HERMISTON — Last December when the Hermiston Bulldogs were wrestling in Couer d’Alene, Idaho, at the Tri-State Tournament, then-coach Curt Berger approached a first-year Washington assistant from Moses Lake High School.
Berger mentioned he knew about Shaun Williams’ career. He told Williams of his plans to retire after the season. He suggested the Washington coach keep the opening in mind.
Five months later, the Hermiston school board approved 35-year old Williams as Berger’s successor on Monday, sweeping in a new era for the Bulldog wrestling program.
Williams will fill the role left by Berger, who coached Hermiston to six state wrestling titles and five in a row from 2007-2011. Berger stepped down following this season when the Bulldogs finished third at the state meet as a team.
Williams was born in South Africa before relocating to the United States in 1997. A freestyle wrestler by trade, Williams has competed internationally for his native country at two wrestling world championships and also wrestled in the 2004 summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.
“We’re very excited to get somebody of Shaun’s caliber in here to continue the growth of the great program here at Hermiston High,” athletic director Mike Kay said. “It’s one thing to lose somebody like Curt Berger who’s meant so much to our program but it’s another thing to bring in somebody like Shaun.”
Williams spent three years at Arlington High School — located in the community of Arlington, just north of Seattle — as coach before his season with Moses Lake. Last year, Moses Lake finished second in the state at Class 4A, the highest level of Washington prep athletics.
The newest Bulldog said he’s still a Washington resident of now but expects to make his way down to Hermiston by the end of the school year. He’ll spend some time settling in before jumping into his new duties as head coach with offseason workouts and conditioning with his wrestlers.
“I have a lot of enthusiasm for wrestling, been doing it for most of my life,” Williams said of his 30 years in the sport. “I feel like I can give our kids the necessary opportunities to get better and move on to college and get college scholarships.”