LHHS wrestling team has been one of the best teams in the state for years. Since 1990, the school has sent 65 wrestlers to the state meet, with 13 of them placing. They’ve been district champs for the past nine years, and given the team’s record so far, this year could be their tenth.

Pete Grieder, LHHS wrestling coach for the past 17 years, says he knows the program is one of the school’s best-kept secrets. But he says it doesn’t bother him, because people who know wrestling know all about them.

“Ask anyone in the state who knows something about wrestling,” he says. “They’ll tell you about us.”

What gives LHHS such a winning team? Part of it, Grieder says, is his longevity as coach and the support he gets from parents.

“Our success is not just because of me,” he says. “I’ve been blessed with lots of supportive parents, and I consider our wrestling program to be a family affair. We’ve progressed together through the years.”

Another reason Grieder gives for the team’s success is unexpected: He teaches students that wrestling and winning aren’t everything.

“My first goal as a teacher and a coach,” he says, “is to teach kids to be good human beings, to become responsible, caring adults. School and family come first. Wrestling is just four years of their lives they’ll hopefully look back on with fond memories.”

And win or lose, the wrestlers know Grieder is behind them.

“This is not just a job for me,” he says. “I’m raising some of these kids. They know I’m here for them.”

Grieder’s commitment to the wrestlers creates the kind of loyalty that just can’t be forced. And it’s kept an average of 50-60 students on his teams for the past 10 years.

One of those students is Ryan Christy, a senior who has competed at the state level for the past two years.

“He’s a great coach,” Christy says.

“And the best part is, he’s an even better person. Everyone agrees on that. He teaches us a lot more than just wrestling.”

One important thing students learn, Grieder says, is how to compete and win no matter what their size.

“In other sports, you have to be a certain size or have exceptional speed to make it,” he says. “But wrestling has 15 different weight classes, so you can be any weight and do well. Anybody can be as good as they want to be in wrestling. It’s all about having your own style.”

Though Grieder has been at LHHS for 19 years, starting at the school fresh out of college, he and his family only moved to Lake Highlands five years ago.

“We used to live in Garland,” he says. “But I wanted more time with my family at home, as well as have them involved in what I was doing here in town. Living five minutes from the school makes that possible.”

With his wife Pam working at Northlake Elementary, two of their sons attending school there and their oldest son at Lake Highlands Junior High, the family is now firmly entrenched in our community.

In addition to his coaching job, Grieder runs a wrestling club in town and holds wrestling camps in the summer, to teach the sport to younger kids.

And though three of those kids are his sons, Grieder makes sure wrestling isn’t all they’re involved in.

“They’re also active in soccer, band and other activities,” he says. “What I teach my students is also what I teach my kids. Wrestling isn’t our lives.”