Gus Garcia, the son of Mexican immigrants who made it from Douglass High School to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, has died at age 80.
A legendary wrestling coach at two Kansas high schools, Atwood and Augusta, Garcia passed away on June 5 at his home in Parsons. He is survived by three children – Gus Garcia Jr. of Augusta, Gabe Garcia of Wichita and Darla Garcia of Augusta – and eight grandchildren.
Plans for Garcia’s “celebration of life” will be announced in a few days. Those wanting to honor Garcia’s memory are invited to make a donation to the Gene Nunz Scholarship Fund, which benefits Augusta Wrestlers, in care of Mary Nusz, 3 Taylor Ave., Augusta, Kansas, 67010.
Rosalio “Gus” Garcia was born on Nov. 16, 1938 in Douglass, the youngest of four children to Ygnacio, a railroad worker, and Angelus, a cook.
At age 18, Garcia left Douglass to join the U.S. Marines and competed on its wrestling team for three years. He then began his college education at Kansas State University, where he was a three-year wrestling letterman and earned a third-place medal at the Big Eight Conference Tournament.
His coaching career got off to a tremendous start at Atwood, where he won a state team title and had 12 teams finish in the top 10.
Garcia then moved on to Augusta, which had seven top 10 team finishes at the state level. It was there that he coached his two sons to a combined six state medals, including an individual championship for Gus Jr.
All told, Garcia coached 21 state champions, 27 runners-up, 16 third-place medalists and 19 fourth-place medalists.
“He was a good friend, supporter and colleague,” said former Augusta teacher and coach Pat Paske, whose friendship with Garcia goes back to 1975. “Not only did he prepare in detail, but he had the ability to get kids to achieve things that even they didn’t think they could do. He cared about his athletes and his family, and expected and accepted nothing but their best.”
Following his retirement from Augusta, Garcia worked in private security and coached at Maize Middle School before relocating to Parsons, where he developed a friendship with Jeff Vesta, the wrestling coach at Labette Community College.
Vesta said Garcia spent much of his remaining years fishing with his yellow Labrador, Buddy, and watching the Labette wrestlers.
“And if he came to practice, you’d best believe Buddy was in the truck,” Vesta said. “He went everywhere Gus went and ate whatever he ate. One of the most spoiled dogs I’ve ever met. Gus was a great guy and I learned a lot from him. We were very close and he was like a grandparent to me.”
For all of Garcia’s accomplishments at the high school level, he may have been most proud of his contributions to youth wrestling. He helped establish the Kansas Kids Wrestling Foundation. He volunteered to officiate in the state tournament. In 1974, he took a youth freestyle wrestling team to Iran.
Garcia is in numerous Hall of Fames, from Augusta to Oklahoma. In 2004, he received a letter from Executive Director Lee Roy Smith, telling Garcia he was being inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
“You have been a positive role model for young athletes, and we thank you for your faithful years of leadership and commitment to the sport,” Smith wrote. “You have made a difference.”