Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling
Les Gutches of Corvallis, Ore. has been named to the new position of Director of Program Development for USA Wrestling, the national governing body for wrestling in the United States.
Gutches, who has a strong business background and a lifetime in wrestling as an athlete and coach, will be responsible for developing new or expanded programs, events and activities for USA Wrestling. He will work closely with state associations to increase membership and programs in underdeveloped markets in all styles of the sport. He will also expand strategic partnerships with other organizations, and assist in promotion and marketing activities.
He will also oversee the State Services staff of the organization, and work with a talented team which includes Manager of State Services Tony Black, Membership Services Assistant Shonna Vest, Manager of Coaches Education Cody Bickley and State Services Assistant Marge Civil.
“Les Gutches has an incredible reputation for integrity and performance, “said Rich Bender, USA Wrestling Executive Director. “He is a tremendous motivator, a wonderful father, a respected coach and one of our greatest champion athletes. His presence, leadership and work ethic will take USA Wrestling membership to new heights. We are excited to welcome Les Gutches to our team and are confident that his efforts will impact the entire wrestling community.”
Gutches will begin at his new job at the USA Wrestling corporate headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo. on February 1.
“I have been involved with USA Wrestling from my time as a PeeWee wrestler through the Senior level. I also went into coaching and remained active in the organization, “said Gutches. “To come back with the opportunity to help grow USA Wrestling and the sport in general is an exciting prospect to me. I have been in the business world for a number of years and am very excited to return to wrestling. I’m going to have the opportunity to combine my passion for the sport with an ability to apply my professional and academic experience. This is the perfect place for me.”
Gutches comes to USA Wrestling after serving as four years as a commercial lender and credit analyst for Citizens Bank, Inc. in Corvallis. Among his duties was to generate and develop new business relationships for the company, as well as assisting business clients in measuring performance and strategic decision making.
He received a Masters of Business Administration from the Oregon State University’s College of Business in 2006, where he was a member of the Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society. His undergraduate degree at Oregon State was in Anthropology with a minor in German Language and Literature. He was a three-time NCAA First-Team Academic All-American as an undergraduate.
He served eight years as an assistant wrestling coach at Oregon State, helping build the Beavers into one of the nation’s top programs. Gutches helped coach five athletes to NCAA All-American honors. In addition to athlete instruction, he had responsibilities that included business and alumni relations activities for the program.
He was also a club coach with the Orange Crush Wrestling Club, working with athletes from the university as well as the Corvallis community. Gutches has also been an active clinician for many years, teaching young athletes on many levels.
“Membership is the lifeblood of USA Wrestling. Our membership allows USA Wrestling to invest in and grow the sport at all levels. It is exciting to me that I can make an impact in an area that is so important to the organization. I see this as a position where I can make a difference in the sport on a daily basis, “said Gutches.
As an athlete, Gutches grew up within the USA Wrestling system, competing on the local, state and national level for many years in Oregon. In fact, he was the first athlete to win USA Wrestling national titles in all five existing age group levels at the time “Cadet, Junior, Espoir, University and Senior. He competed in the World Championships on four age-group levels, as well. He won a Cadet World silver medal in 1989 and an Espoir World bronze medal in 1993. Gutches won three state high school titles at South Medford High School
Gutches had a remarkable career at Oregon State Univ., winning NCAA titles in 1995 and 1996, and placing fifth in the 1994 NCAA Championships. He received the Dan Hodge Trophy as the nation’s top college wrestler in 1996.
He became one of the best U.S. freestyle athletes of his era. His top achievement was winning the gold medal at the 1997 World Freestyle Wrestling Championships in Krasnoyarsk, Russia at 85 kg/187.25 pounds. He added a World bronze medal in 1999.
After his senior year in college, Gutches won both the U.S. Nationals and Olympic Team Trials to make the 1996 U.S. Olympic Team. He placed seventh in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Ga.
Gutches won all of the major events on the international circuit, including 1999 World Cup, the 1999 Pan American Games and the 1998 Goodwill Games. He also captured five straight U.S. Nationals titles.
Gutches was inducted as a Distinguished Member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2009, and was a James E. Sullivan Award finalist in 1997. He was the 1997 Amateur Wrestling News Man of the Year, as well as Freestyle Wrestler of the Year for USA Wrestling and the U.S. Olympic Committee.
He and his wife Jennifer have two young children, Lexi (5) and Logan (2).
“I have been involved in wrestling clubs as a competitor and coach on the local, state and national levels, “said Gutches. “I have seen firsthand what makes a great club. It all comes down to one thing “investment. For coaches, the most important resources they have to invest are their time and expertise. They invest in each of their wrestlers, to help them become the best athletes and individuals that they can. USA Wrestling is committed to investing in the success of its state organizations. We will look at everything, from how we market our programs to the product itself, and how to best serve all of our members. “