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home : community : business May 24, 2016

1/6/2014 6:00:00 PM
OHS wrestling coach remembers friend and mentor
Scott Bliss, far right, with the 1983-84 University of Montana wrestling team. Ruben Martinez is also in the back row, far right. Submitted Photo.
Scott Bliss, far right, with the 1983-84 University of Montana wrestling team. Ruben Martinez is also in the back row, far right. Submitted Photo.
Erik Pague

Othello High School wrestling head coach Ruben Martinez has led a disciplined program for a long time. Visit a practice or one of their many matches in their grueling season and one thing about the athletes stands out: their fierce dedication to their teammates and competition.
Martinez and his coaches have put in plenty of time to make things this way and he said he owes a lot of the program's success to practicing what he learned from his friend and mentor - and Othello wrestling legend - Scott Bliss, who died Dec. 12. Martinez first started building his relationship with Bliss when he was a freshman at Othello and said his career was historic, which is why he will be nominating his late friend for recognition from several wrestling hall of fame organizations.
Martinez said he's modeled his program after the many successful programs Bliss oversaw following a high school career at Othello that included multiple championship runs and a second-place finish for Bliss wrestling in the 1975 3A state tournament.
Bliss coached Martinez during his own successful high school career and Martinez said he really got to know him well following losing his state title as a junior in 1977.
"I got to watch him wrestle and he was a brute, just mean, but, I guess I personally got to know him when I lost my state title my junior year," Martinez said. "I can't remember exactly what he said, but whatever he said, it really changed my attitude ... about not wanting to lose and just being mentally tougher. It helped because I never cried again."
Martinez can't put a finger on it, but Bliss' coaching style had a way of speaking the truth to the young athletes who were maybe looking to find their identity as a member of the wrestling team.
"He just had a way of getting to you when you're down and he did that for me," he said.
Bliss went on to become the head coach of the University of Montana wrestling team at 24 years old - the youngest head coach in the NCAA at the time. Martinez followed him there after a stint at Eastern Washington University and said he watched Bliss use his competitive attitude and talent for getting through to his athletes to turn the program around.
"He showed those kids that he cared about them," Martinez recalls. "Even though we were a rough group ... he just found a way to make those kids understand there was hope for them."
About a dozen of those former Montana wrestlers appeared at Bliss' funeral and Martinez said they could all attest to the hand Bliss played in getting them to turn their lives around.
"That group he coached for that five- or six-year span in Missoula - he really got the best out of them and they ended up winning their first big conference title for the whole school, in any sport," he said.
Bliss had more success, building a two-time state championship program at Auburn High School and also wrestling internationally for the USA team. Martinez said he's contributed so much to the sport of wrestling, including helping him develop his own coaching style and attitude for helping young athletes while wrestling and coaching alongside him.
"I really give him a lot of credit for molding me into the coach I am right now," he said.

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