Photo courtesy of National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Welcome to a new weekly series on TheMat.com called USA Wrestling History Lesson. Each week, we will highlight one athlete that has wrapped up his or her wrestling career, sharing the impact that they’ve had on the sport.
Check out the other USA Wrestling History Lessons HERE.
This week, we take a look at Les Gutches, a World champion and 1996 Olympian.
Gutches’ international success began at an early age, winning silver at the 1989 Cadet World Championships in Greco-Roman. The next year, he represented the USA at the Junior World Championships in freestyle, securing a top-10 finish. The rest of his international career was in freestyle.
In 1993, Gutches claimed a bronze medal at the World Championships in the Espoir division, which is similar to today’s Junior level (18-20 years old).
While an Espoir competitor and a college wrestler at Oregon State, Gutches began wrestling in the Senior international level, picking up a Pan American gold in 1993 and a Pan Am bronze in 1994.
In between his international seasons, Gutches collected back-to-back NCAA titles in 1995 and 1996. He was also named the 1996 NCAA Outstanding Wrestler and the Dan Hodge Trophy recipient.
That same year, Gutches made the Olympic Team, defeating reigning Olympic champion Kevin Jackson for the 82 kg/180 lbs. spot. Gutches went on to represent the U.S. in front of a home crowd at the 1996 Atlanta Games, where he finished seventh.
Bouncing back from a disappointing finish in Atlanta, Gutches made the 1997 World Team and scored a World title in Krasnoyarsk, Russia.
He collected his second World medal in 1999 with a bronze-medal showing in Ankara, Turkey.
Other notable performances for Gutches include:
- 1994 Grand Prix of Germany – bronze
- 1998 Goodwill Games – gold
- 1998 World Championships - seventh
- 1999 Pan American Games – gold
He wrapped up his wrestling career in 2000, and was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2009 as a Distinguished Member, the highest honor.
Currently, Gutches is the Associate Executive Director for Programs and Strategy at USA Wrestling. He’s been with the National Governing Body since 2010.