Red’s Legacy


Brian Ames, Editor

Have you ever thought to yourself that certain things happen for a reason? Last year as I helped research three great men for the documentary I started to realize several things. How little I knew about them, their accomplishments, and a very important fact, their age. The oldest of the three coaches, William “Red” Schmitt, passed away on August 28, 2016 at 94 years old, and it seems as though our GHW documentary came at just the right time to share his legacy.

Mike Garland, a sub here at GCHS and former head wrestling coach, described Red as “…the kind of coach that as an athlete you wanted to run through the wall for.” The GC Holiday Wrestling Tournament, one of the toughest tournaments in the country, was started by him and named after him is in its 55th year. He was the first high school coach in the nation to reach 400, 500, and 600 wins. His career record is 605-82-5, 106 tournaments won, 24 Regional Championships, 18 Conference Championships, 15 Top Ten finishes at the State Tournament, a State Championship in 1965, 47 State place winners, 4 State Champs, and a National High School Association Coach of the Year in 1977. GCHS currently has 1405 wins and Red is responsible for almost half of those.  He is in the Granite City Sports Hall of Fame, the Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Hall of Fame, the National High School Hall of Fame, and the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.  He was also the first high school coach to be president of the National Wrestling Federation.  

While interviewing Red for the documentary, Ben Klee stated “His passion for the sport is obvious, he had lived and breathed wrestling for basically his entire life…””

— Ben Klee

But who was he outside of wrestling?  He was a WWII veteran involved in Europe, Africa, and the invasion and occupation of Anzio, Italy. During his service he drew cartoons and the Army and Alton Telegraph published them. He fell in love with Italy and after the war he returned several times. After he retired from coaching he stayed connected by refereeing wrestling and football matches. As he got older he didn’t slow down and was an active member of the Alton Road Runners, setting national records in half marathons and 10K races. He even participated and won at the Senior Olympics!

William “Red” Schmitt lived a complete life, and the thousands of people who were fortunate enough to be impacted by his selfless lifestyle will never forget him.