When people speak of Rick Herrin they use words like integrity, loyal, dedicated, hard worker, steady. The kids at McKay High School got to see those qualities for the 28 years that Herrin was a teacher and coach for the Royal Scots. His college wrestling coach Mike Clock said “What makes him great is that the guy is there, everyday, in the wrestling room. He listens, he thinks, he's willing to take criticism. He makes wise decisions, but he's not so enamored by his own decision-making process that he won't listen.” Those are the qualities that students, wrestlers, and colleagues got to see each and every day at McKay. Modeling those qualities made Rick Herrin a great teacher, a Hall of Fame wrestling coach, a great husband and dad. In sports, Herrin might be called a “grinder”. He also would be called a Beacon.
By the time Rick Herrin got to North Salem High School, from which he would graduate in 1978, he had moved 13 times. Raised by his mom Vicki – a single mother - and with five other siblings, he remembers starting to wrestle at both Whitaker and Parrish Junior High Schools but because the family moved so often he never had the opportunity to finish the season at either school. Rick gained school stability when he entered North Salem because, as he states, “the boundaries were larger so we could stay in the same school area.” As a high school wrestler Herrin didn't hit his stride until his senior year when posted a record of 27-3 and a 3rd place conference tournament finish. Unfortunately that did not qualify him for the state tournament, something he describes as “the biggest disappointment of my life up to that point” and something that caused him to reevaluate himself and what he wanted to do with wrestling going forward. “... I took a long look in the mirror and decided I needed to become more coachable. Not going to state may have also been the best thing that ever happened to me because it made me a better college wrestler and high school coach. Whenever, I had a senior that was close to going to state and [did] not make it, I would go and find them ASAP and we would discuss (with tears) the worst moment of my life and theirs, up to that point, and how it is not the end of things, just a new beginning. Most of the kids I have coached do not know that I never made it to state but every senior that did not make it to state knows.”
Herrin's reevaluation worked. Finishing high school as a 98-pounder, Herrin attended and wrestled at Pacific University, from which he graduated, at 118 pounds. In college he was a Pacific Northwest Conference Champion and gained All-American status by placing 4th in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics National Wrestling Tournament. He won 106 collegiate wrestling matches which was a record for Pacific University at that time.
Herrin went on to coach for 31 years with stops at Forest Grove High School, North Salem High School, Central High School and Sutherlin High School before becoming the head wrestling coach at McKay High School in 1991, following long-time McKay head wrestling coach and 2019 Beacon award winner Dick Bellock. His teams at McKay had 13 straight winning seasons in the very competitive Valley League. In 1996 McKay won the league championship and he was named Valley League Coach of the Year. His wrestlers won 27 district titles, 26 state medals, and appeared in five state finals. His wrestlers also won five Freestyle and Greco Roman state titles. In 2019 Rick was inducted into the Oregon Chapter of the National Wresting Coaches Hall of Fame. He also spent some 30 years, with other area coaches, running the Capital City Mat Club.
Family always came first for Herrin. Although he had worked through serious family medical issues during his coaching career, he ended his coaching career when attention to his family became paramount. His passion for coaching never wavered but life called. He subsequently retired from teaching in 2018.
Herrin continues to live in Salem with his wife of 25 years, Nancy. Daughter Haley is 22 years old and studying to be a Registered Nurse.
Rick Herrin is not a shooting star. He is not a flash in the pan. He is not this year's “shiny penny”. He is a man who shows up. He leads by example. He seeks no attention and serves others. He is a compassionate man who shows others what it means to be a leader in the truest sense of the word. In other words, he shows others what it is to be a Beacon.
“I would venture to say that it would be extremely hard to find someone who has a bad thing to say about Rick Herrin. I started working with him when I was in the 8th grade. I knew he was the wrestling coach, but it became clear to me in high school that he was also one of the power teachers at McKay. I mean to say that it was apparent he was influential to his colleagues, which was later confirmed from a different viewpoint during my time as a student-teacher at McKay. He was also a leader within his church, helping organize soup kitchens throughout the years. I think Coach Herrin has always been viewed as a good leader because of his compassion. He is willing to listen and attempts to understand without passing judgement.
[Rick] was finally inducted into the Oregon Wrestling Hall of Fame this year (long over-due). I don’t have an exact year count, but know that he coached at McKay for over 20 years. I have always thought it is cool how many kids he coached who went on to become wrestling coaches themselves (myself, Troy Thomas, Joey Brown, Stuart Peterson, Kelly Hafer are all coaches who are still around the area). McKay hosts a wrestling tournament every year in December that is called “The Herrin Holiday Classic”. I could go on for days about how awesome Coach Herrin is!”
Teacher/Head Wrestling Coach
North Salem High School
“I think the biggest thing Rick did during his career as the McKay head wrestling coach was to develop relationships with all his wrestlers. He really paid attention to all of them and was a positive role model in their lives when some of them didn’t have one. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many of his former wrestlers move on to be successful in life or become wrestling coaches themselves as I’ve seen with Rick. Many of the guys who moved on to become coaches themselves use Rick’s model of coaching and his approach [in handling] kids. He was a beloved coach by the kids and many of the kids got across the stage [graduated} because of him. In fact, a lot of what I do (relationship-wise) was molded by him. Working with him was great and being a young teacher and having him around was good for me. I can’t think of a better guy to receive the award.”
Former McKay assistant wrestling coach
Current Principal – West Salem High School
“Awesome and Most Deserving Choice
Rick Herron can be described, above everything else, as the biggest champion for students with whom I have ever had the pleasure to work.
It was Rick’s own ability to conquer adversity and achieve in life that gave him the heart and skills to be an excellent teacher and coach. It is not a coincidence that students flocked to be in his classes. Rick sought to work and be a champion for those students most in need of his role model. It is truly a tribute to Rick that many of his students have followed in his footsteps and are now teaching and coaching themselves.”
Former McKay head wrestling coach, assistant principal, and athletic director
“Rick Herrin is a great man. When he talks about his family, he lights up. They are everything to him.
As a teacher, he is always kind to students, using his humor and calm demeanor to engage even those students that can make teaching challenging.
Personally, he stood up in front the staff to show his support of school initiatives when I needed him to. And, I asked him to because he had so much credibility with his colleagues.
He had my back, and I am super grateful for his support.
He is a fantastic choice as a Beacon.”
Principal – North Salem High School
“ ... I'm excited that Rick Herrin will be honored for his contributions to high school athletes at McKay High School. Rick spent a career giving countless hours and skilled coaching to his athletes as wrestlers, as students, and as citizens and community members. His dedication to the wrestling program, the student-athletes, and the school will be long remembered.”
Superintendent, Jefferson County School District
Former Principal, McKay High School
“Rick taught me a lot about discipline and hard work. He was tough but compassionate. What I remember most was his acceptance of everyone. It didn't matter what you looked like, we were all equal on the wrestling mat and we all were expected to work hard. But after, exhausted and sweaty and ready to go home, he talked to us about how we could be something, how we were not meant to be "mall rats," how we were going to find success in life... it wasn't a maybe, it was a certainty with Rick. I'll always remember that.”
McKay High School Class of 1996
B.S. Mechanical Engineering, 2000
M.S. Aerospace Engineering, 2004
Professional Engineer, State of Ohio, 2006
Department of Defense Civilian, 2000-Current