Legendary wrestling coach Pete Grieder announced his retirement from Lake Highlands High School Monday after 32 years of teaching and coaching. Grieder was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and was presented the Lifetime Service to Wrestling Award in 2008. He earned RISD Coach of the Year and other honors too numerous to count. He has accepted a teaching job at Bishop Lynch.
I asked Grieder about his memories of being hired at LHHS.
“When I came to Lake Highlands back in 1984, I walked into the principal’s office and talked to Charles Maples, the principal back then. Our interview was very short. He asked me if I could teach geometry and coach girls’ soccer. I said yes, and he said, ‘you’re hired!’ It was as simple as that. I must have been the only applicant that could do those things. I was 23 with a mustache and no teaching experience, but I was ready to take on the world. When I met the other math teachers, some of them were complaining about their teaching assignments. I asked if they wanted to change and they said yes, so we changed math classes and I actually taught general math and pre-algebra that first year. Very easy fix. Things are not that easy anymore.”
“When I first started teaching, I never thought that math would be what I wanted to teach since I was a PE major. When I got hired to teach math, I kind of fell in love with it. I always liked numbers and found it to be a challenge teaching the lower level kids math. I have had a ton of students that have said ‘Coach, you are the only math teacher that I actually understand!’ I consider that to be my greatest attribute. Those words are what told me I was destined to teach math. I never had a day where I dreaded going to work. I have always enjoyed teaching and molding students into productive members of society. The students that really make a difference for me are the ones that come from backgrounds that have no money or family to support them, but actually work hard and want to succeed in life. They are the ones that are special.”
His switch to wrestling coach was just as serendipitous.
“I coached girls soccer for 2 years, then in 1986, the other coaches were in the hallway talking. The former wrestling coach was getting burned out coaching, and I was wanting to coach boys instead of girls. I actually could have coached any sport since I played all sports and knew how. I switched over to the wrestling world and have been coaching wrestling for 30 years. It could not have gone better! Again, another decision that was made without controversy. It just made sense, so we did it.”
At Bishop Lynch, Grieder will teach Algebra and Algebra 2. He won’t be coaching, “I wouldn’t feel right coaching wrestling at this point at a neighboring school,” he said, but he’ll “also be picking up some bus routes and administrator duties at events and competitions.”
I asked about his coaching memories.
“Memories are huge. I have so many that I could talk about. My first major memory was back in 1992. This was the first year we really had a great team. We went 17 and 2 and placed 5th in state. The team was full of over-achievers. Another memory was back in the 1994. We were starting to make a name for ourselves in the state of Texas and were attending the Texas State Dual Championships in Dumas,Texas. We beat undefeated El Paso in the second round and went on to place 8th in the state of Texas. No longer would anyone take LH lightly when wrestling us. The state knew that we were always prepared to go to battle every single year. We would never have a losing season again. Another big win was when we beat Bishop Lynch in a dual meet in the small gym back in 2002. They had a star-studded lineup, and we wrestled our butts off to beat them. Lots of controversy in that match. Big wins by several individuals. Another memory was being the last team to knock off the Allen dynasty. When we won regionals back in 2008, it felt really good to beat Allen. We had 5 state placers that year and stopped Allen from their dominance at regionals.”
“There are just too many to talk about,” continued Grieder. “Each and every year I have memories about big wins.”
And special athletes? There must have been a few.
“Alvino Huizar in 1992 was tough as nails and 3rd in state. Alvino broke his nose in a big match in district. He came over to me with tears in his eyes and a crooked nose. I said should we stop the match, he said ‘No, I can’t let him know I am hurt!’ He went on to beat his opponent from J.J. Pearce 15 to 7 to advance to regionals.
“Josh Mclean in 2002, also tough as nails and 4th in state. Josh was a monster! He had a state tournament to remember. Three returning state champs, 5 other returning state placers, and all ended up in his weight class. He got sick during the state tournament and was throwing up out of the van on the way to the meet at 6:30 in the morning. He went to the ER twice that day to get fluids. He came back to beat one state champ and nearly beat another before ending up in 4th place. He now is a Green Beret that I would take to battle with me anytime.
“Austin Cordova in 2006 was my first state champion. He was just a natural. He had unbelievable talent that blossomed so fast into one of the best wrestlers in the state. He lived and breathed wrestling for 4 years and placed 4th, 3rd and 1st in state. Austin was like a cat on the mat. I swear I could through him up in the air and he would land on his feet every time.
“Luis Granados in 2008 was 6th in state. Luis (105 pounds of him) came to my house before his freshman year, rang the doorbell and had the guts to say, ‘Are you the wrestling coach?’ I said yes and he said ‘I am Luis Granados and I want to wrestle!’ I said ok and 4 years later he graduates as a top 10 student and Texas state placer. Along the way he broke his ankle his sophomore year and had surgery. He came back from that, dislocated his elbow his junior year during a match at the state dual championships. I ran on the mat and he looked at me in extreme pain and said, ‘Coach I will be back next year. Nothing will stop me from earning a state medal!’ I will remember those words forever. The mental toughness was unbelievable.
“Isaac Grieder in 2010 was the undefeated State champion. Even though he was my son, I have to say he was an incredible athlete. He was my first undefeated State champion. He beat 2 All Americans on the way to winning state and made it look easy. The higher the competition, the more he would relentlessly attack. He had everyone on their heels in all matches by being the aggressor. He ended up placing 6th, 2nd and 1st in state. He went on to have a storied track and field collegiate career. I would take Isaac with me into battle along with Josh. They would be my 2 point men.
“D’Andre Brumfield in 2013 placed 2nd and 3rd in state. D”Andre weighed 92 pounds his freshmen year and just wasn’t big enough to win much. By the time he was a junior he was wrestling 106 pounds and had become a monster. He was definitely one of most fun wrestlers to watch. He had all the tools to be a stud and had an awesome personality to go with it. Everyone liked him with his big smile and great attitude. I will never forget him.
With Grieder’s tremendous success coaching, I asked if he had words of wisdom to share.
“’All it takes is one’ is the saying I use to constantly remind myself that the difference could be just one thing. For example, maybe that one kid I recruit at the 9th grade center could be that one kid that ends up making the difference on my varsity team in 4 years. Or maybe that one time I talk to a parent about their young son wrestling in the club could save that kid and give him a purpose in life. Maybe he will end up helping the team down the road. Or maybe if the kids in math class, instead of taking the day off, spent just one more day reviewing, they might pass the exit test. All it takes is one and that could be the difference.
“‘Simply Believe’. These are just high school kids. If they work hard and simply believe they can win, they will win. Most students and athletes don’t know how to win in life. My job as a coach is to instill that belief and that they can win and be successful. Hard work and perseverance is the most important thing and then you simply just have to believe.
“Lake Highlands is an awesome community. After 32 years, Pam and I have to say that Lake Highlands is such a great place to live. Our 3 boys have grown up here and made awesome friendships that will last forever. I don’t think any of them regret being raised here. Lake Highlands will always be their home. Pam and I plan on staying here for the near future and to be a valid part of the Lake Highlands community. All of our friends are here that we have made over time. Living inside 635 is such an advantage. Life is so much more relaxing with the lake and downtown is so close.
“Family – Pam and I have been blessed to raise our 3 boys, Luke Isaac and TJ, in Lake Highlands. They all went to Northlake, Lake Highlands Junior high and Lake Highlands High School. Each one excelled at their own activities and had a great time growing up here. They participated in Wrestling, Wranglers, Band and Track. Their closest friends are all Lake Highlands people. Even our oldest boy Luke married his high school sweetheart. Who ever said that Lake Highlands has a small town feel was correct. We never felt like we lived in a big city, but in a small town where everyone knew each other.”
And, although he’s not going far, Grieder had a message for the many young families moving to LH.
“There will be good times and bad times, smooth sailing and controversial times. That stuff happens in a family and a small town. Stay the course, be positive and supportive and in the end, life will be great with great memories. Some of the best memories are not just the easy times in life, but the hard times too.”