BEAR RIVER HIGH – By Cari Doutre – September 3, 2020
Wrestling is a sport the Bingham family knows all too well.
Not only does the family have a high school state wrestling champion in the family, they have also used their knowledge of the sport and their love of the community to help younger wrestlers reach their full potential in the Bear River Valley.
On July 15, 2020, the Box Elder School District’s Board of Education approved the first all-girls wrestling team at Bear River High. For more on this, read BRVNEWS.com's previously posted article HERE.
Behind this historic move for the school as well as the sport of girls’ wrestling and the community, was Jason Bingham - a long-time assistant wrestling coach at Bear River High and advocate for the sport of girls’ wrestling.
When it was time to announce who will lead Bear River High School’s first ever all-girls’ wrestling team, Bingham was the perfect fit.
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“Anytime you have more opportunities for more kids to participate and do things, learn new things and grow... is a good thing,” said Van Park, Bear River High School’s Athletic Director.
“I’m really excited to have Coach Bingham,” he added.
Park said Bingham was the right one for the job.
“Jason answered the philosophies that we had. I think with his experience and his relationship with Coach Smart and just everything that it was just a really good fit,” Park said.
Along with the support of Park and Jeff Smart, the head boys’ wrestling coach at Bear River, girls’ wrestling has officially been added to this year’s winter sports lists.
Girls’ wrestling became a sanctioned high school sport in Utah after a 2019 vote by the Utah High School Activities Association Board of Trustees. That decision allowed high school in Utah to start forming an all-girls’ wrestling team for the 2020-2021 school year.
Before now high school girls that wanted to wrestle competitively either joined private clubs or teams and participated in girls only wrestling tournaments or simply wrestled boys in the UHSAA’s wrestling program. But that didn’t stop the popularity of girls’ wrestling from growing.
“It is the fastest growing girls’ sport right now,” Park told the school board during the July 15, meeting.
Bingham, a 1991 graduate of Bear River High, did indeed wrestle for the Bears.
After graduation he went on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Ohio and it was there that he first developed a love of coaching wrestling.
As a service to the community Bingham was serving in at the time, he and his companion were asked to help coach wrestling practices for a local Boys and Girls Club. That was when he knew coaching was something he was destined to do.
“I realized then that this was kind of a cool thing to do,” Bingham said.
In 1995, Bingham was added to the Bear River High wrestling program as an assistant coach. For 24 years Bingham has helped coached high school wrestling for the Bears and is now coaching a second generation of wrestlers.
Along with two other long-time wrestling coaches at Bear River High, Jeff Smart and Gene Wilcox, the three men have coached their own sons on the wrestling mat, but now it is time for Bingham to switch gears.
“I’m really excited,” Bingham said after Bear River High announced he was going to be the girls’ wrestling team’s head coach.
And the timing couldn’t be better.
Bingham and his wife Muriel have three children. Their two sons, Nick and Zack, have both graduated from high school and completed their time on the high school wrestling mat.
Nick, a 2015 Bear River High graduate, was a high school state wrestling champion in 2014. Zack, a 2018 Bear River High graduate, was also a force on the high school wrestling mat with region titles and competing in the semi-finals at state.
Then there is the youngest of the Bingham children, daughter Auri.
At just 10 years-old, Auri has already learned the sport of competitive wrestling – and yes, she is good. Really good.
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Bingham and his son Nick both volunteer to coach for Garland City Recreation’s youth wrestling program in the fall. It was there that Auri got her start on the wrestling mat – and she wasn’t the only girl out there competing.
Moving his attention to a new crop of wrestlers at Bear River High, Bingham wants to help promote the new program and encourages girls at Bear River High that are interested in wrestling to join the program.
“The next step is to get a lot of interest in it,” Bingham said about the program.
Interest has already been shown by several high school aged girls eager to start wrestling for Bear River High’s first ever girls’ wrestling team. Tryouts will start the second week in November.
“We’ve got quite a few girls interested,” Bingham added.
This won’t be the first time Bear River High has had a female wrestler step onto the mat.
MyKenna Staheli, a 2019 graduate of Bear River High, was the first competitive female wrestler for the high school’s wrestling program.
This new opportunity will allow Bingham to continue a tradition of excellence among high school wrestlers at Bear River High.
“I like knowing that as a community and as a school, I can help build up a tradition,” Bingham said. “We’ve got some great tradition with wrestling here.”